The fellas at Barstool Chicago have had me on their shows a couple of times over the last two weeks to talk about dogs and dog training. For those who don't know, I was a dog handler in the Marines and my last assignment was as the Chief Marine Instructor at the Military Working Dog School. Over the course of my nearly 9 years with a leash, I learned a bunch of tricks along the way; I taught a bunch of tricks along the way; I used a bunch of the tricks I learned along the way.
Now, it's time to do it another way. I mentioned on The Dog Walk that I will be taking videos from the stoolies and answering questions about how to mitigate, improve, or eliminate undesirable traits in your dog. Most things take time, patience, and most of all consistency. What I mean by that is that people often set their dogs up for failure. For example, you might have rules for your dog like "you can come on the couch but not this chair. You can come on the bed but not the couch." Those are big-time mixed messages and can cause your dog to be unclear about what you want. Clarity and consistency are vital for well-trained dogs. You cant have a few beers and decide to let ole Baby Dale Woohoo on the couch and then get mad at him when you're on the couch the next day and he hops back up there. All or nothing.
One of the best ways for me to be able to help is seeing the behavior of the dog. You can try to explain it with just words but so much of dog training is being able to read your dog. When I was teaching students, that was most likely my most used phrase. "Read your dog." Many people are aware that a dog shows its emotion through tail movement, but there is so much more that acts as a visual marker for you. I go into some of those markers in the following tweets.
More on this one... when the dog is clearly getting worked up and you stand there without either a correction or soothing techniques, most dogs take that as a passive endorsement of their actions. You have got to be ready. The moment the dog is paying attention to something else and locked in, call their name, go the other direction, and try to distract the dog or redirect its attention to something more positive. Move forward with baby steps but not acting all sally scared. When the dog's mouth closes and the tail gets stiffer. Stop and drop down to its level and reassure. "Good boy. You're ok. You're ok" while also petting the dog with long strokes. Ideally, start just behind the dog's eyes and press down all the way to nearly their tail. A trainer who taught me said that it is calming to the dog because it mimics the lick from the mother when they are scared as puppies. Is that true? I'm not sure but it does work.
Anyway, Im lookin forward to this series. The easiest way for me to use your video is to either email them to me at chaps@barstoolsports or tweet them at me so I can embed them in the blog. Lots of the questions are the same so this will get everyone the same answers but just in a much more long-form kind of way.
Let's train some dogs, my friends.