As a dog-mad nation, we Brits love our four-legged friends. From Schnauzers to Saint Bernard's nothing gets our attention quite like an adorable puppy or very good boy.
But we can all accept that sometimes we let our pooches get away with murder.
So if you have an unruly pup or you’re trying to teach your old dog new tricks because he’s misbehaving, here’s what NOT to do when training a dog.
And just in case you were worried, we went to Channel 5 dog trainer Graeme Hall to get his words of wisdom on the most important dos and don'ts.
1. Don’t reward bad behaviour accidentally.
Graeme says: “It happens all the time. You come home from work and Fido jumps up. You fuss him and tell him ‘good boy’, almost before you’re in the house. Fido thinks “Ah-ha. Jumping up gets attention. I will try that more often”. Before you know it, Fido looks like a lunatic with a pogo stick every time someone comes to visit. Don’t praise your dog for jumping up at you at the door if you don’t want a dog that jumps up.
Don’t reward unwanted behaviour and bear in mind that ‘reward’ means anything pleasurable for Fido – Fuss, attention, play, treats etc. Incidentally, rewarding fearful reactions by cuddling the dog and stroking them can intensify the reaction. It’s human nature to reassure, but it’s not natural for dogs.”
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2. Don't talk too much – you may overcomplicate instructions
Graeme says: “If you watch me communicating with dogs, you’ll see I don’t talk much at all. Talking is more of a human thing. When we’re not understood, we rephrase things or change our emphasis.
If you ask the dog to sit and it doesn’t work, then changing the tone of voice and even the words in an attempt to help Fido to understand won’t work. Invariably it confuses him. You know the kind of thing; you hear it every day in the park: “Sit.. sit.. siiit.. siddown.. sit.. Fido sit.. WILL YOU SIT DOWN!!” Add to that the fact that we usually get more stressed and frantic the more we repeat ourselves and you have a recipe for a ‘deaf’ dog.”
Good leaders are always calm and assertive, never frantic. One good clear command, always the same word, is worth five bad ones every time.
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3. Don’t be inconsistent with rules
There’s no better way to slow down your dog’s understanding than to be inconsistent. So, for example, don't let your dog jump back on the sofa because you can't be bothered to push them off again.
Graeme says: “Think of it from your dog’s point of view: “I jump up on the sofa, they make me get off; I try again, they make me get off; I try once more, they mutter something but I get to stay.”
Inconsistency brings confusion. Incidentally, if you’re tired, fed up or having a bad day, you absolutely must apply your rules in the same way as ever, regardless. Good leaders in our world are like this too – you always know where you stand with them and that’s a good feeling.”
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4. Don't keep a tight leash
Train your dog to walk beside you, not to pull.
Graeme advises: If you walk a dog with a tight lead, he’ll usually pull against you. It’s called opposition reflex. Try this in the house: Have your dog sitting calmly with a slack lead. In your normal dog walking position, gently start to pull backwards, very gradually increasing tension.
You’ll notice that your dog never falls over backwards because most will pull against the force you apply to stay upright. If you release the tension, most dogs stay in position (they release muscle tension). Some actually walk on, using the forward drive you created.
“In effect, you’re teaching your dog to pull against the lead. It’s hard not to do it sometimes because the dog pulls first, often before you’ve even got to the door. How to achieve a slack lead when walking the dog is a skill you must learn and you may need a little help with a few techniques to avoid triggering the opposition reflex – it’s well worth investing a little time and effort to stop a dog pulling on the lead. Walking the dog can be a great pleasure when there’s no tugging going on (and it’s so much better for your dog).”
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5. Don't expect too much too soon
Knowledge and patience WILL work but don’t expect results overnight.
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