Rule Number 1: Discipline means “to teach,” not “to punish.”
All dogs need discipline. Teach your dog and he will learn. Punish him and he won’t. Your first obligation to your dog is to teach him how to live in your world. You can’t blame him for breaking the rules if you never taught him right from wrong.
Rule Number 2: People are verbal, dogs are physical.
People are often afraid to put their hands on a puppy. Oh, they will pick it up and hold it and pet it and cuddle with it and scratch it behind the ears. But, to put their hands on a puppy to teach her sounds like corporeal punishment. “Oh, no,” they say, “I don’t believe in spanking. I never spanked my children, and I won’t use physical methods to correct my puppy, either.”
Well, if you are talking about spanking a puppy on the fanny, I agree. Dogs don’t use fanny-spanking as a means of communication with each other and won’t understand it. But, neither will they understand it if we just talk, talk, talk at them without using our hands to show them what do to. Dogs use many physical means of communication, and just as we expect them to learn our language, we must learn to use theirs. While our puppies are learning words, we must also learn canine signals and cues. Much more on this later.
Rule Number 3: Dogs don’t speak English.
Or French, or Spanish, or Farsi, for that matter. They can learn to understand our words, but they are not born with the knowledge that this sound equals that behavior. We must show them the meanings of our words.
Corollary A: Say it once.
Corollary B: Say it the same way.
Dogs are very keyed into the sound of our voice, the pitch, the timber, the cadence. These subtexts are called “paralanguage,” and it is important that we learn to use these tones when we train dogs. There are three basic tones: High pitched and whining (puppy-like), low pitched and growling (mom-dog voice), and a medium range. Talking to your puppy in a high-pitched whimper makes you sound weak, like another puppy, which you don’t want to be, right? Corrections should be in a lower toned growl – short, abrupt, and to the point. All other commands and conversations with your dog should be in a medium range, the tone you use when talking. le Number 5: Give every action a name.
le Number 5: Give every action a name.
Say the word, then show the dog what the word means. Remember the movie “The Miracle Worker,” where Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) tries to teach Helen Keller (Patty Duke) sign language? She spells “bird” into Helen’s hand then lets her feel a bird, saying, “It has a name.” She does the same with every common object she can think of, over and over. When Helen makes the connection between the sensation of running water, the feel of the letters W-A-T-E-R signed into her hands, and the half-remembered baby word “wah-wah,” she begins to learn. When your dog makes his first connection between the sound from your mouth and the action you are demonstrating, you will see the same spark of recognition cross his face. You can almost hear him think “Ah-HA! So THAT is what she means! What do you know? Well, this is easy. I can do this.”Next time: 5 more rules, and a bonus thought.