Whoever said patience is a virtue wasn’t kidding. Often times, we become frustrated with our dogs because they aren’t doing the things we ask. We don’t understand why Max keeps barking at people or why Sophie isn’t coming when called. Yet, we haven’t taken the time to teach Max that other people don’t mean any harm or that it’s important for Sophie’s safety to come when she’s called. What we put in, is what we can expect to come out. We can’t expect Max or Sophie to do what we want if we haven’t put the effort in to teaching them.
Dogs cannot be expected to know how to act in our human world. Their canine instincts differ from our human way of life. Dogs chase cars because instinctively, dogs chase fast moving things like cats, squirrels, mice, etc. This behavior can be due to reasons like thinking something is food, wanting to play, or for territorial reasons. Some dogs especially of the herding breed, will nip at our heels and are mouthier in general because they were bred to herd cattle, nipping at flocks’ heels to move them. A great example of normal dog behavior that we have all probably experienced is walking away from a plate of food or a snack only to return to an empty plate. Obviously, we are upset when this happens but in the dog world, alpha’s eat first and once the alpha leaves, the food is up for grabs for the rest of the pack. Also, think about how much self control a dog needs to have to leave food untouched when it’s right in front of them.
Reminding ourselves that dogs are trying to fit into our way of living and that most of the things we ask and expect of them goes against their natural instinct is important in forming a good relationship. We need to help them understand right from wrong in the human world and that takes patience. If we are enjoying a snack on the couch and need to walk away, it’s very beneficial for our dog to know what “leave it” means. When we return to our snack and it’s exactly how we left it, that’s a job well done and a good reason to give our dog praise and a treat for being such a good listener!
If you can set aside at least 15 minutes everyday to teach your dog acceptable behavior and reinforce the things that they are already good at, you’ll be amazed at the results. This can be short training sessions of basic commands like sit, stay, come, leave it, and if you’re feeling really adventurous throw in some fun things like “bang bang! play dead” or “take a bow!” Remember to be patient and take things step by step. Have high value treats ready to reward your dog when you get the response you’re looking for. I wouldn’t want to work for free, neither does your dog.