I think many times dog owners have issues with obedience and behavior due to failure to follow through. The lack of follow through can be the underlining cause of behavior issues, control and reactivity. People that lack follow through will make excuses for their dogs. Duke doesn’t like to sit, is busy right now, sees the kids playing across the street, or found something interesting. Dogs don’t do grey areas, they want someone to take charge, teach the rules and follow the rules. Taking charge, teaching and consistency is the basics to dog training. If one of these three things are missing you will have issues.
Dogs are followers and they need a strong leader to take charge and show them the way. The weaker the dog the less of a strong leader you need to be. People have issues with their dogs because they do not take charge and set rules for their dogs. Rules like no jumping, quiet, no leash pulling, stay in the yard, come when I call you, don’t run away and no food stealing. If your dog does not think you are the teacher and the leader he/she will make the rules. Dogs in charge of the household pee in the house, jump on people, leash pull, don’t come when called and either are obnoxious and want your undivided attention or ignore you. If your dog acts like he/she doesn’t know his/her name, you have a problem. Dogs with reactivity issues or are more dominant need a strong leader. If you have a weak personality and are not willing to take charge of your dog and tell him/her to knock it off, I cannot fix it for you. I can teach your dog to behave at my house and to be under control but if you are not willing to step up and be a tough leader the dog will just go back to your home and take charge again.
Next is discipline. Discipline is to teach or train in accordance to the rules. You are the one in charge and it’s your responsibility to teach the rules. Since you are in charge you are the one that makes the rules. This is not a democratic society it’s a dictatorship. So, you teach your dog to sit, down, come, quiet, no begging etc. There are a variety of ways to teach, for young dogs I use food. Food luring works great. You also need ways to interrupt behavior such a squirt bottle, rattle can, verbal and touch.
The final piece of the puzzle is consistency. When you tell the dog sit, he/she must sit. Don’t make excuses for your dog, “He usually sits at home.” or “He must be a little nervous.” If you tell your dog to sit and he/she does not, push their butt down and make them sit. If they get up push their butt down again. You should train your dog to maintain a sit until you tell him/her they can get up. The dog does not get to decide when they get up. I see it a lot. The owner says sit the dog sits and then two seconds later they are up pulling on the leash. This concept is 24/7, do not give your dog a command you are not willing to follow through on. If you tell him/her to drop it they better drop or you need to go to the dog and pry it out of their mouth. If you say come they better come or you need to walk out through the mud and escort your dog where you were standing when you said come. If your dog gets up from a down, you take your dog back to the spot where he/she was down and you put them back in a down. Once the dog learns there are no options, Mom’s the boss and I better do what she says you will be on your way to a well behaved dog.
I just finished up a retrieve class. Retrieve training is not fun for the dogs. Some fight holding things in their mouths. I could see the owners who don’t follow through with their dogs and the ones that do. The ones that do not follow through had the toughest time. The first day of class was to get the dog to stay calm and hold your gloved hand in their mouth. The people with no follow through had dogs pulling away, fighting, and showing avoidance. The owners that used follow through with their dogs had a much easier time and within 10-15 minutes the dogs were holding the gloved hand nice and calm, no issues. It’s all about follow though. Do you have follow through with your dog? Do you beg your dog and give them 5 commands before they decide to obey? It’s cute but can be life threatening when they are running towards the road and there is a car coming. Do you have time for 5 commands before your dog turns and comes back or will your dog spin around and fly back to you on the first command? It all depends if you have been following through.