We often get questions or comments about working dogs. Most of the questions are not about dogs, but about some dogs doing things the person doesn’t like. What is strange about this is that the questions should really be about people as they are the problem or the solution. If someone saw a Dodge Pickup go through a red light, then a little bit later saw a different Dodge Pickup speeding through a school zone would that person then say they would never own a Dodge because it is always breaking the law? It is the person driving that is breaking the law not the Dodge. It is the same with dogs. When dogs are doing the wrong thing or doing things that a person doesn’t like – the person is at fault not the dog.
We’ve had many working dogs and seldom kept one for more than a year or so, yet these dogs did more work and less wrong than the people. The dog will do what you have taught it to do. Most people don’t realize that they teach the dog to do most of the things the dog does wrong. People spend so much time trying to teach a dog commands without realizing all the other things the dog is being taught by mistake. If people would spend less time trying to make a dog learn commands and more time understanding the dog and what it really needs to learn, there wouldn’t be all these dogs doing things people don’t want.
It is easy to let the dog do the good things and stop the dog from doing the bad things, if people would only learn how to let a dog do the good things. People spend so much time making dogs do things that most dogs learn to hate doing some of these things. I was watching some trained dogs recently and seldom did any dog stop when the dog was told to stop, yet I am sure many hours were spent on teaching the dogs to down or stop. In fact, most of the things that are written about training a stockdog will tell people to have a good down on the dog before ever going to stock. If a dog is worked properly it will know when to stop or the slightest indication from you will have the dog stop even if the dog has never been taught to down. Working dogs love to work and really like to please their owner unless they are trained to the point where the dog doesn’t like to work that much or will just do what it wants in spite of the owner. There are some dogs that like to be told every move to make, most dogs don’t really like one command right on top of the last command.
My working dogs wanted to get the job done and wanted to please me. The dog was happy to work, come, stop, down or just follow me, what ever was needed. Dogs that do all kinds of miserable things are not bad dogs they just don’t have the right owner.
Eunice’s 2-cents worth. . . . . Maybe I can help you with some of your dog questions. The only dog trainer I know of that I agree with is Cesar Millan. He has a program on the National Geographic Channel on television. He emphasizes the importance of letting a dog be a dog and teaches people to be the “pack leader.”
The leader of a dog or wolf pack is always in charge of the food. Subordinates must wait until the leader has finished so don’t feed the pup at the table or share food that you are eating, with him. Tug-of-war is also a No-No. There is no way that a pack leader will allow a subordinate to take anything away from him. Living with any kind of dog and ending up with a normal, happy, obedient animal is about your everyday interaction with him (“him” might be “her” I am not into political correctness), not the “training sessions.” It is very similar to raising children (or the way you should raise children).
You don’t, one day, decide to set down and teach your youngster his ABCs, or numbers. You take the opportunity to point out letters and number on the cereal box etc., all through the day. For instance make the pup sit quietly when you put his feed down, then say “OK.” When the pup runs up to you and wants to jump on you, bend over, set him down and pet him while he is setting quietly, talk calmly, then stand up, turn your back on him and walk away.
You don’t tell him to do something (or not to do something) unless you are in a position to make it happen.
You don’t confuse him when you play with him. For instance, the last time we were waiting in an airport a little toddler had wandered too far from her mother. The mother made a playful run at her saying “Stop, stop” then scooped the running baby up over her head and carried her back to her seat. If the mother had said “Run, run, I’m going to catch you” they would have still had the same pleasant interaction without encouraging the baby to ignore a command.
Be careful of anything the puppy does that makes you laugh. Many of the problems that Cesar Millan is called in to correct are things that escalated from such things as a dog biting at the water coming our of the hose, chasing a dot from a laser pointer etc. Many of the dogs featured on America’s Funniest Videos are doing just such things. While most people are laughing, Bud & I are feeling pity for the poor dog with a screwed-up mind. There is nothing wrong with throwing a ball or stick for your dog, but if you see that he is getting too excited it is time to stop and pet him quietly until he settles down.
Don’t worry about what other people do, it’s not necessary (though it would be good) that he feels that your wife or children are higher-up on the social scale for him to respect you as the leader. If you do your job right he will respect them as part of your pack.
People often ask questions such as “How can I break my dog from chasing cats, cars, etc.?” My answer is always “I just tell him not to.” I realize that that is pretty simplistic but if you have done the proper groundwork, that’s all that it takes. One mistake that people make when correcting a dog is that they are too late making the correction. The time to say “NO” is when the dog is thinking about the action. In other words the correction should be made when he first pricks up his ears at it, not when he is in full chase. We had a dog given to us because he killed chickens. The ranch where we were working at the time had LOTS of poultry running loose. I’m sure, that when we first got Scotty, Bud or I probably said “NO” to him when he pricked his ears at a chicken but I don’t remember it. A few months later I was changing the hay bedding in his dog house and found a nest full of eggs where a bantam hen had been going everyday to lay.
I used to work grooming dogs. One of my regulars was a male Shih Tzu that was a really miserable little dog who had his owner completely buffaloed. After bathing and grooming him you could count on him messing in his cage and rolling in it so that I would have to bathe him all over again. Instead of putting him back in his cage, I got to where I just put him on a chair. It only took a couple of times of putting him back when he jumped down for him to stay there until his owner came to pick him up. The ground-work of the several grooming sessions I’d had with him had convinced him that I was pack-leader and as soon as he understood what I wanted he was happy to do it. Maybe these examples will give you an idea of what Bud and I are talking about.