Properly heeling and walking on-leash keeps Haiku safe!

Professional dog training is great if you need help to change your dog’s behavior quickly and reliably. Unfortunately, it is also very pricey – with private lessons reaching up to $200/hour in some areas.

The good news is that there is no magic to dog training. Dog trainers have a few tricks to get dogs to behave very well rather quickly. As a professional trainer myself, I can tell you that 90% of dogs can improve without having to see a private dog trainer.

Today I will share my own best tips and tricks to help you save time and money.

Lack of exercise makes everything worse

The vast majority of all pet dogs do not get sufficient exercise. A lack of exercise will make any existing behavioral problem worse. This especially applies to working dogs or their mixes such as Huskies, Goldendoodles or German Shepherds.

Does your dog pull on leash? He will pull a lot worse the less often you walk him. 

Does your dog bark incessantly? If you do not provide training and enrichment for him, he will have even more energy to devote to barking. 

Is your dog reactive? The less activities he has to take his mind off the reactivity, the worse it will be!

If you do not currently spend at least 1 hour a day interacting with your dog, chances are your dog trainer will tell you to start doing that first and foremost. Having your dog engage with you in productive and bonding ways is going to already make his behavior a lot better!

 

You don’t need food bowls

Yes, you read that right: If you are struggling with your dog’s behavior and training, throw away his food bowl today. Every single piece of food your dog is eating is an opportunity to change his behavior for the better: Use it!

I advise all clients to either feed their dog through training or through food puzzles. Especially if your dog has too much energy and not enough exercise, using puzzles to feed him will work his brain and calm him down. 

You should also make a habit of carrying a few treats in your pocket at all times and rewarding good behavior throughout the day. This way you can quickly teach your dog to e.g. sit in front of doorways, go to his bed when told or not jump up on visitors.

 

Training happens every day

Your dog is learning something every day – but you need to make sure he learns the right things! If your dog is bored and digging in the yard, he will learn that digging is fun and makes him less bored. On the other hand, if you take every day as an opportunity to teach him a new skill or trick, he will quickly become a well-trained and well-mannered dog.

Don’t think that just because you do not initiate a training session your dog does not learn! He is always picking up new habits – make sure they are the right ones.

 

Some problems never go away completely

There are some behavioral issues that we can never fix completely. Just like a medical doctor cannot cure every disease, dog trainers cannot stop every behavior problem.

The most common ones with no definite fix are aggression and resource guarding. While we can help you improve your dog’s behavior, you should not expect that a formerly aggressive dog can turn around 180 degrees and become a social butterfly.

In these cases, it is the owner’s job to manage the dog’s behavior in a way that everyone around him is safe!

 

Treats make or break the training

Many dog trainers go to work with a treat pouch with their very own “secret treats”. These often work much better than what the owners have – because pet stores actually do not sell very good dog treats.

Dogs are carnivores and as such love meat. Dog treats are made to be shelf-stable, so they often contain a lot of ingredients that are not meat – i.e. flour, preservatives and fillers.

Products that have a high meat content will taste a lot better to your dog than those shelf-stable treats.

In my “secret treat bag” I have small pieces of bologna, string cheese, hotdogs as well as chicken and sometimes even steak!

 

You probably need more management

Nearly all dog owners do not have enough management for their dog. This allows him to rehearse a lot of unwanted behaviors. For example, if you take your dog off-leash on walks and he runs away he gets to practice running away every single day. Your dog trainer’s first piece of advice is probably to – not let him off leash.

Remember: Dogs learn every single day and you need to make sure they learn the right things!

If your dog is fighting with another dog of the family, you will need to keep them separated a big part of the day. If your dog is jumping on the counters, you should put up a baby gate in your kitchen, and so on.

Every time I visit a client I teach them some simple management protocols like this – it greatly improves the dog’s behavior right away.

 

The Bottom Line

There is no magic fix for a dog’s behavioral issues. It will come down to smartly managing your dog’s schedule, giving him enough exercise, training him ideally every day and keeping him from rehearsing bad habits. Changing your dog’s behavior will probably mean that you have to change your own behavior, too. Our bad habits (such as not exercising the dog enough) directly influence our dogs’.

Great treats will help with this process. You can use human deli meat as an especially tasty and powerful reward.

Not all behavior can be 100% fixed either – especially aggression issues will always require supervision and management.