Four Rules Every Dog Owner Needs to Know

What do dog trainers, managers, and parents have in common?  They know that there are four essential ingredients that will lead to success.

Many of you already know that I am a new parent.  My daughter is already going to be ten months old this week, and it amazes me how similar the rules of dog training are to being a good parent.  What many of you may not know is that I run a sales and marketing department for a local/national company.  Again, the rules of dog training apply to the way I conduct my business, and how I manage my employees.  Since I’m such a new parent, I’ll stick to what I really know, but if there are some parents out there who would like to share how these rules are similar for their kids- please do!

So, what are the rules?  They’re short, sweet, and easy to remember:

1.  Be consistent- Whether you’re a dog, child, or an employee you need to know what the rules are to be able to follow them.  Imagine if the rules you live by were constantly changing.  What if you had no way to know the difference between right and wrong?  You would have no way to avoid punishment, and certainly no understanding how to get rewarded for doing something right.  Make a list of the things that you do and do not want your dog doing.  Then place it somewhere the whole family can view it, and hold each other accountable.  If Fido isn’t allowed on the couch, don’t let him up there when Dad leaves for work.  Be consistent.

2. Timing is everything- It’s important to know when to speak up, and when to let things play out… but even more, you have to have good timing when you give praise or a reprimand.  For a dog, you have <1.3 seconds to catch them doing something right/wrong to be able to affect their future behavior.  Certainly there is a bit more time allowed for an adult, but I wouldn’t want to praise someone for a job well done one month later.  I also don’t want to let an employee continue to do something wrong for a month without saying something; however, it’s not wise to criticize in the moment.  There’s a great saying that states:  “Praise publicly.  Critique privately.”  When it comes to people, time your praise so you can do just that.  For dogs, catch them doing it right, and catch them before they do it wrong.

3. Provide the right motivation- If my day job employer told me that he would be paying me with Post-It notes from now on, you could count the seconds I would continue my employment with an egg timer.  So why do we think our dogs are going to continue to work for us for a scratch on the head, when what they really want is to get a juicy treat or have a tennis ball thrown for them?  Remember to give your dog what they want, not what you want to give.

4. Give great direction- Direction is essential during the learning phase of training.  I don’t stand in front of my dogs and scream sit until they hopefully get it.  Instead I guide them.  When you start a new job chances are that you are shown how to do things correctly.  Once we are shown we’re expected to know how to do it on our own.  Let’s not assume our dogs are being stubborn…  Chances are they just don’t get what you’re trying to ask them to do.  Instead of yelling next time, guide them.  Show them what you’ve been yelling about.  You’ll be surprised by the change you see before your eyes.

Every great leader has been able to accomplish these things, and was respected because of it.  Master these steps with your dog, and you’ll be loved for it.

Which one of these steps rings true with you?  Which ones do you disagree with?

-Andrew Wildesen
The CTC, Owner

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