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HOW TO CORRECT YOUR DOG’S BAD HABITS

by Sheila and John Fowler, Summermist Standard Poodles

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Dogs are pack animals. Humans are social beings. This difference must be grasped by the human if the human is to be successful in living with a dog(s). This idea has been brought to us by Cesar Millan. His methods are the most successful ways to communicate with the canine I have ever seen, but to benefit from his ideas, one must understand the concept of a “Pack Leader”.


First let me tell you a story that will help you grasp the “Pack
Leader” concept.


Byron is a four-year-old Standard Poodle and he is a male. He is a friendly Poodle in good health and very happy. His owner has sent him to multiple “trainers” to learn “manners”. As I sat with the owner discussing her love of Byron, Byron would occasionally go up to the owner and jump up on her lap. The owner would reward him by petting him. He would then go away and occasionally come back and received more petting. Observing this behavior, I asked the owner to call Byron over. She did and he refused. So, who do you think is the pack leader, the owner or Byron? The answer is Byron! The owner was constantly rewarding Byron for behavior he wanted, but when the owner requested his presence, he refused and this demonstrated he was the pack leader and the owner was not. The owner was shocked to learn Byron was in charge and not the owner. It is mandatory you understand this point that the dog was the pack leader which made it impossible for the owner to correct behavior because the owner did not recognize
Byron was in control, not the owner.


I need to point out here that Byron was sent to multiple trainers with results not satisfactory to the owner. What was missing is the owner failed to practice Pack Leadership. If the human does not become the pack leader, the owner will become one of the pack subject to the misbehavior of the owner’s own dog.


The next concept needed to become a Pack Leader is calm assertiveness. This tool by Cesar Millan is a key to canine leadership. Dogs read your energy. This is a fact about dogs. If you exhibit nervous behavior while working with your dog, your dog will become nervous and you will become neurotic. I have used Cesar’s way with my dogs with perfect success. Being calm and assertive gives the dogs the message to be calm and responsive. So, how can YOU correct behavior problems with your dog?


First Stay Calm, but assertive and breath normally. This conveys low energy which your dog senses. When your puppy or dog does any unwanted behavior you need to be in this low energy state for you to correct it; but you also must correct with assertiveness. If you are soft in your correction or take too long to make the correction, your dog will become confused. This takes correct timing and calm energy, but assertive delivery. As soon as the bad behavior happens they need to know it is unacceptable behavior. I like Caesar Millan’s approach to mimic how the canine pack leader corrects members of the pack. A canine pack leader uses teeth to nip an underling to change the behavior. For the human, we copy the canine pack leader using our hand. Much like the canine, use your hand like a canine muzzle and your fingers like the teeth and, with speed and force, jab and pinch to the shoulder of your dog as though it was the canine pack leader getting the attention of the underling; this is a very quick movement and at the same time, utter the “shhh” sound like Cesar when he does the same action. This redirects your dog’s energy or behavior duplicating how dogs correct one another. This is the natural way for a human to correct behavior in the dog by changing the dog’s attention from the behavior to pure focus on the Pack Leader: YOU.


It is very important to have the puppy or dog have full trust in you and you must provide him with your Pack Leadership.
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To build this trust it helps to exercise your puppy or dog with the proper walking exercise where you are the leader which means he is not pulling you on the walk, but rather next to you with the collar of the dog placed high on the neck so you have more control (Cesar says “place the collar high like a show dog”). Also it is important that he pays attention to you when you are walking with him while he is exposed to all types of distractions such as other dogs, people, skate boards , etc. You must keep his attention. If he looks away from you then correct him by staying calm, but assertive and with perfect timing you correct him by getting his focus back on you with the technique of
tapping him near his rear with your foot and at the same time correcting him with the leash by pulling his head toward you and using the shhh sound. To reward him you then must relax the lead and keep walking. Repeat until corrected. Do not give up and you must follow through or they will never learn. Once the puppy/dog is relaxed you can follow through and praise him.
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It is important to exercise your dog every day so they can then focus on what you want them to do. You must set rules for them to follow. Simple things like jumping up on you as a puppy should not be allowed unless you ask them to come up. If they jump on you do not back away as that will show them they are in-charge. Sitting down in a chair do not let them jump up on you unless you invite them or again they will be in charge and you will become the underling. Always invite them to come up and never let them jump up on you when not invited.

Enforce your pack leadership and be consistent. Do NOT give praise or affection to unwanted behavior. I highly recommend getting Cesar Millan’s CD or books on how to be the pack leader. He gives exercise, discipline and then affection.
Cesar sets rules, boundaries and limitations which all must be enforced and performed. Enjoy your companion while being the confident pack leader and your companion will be happy too.

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Sheila & John Fowler (760) 744-7886 / Fax (760) 591-9662
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