Our Motto is a Balanced Dog is a Happy Dog. A balanced dog exhibits the behavior of the happy go lucky dog with no fears. We see balanced dogs routinely in our walks of life. They are at the dog parks running and playing with their masters and other dogs. We see them at the pet stores, parks, and when visiting friends. We also see the other side as well. Dogs that are aggressive, dragging their owners all around by the leash, uncontrollable barking, jumping, and fearful. Does balance come naturally or is there some work involved?
Some dogs just show up without issues and since they have a good pack leader things always seem to work out. As I’ve stated in past posts, calm submissive dogs don’t usually cause problems. Clients state they have owned several dogs, but this one is a challenge. Many times the challenging dog has a lot of energy and more dominance than their pervious dogs. Any dog can have fear issues of one kind or another. I have never owned a dog fearful of lightening, but I have taken all my dogs and introduced them to gun fire. I’m not sure if there is a correlation? I’ve either been lucky or they have learned loud noise is a positive thing. We always use play and food when introducing gun fire and start out 50 yards away, gradually working closer to the noise.
One thing about bringing up a balanced dog is that you cannot use human psychology on dogs. They are not wired the same way as people. Dogs are animals and need to be raised as such. They live in the now, don’t reason or know what a “time out” is. I once saw someone counting to their dog, as if they were counting to their kids, “One, two, three”. Dogs don’t count; they do what is comfortable or positive and refrain from what is not comfortable or negative. Wolves teach and learn by touch and sound. High pitch barks, play bow, and running side by side invites activity. A low growl, direct eye contact, displaying teeth, and facing another dog is a warning to stop whatever you may be doing. If the message isn’t understood a bite will follow, message delivered. Dogs are very fair in their praise and with discipline. Praise is done by grooming, playing, and running. Discipline is once, quick, and it’s over.
Dog packs have a natural way of balancing and dealing with behavior. I have introduced dogs with issues in my own pack of dogs. It only takes a week for the new pack member to settle in and learn how to act like a dog, what is and is not the proper dog etiquette. Balanced dogs help teach balance. I use the same premise when training dogs. There must be a balance in the training philosophies used. Clients contact me when they are frustrated with methods learned by some trainers. For instance, the other day I received a call about a dog jumping up on people. The caller stated the trainer used all positive training and they were told to ignore the dog and the jumping would go away. I asked how that was going for them, and the answer was, “It’s not working”.
Successful dog trainers use a balance of positive and negative reinforcement when training. Teaching a dog to sit, down, stand, come, place and heel are all accomplished with food, toys, and touch (positive reinforcement). A behavior, cue, followed by a positive. Marker training is also a great tool in training tricks and basic obedience. Dogs will repeat behavior when the outcome or the behavior is marked with a treat, toy, or praise. To eliminate unwanted behavior, such as barking, jumping, pulling, we apply a negative or correction. The negative does not need to hurt the dog. It can be as simple as a verbal “No” and a poke in the neck with your finger or a leash correction. Dogs do need to be corrected to learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not.
There needs to be a balance in your training to have a happy balanced dog. All positive or all negative is not going to work. So next time you see a happy balanced dog ask the owner what they do for such a well behaved dog? Did they take training classes or did they just do it on their own? Either way I bet you will hear the words praise, training, guidance, and rules.