Getting Your Puppy to Listen

HE JUST WON’T LISTEN!

Every evening you come home, the garden is a mess and shoes are chewed beyond wear-ability. The dog trips you as you rush out the door in the morning and no matter what you do, the mutt insists on wagging his tail and doing it all over again. He obviously needs to know who’s boss. He should fear ever doing those things again! How will he ever behave if he doesn’t fear you?

Fear (n): a feeling of distress, apprehension or alarm caused by impending danger or pain.

When we look at it like this, we know this is not what we want for our four-footed family member. Fear won’t teach him anything about his behaviour, only that you don’t want to see it.

What we really want is to earn his respect (respect (n): an attitude of deference, admiration or esteem; regard). When we have his regard, a nod or a quiet word will do more than a ten-minute tantrum.

How do you get pup to be obedient without teaching him to fear you?

BOUNDARY SETTING

Just like a toddler, your puppy is too young to be making all his own decisions yet. Limit his freedom to make bad choices during these formative months e.g. keep him on a leash in unfenced areas, off the furniture or out of the bedrooms until he is at least a year old. Decide which things you’ll limit and set a clear boundary. He’ll be happier once he understands what is expected of him.

BE CONSISTENT

Once you have decided his boundaries, you need to stick with them. Make sure he doesn’t get ‘rewarded’ when he crosses the line. For example, petting him or allowing someone else to pet him when he jumps up on a person. This will only confuse him later when you do reprimand him for this behaviour.

WATCH HIS NEEDS

Is he getting enough positive attention from you? Is he learning that negative attention is better than nothing? Maybe he has pent up energy that is leaking out into destructive habits – check how much exercise his  breed needs.

TEACHING

Every time you pay attention to your puppy – and every time you don’t – you’re teaching him something. Be aware of how your pup may perceive each interaction. Is it because he did something wrong? Is now a time he can ignore you in favour of something else? If you don’t show him exactly what you want, he’ll make it up as he goes along. Your dog will learn because of you and despite you, so make sure to teach him every chance you get.

REWARDS

Some dogs are ball-crazy, some love lots of people and others will do anything for something yummy. What are his favourite toys or places to go? Control his access to these things and use them as rewards for his obedience. For example, when I take my Max to the park, I remove his leash and expect him to sit and wait for a command before bounding off. He can see the park. He can see the ball. He also knows who controls his access to these things. If he runs off before the command, I refuse to move or throw the ball. The reward for his obedience is a whole lot of unrestrained ball-chasing.

Fear and respect are two ends of a spectrum. Fear builds a wall and pushes your dog away, while respect will have your pup eager to please. These guidelines will help set both of you up for success from the start.

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