The Canine Contract

When you add a dog to your life you enter into an unwritten and unspoken contract.

This contract says you will love you dog unconditionally, feed them, play with them but most of all you’ll train them.

A trained dog is a happy dog. Why? How? Well because a dog that understands what is expected of them isn’t confused, or worried. A dog that know what you mean or how to act in certain situations us a confident dog. A dog that understands you’ll protect it from harm by listening to you is s dog without worry.

Training isn’t about teaching the perfect sit, or having a dog that does back flips. Its about teaching your dog how to survive the world we put them in, dogs don’t get a say in where they go, how their raised and what they do. Hell 90% of dogs are on a toileting schedule, we have that much control of our own bowels.

You as an owner need to say to yourself “I will train my dog”. So my dog understands me, and the world I’m expecting it to be in.

All too often I see dogs not able to cope with the real world, not because you haven’t socialised them but because you haven’t taught them what to do in that siutation, so they get stressed and start to jump up, pull, play about or even go on the defensive. You get frustrated and start to over give the command, or yell. No one wins.

Take the well socialised German Shepherd puppy, its been everywhere, seen everything. Its fantastic with people, I mean its met everyone. So it gets to 6 months old and suddenly people aren’t all that happy when it jumps up, barks for attention and begins to be a big bouncy problem.

The dog starts to hear “Sit, Sit, SIIITTTT” In its ear. People no longer want to greet him or say hello so he barks at them saying “I’M FRIENDLY” … the owner gets flustered and waves ham in front of the puppy. The puppy thinks be must be doing right to get ham. He chomps it down and carries on. The person leaves faster. Next time the dog goes ok pull harder and bark louder because maybe that’ll get their attention.

See where this is going?

The owner starts to avoid people, and when they do see them they have to really yell at the dog to get them to listen. The dog starts to assume that the yelling happens because of the person. They can either shy away and stop, and start to not trust strangers or start to assume the strangers equal a telling off.

What needs to happen is the dog needs to learn what they SHOULD be doing. Not now to be yelled at.

This starts with actually teaching the basics. A solid sit, a calm stay, a good release command. All the basic things that when drilled into the dog because automatic polite behaviour.

In not taking military style drills but short, sharp and sweet training sessions ending in a lit of fun.

This involves rewarding them for the right actions, and interrupting or in some cases punishing them to avoid them injuring themselves. I don’t mean kicking the crap out of them, but things like clapping your hands to disturb them stealing something, or crateing them when left to avoid chewing wires. All things a dog would find punishing. It also means not ignoring your dog when its doing something right such as loose lead heel or recalling to check in on you, forget the phones or the old fashioned “we’ll he’s just trying to steal treats off me”, no he’s trying to gain your attention and actually want to interact with you. He’s upholding his end of the contract, why aren’t you?

Reward the interactions. Be consistent, allow your dog to understand the world they live in. Where the boundaries are as well as we’re the fun and reward is.

The training is important, but by god the balance of play and understanding the boundaries is more important. If your dog doesn’t think your fun, why the hell would it choose you over other dogs, other people and that squirel in the tree that’s sworn at the dog before it legged it. If your dog doesn’t respect you why would it bother listening to you when there are other things going on?

If you haven’t trained it, it won’t happen when the dog is actually distracted.

Can you see what needs to happen? You need to uphold your contract and keep the balance in your dogs life, as well as the consistency.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour