Structure is the act of building a systematic framework or to organize. It has several components arranged together in a certain way. In dog training to me structure is all the little baby steps we do in teaching obedience and conditioning behavior. You cannot have a building without the foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical and color. For dog training, structure is teaching the dog what is acceptable and expected. Follow me I don’t follow you. Wait at the door I go through first. You sit when I say sit and down when I say down. You stop barking when I say quiet. When we walk you do not pull on the leash, you ignore dogs, people and hold your head high as we move along. We do not steal, run away or jump on people. Structure in the home includes stay off the furniture, no pacing, no rough housing, stay out of the kitchen when I’m cooking and you sleep in your bed not mine Structure is an interesting concept in dog training. When dogs need training they lack structure. The owners don’t know what structure is and that is what’s needed in the dog’s life.
We evaluate dogs daily and the primary reason for the evaluation is jumping on people, leash pulling, not coming, chasing bicyclists, or nipping people. What I have found once we work with the dog and put structure in the dog’s life these issues go away. We don’t have to work with the dog on specific issues that only go on in the household because of the structure we’ve taught the dog. To compare it to the crazy out of control young man that decides to enlist in the United States Marine Corp. That same young man returns as a respectful, polite, hardworking, confident adult. The Marine Corps discipline creates structure. Discipline is training to act in accordance to the rules. Discipline has nothing to do with punishment. Discipline is teaching.
When we train dogs, the first thing we teach in our “boot camp” is to follow and not to leash pull. With leash pulling there are consequences. Once we tackle that hurdle we teach wait at the door, sit, down and place. We teach come when you are called. Once the dog knows all these rules we add distractions. There is no excuse for not obeying because you like to sniff urine or there is a dog barking across the street. Focus on me and you shall be rewarded. Eye contact gets yummy treats. Coming gets yummy treats or the ball. Good things happen when you obey and sometimes we have a big party! That is what structure in dog training is. Taking a wild juvenile delinquent and teaching him/her rules. Rules and structure are building blocks to success. Structure is consistency.
Dogs in many ways are like young soldiers. Discipline, rules and consistency equals structure. You must have structure to fix the issues of stealing, nipping, jumping and barking. I have seen this work again and again. Don’t be wishy washy with your dog or you will have a wishy washy dog. Teach your dog rules, have consequences, reward when they are right and love them. But remember love cannot fix it. People have no problem loving their dogs they just don’t know how to give consequences. Unlike people you cannot reason with the dog. Don’t runaway, jump on people and bark excessively today and I will take you to get ice cream. All dogs hear is “blah blah blah blah ice cream”. That is because every time you said ice cream you gave them a taste of yogurt. Dogs can learn a limited number of words as you pare it with a behavior, but they don’t speak human.
You need to learn to speak dog. I have read a lot of books, watched dog training DVD’s and the best way I have learned is buy training with other professionals. I did not read a book to learn how to shoot a gun. My father and the police academy taught me how to shoot and about firearm safety. I did not become a dog trainer because I’m a natural. I have learned from some of the best. I still go to conferences to learn what is new in the dog training business. So if you are struggling with your dog, it’s best to do some searching a find a good trainer in your area. A professional trainer can get you on tract to putting structure in your dog’s life so you can have a healthy happy relationship with your companion.