Do you think your dog is well behaved and not spoiled? That’s what I thought too. Then, Brad Pattison came over.
Brad is a Canadian dog trainer and the host of the television series, At the End of My Leash. While he was in Toronto on his latest book tour, I was lucky enough to have a private training session at my home with Brad and my dog, Magnum (a six-year-old Doberman/Rottweiler cross).
Magnum has never been a difficult dog, by any stretch, but Brad gave me the tools to correct behavioural issues that I thought I’d never resolve. Below, are some easy tips that I took away from my session.
Myth: It is normal for a dog to bark when guests arrive
When Brad first arrived, Magnum barked for the first few minutes. I quickly spoke up and said, “He’s not a bad dog, he’s just protective”. Brad quickly retorted, “He is a bad dog, what is he protecting? There is no need for your dog to treat guests this way, it is extremely disrespectful”. I had never thought of it like that, but Brad was right. He used the example of children. He asked if I were at a friends’ house and their child was running around screaming the whole time, would I ever return? I think we all know the answer to that one. Bad dog behaviour shouldn’t be excused either.
The Fix: I’ve become more commanding with Magnum. Before he has the chance to bark, I approach him with authority and loudly proclaim, “No noise”. This immediately quiets him down and within a few days, he no longer barked when company arrived (he doesn’t even bark at the mail carrier anymore!)
Myth: Your dog will never walk without pulling
I thought it was normal for Magnum to pull ahead of me on walks, especially when he saw anything of interest (e.g. a squirrel). This made for difficult walks on occasion, because I felt as if I had to constantly concentrate on restraining him.
The Fix: Brad has a method called “umbilical training.” This method changed my walks with Magnum almost immediately. Essentially, you wrap a six foot leash around your waist and attach it to your dog’s collar (I highly recommend the Hustle Up collar). I spent two hours per day attached to Magnum and he quickly learned that he needed to go wherever I went, instead of the other way around. He no longer pulls on his leash and always remains at my side.
Myth: Your dog ‘just doesn’t like’ other dogs
Magnum got along with other dogs – for the most part. However, occasionally when we were out walking, he would see another dog and lose control (pulling, growling, etc.)
The Fix: The dog park. The only way to socialize your dog properly is exposure to other dogs, off the leash. Dogs have a natural hierarchy, which they establish with each other almost immediately. Brad told us to take Magnum to the dog park every day. We’ve followed his advice and Magnum now gets along with every dog he meets (even when he’s out walking on his leash). Find the closest off-leash park — it will be invaluable.