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No Basic Training

By Peter Brown

Professional Dog Trainer, Alpha Paws

To most of us, our dogs are not just our pets, they are a part of our family. And just like our children, they need to learn good behaviours and basic manners so that they can become healthy and happy members of society.

So, you may be asking yourself, this is very good advice but what is basic training and how do I implement it with my dog? One of the most important aspects of basic dog training involves instilling good manners into your pet. We all want our dogs to have good manners. No one likes to have their dog jump up on their guests, bark at them or play bite them when they come to visit. Manners also include such things as teaching a dog to drop an item on command as well as eliminating excessive digging behaviour.  Another aspect of basic training involves learning how to behave while on a walk. How many times have you been on a walk with your dog and instead they end up walking you? Pulling at the leash is a very common problem for dog owners and one of the top issues we deal with in basic training. The key here is focus. Getting your dog to focus on you so that you are leading the walk and the dog follows. Finally, basic training also involves learning basic commands such as heel, sit, down, stay, come, and go lie down.

So, why bother? Do I really need basic training for my dog?

The short answer to this is YES! Dogs need a defined alpha leader in their pack and if you’re not the leader then they have to be. This can lead your dog to a whole host of anxiety and problems including barking, pacing, and refusing to lie down. These are dogs with no true defined leader. Once you establish yourself as the alpha leader, then all of these behaviours will stop! By implementing some basic training techniques, you will find your dog will be more calm and obedient overall and your walks will be a dream!

Your leash is a vital tool in dog training and knowing how to use it properly is crucial to success with your dog.

The biggest responsibility owners have when they first begin training their dog is learning the steps to properly work their leash and how to use it to lead their dog rather than follow ~ to become the true alpha leader. Your leash is a vital tool in dog training and knowing how to use it properly is crucial to success with your dog.

What is leash handling and why is it so important?

Leash handling is the ability to connect with and direct your dog to anywhere you want them to go using your leash. Operating your leash is as important to leading your dog as the reins on a horse. It allows you to use your body movements as one would a horses’s reins to indicate the appropriate direction to the animal. This is what leash handling is all about, doing the same thing with your dog using the leash.

The art of the technique is keeping the leash loose at all times. The only time it should ever be tight is for that split second when you’re correcting your dog and then immediately returning right back to a loose leash again. The more you hold back on a tight leash, the more your dog is going to pull against it. This is where human instinct fails. As humans, our instincts tell us to hold tight on that leash to keep the dog from pulling or getting away. Instead, you need to resist those instincts and practice keeping that leash loose and releasing that collar immediately after every correction in order to accurately mimic the mother’s ‘nip’ at the neck, in the wild.

In addition, the onus is on the owner to set up a regular routine and schedule, which the dog can live and depend upon. Daily exercise, mental stimulation, and rest (crate/mat) are all crucial to asserting yourself as the alpha leader. Remember, in the wild it’s the alpha who controls the freedom of the entire pack. Once the dog accepts you as alpha, you will notice a significant decline in negative behaviour and your dog will be much less anxious and considerably more calm and happy overall. Not to mention how well behaved and well mannered he/she will be!

The big difference in your dog that obedience brings and which has the most wide ranging effects is that your dog obeys your commands regardless of whether they want to or not. They do it because you are the leader and they follow you. The dog learns to respect your alpha status in the ‘pack’ and listens to you and obeys your commands.

A dog without basic training does whatever they want to, whenever they want to, so they have no respect for the owner and therefore listen infrequently and obey only when it is convenient for them. Dogs are very intelligent and easily bored, especially higher calibre breeds like the Golden Retriever. Obedience allows you to work the dog’s brain and keep their minds and bodies active, which is what the dog really wants in their relationship with you. 

Remember: a tired dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is a healthy dog!