One of the biggest issues that I see with dogs today is the Decision Maker: the dog that leaves your side and runs up to everything it sees, whether it be a dog, jogger or guest at the door.
Many of us believe this may not be that big of a deal because our dog is friendly. In the contrary, have some of us thought what a mom with a small child may think or feel when Fido runs up to them in the park? How about when a guest comes over to your house and Fido is slobbering all over them and won’t leave them alone, thus annoying your boss who came for a business meeting or Aunt Emily joining you for a night out in her best dress.
What I teach my students is the difference between clear and direct training and indirect (failed behavior) training. These issues are quite simple. Direct training, for obvious reasons, is the desired behavior you teach your dog to perform at your command, be it heel, sit, stay, come back or don't go to the neighbor’s house.
On the other hand, when we are not teaching this, our dogs are unknowingly being taught in our presence (indirect training) to maybe make the decisions to counter surf, run to a family member at the door and, in all of Fido’s excitement, be praised for this eager and loving greeting. They may chase the kids in the backyard or leave your side to play with their best canine friend.
When this ingrained behavior becomes a royal pain is when you don't want a dog to chase a kid in the park or chase a dog that doesn't like your dog. When this happens we tend to get upset and angry. This will lead to your dog becoming frustrated and impatient and therefore a good possibility for aggression to arise due to handler conflict. Dogs are creatures of habit, they cannot decipher the difference between meeting dad or a guest at the door in this hyper excitement.
What we can do is teach our dog to wait, calm down, tell the dog it is o.k. to go, and then recall the dog back when greeting someone, be it child, dog or Aunt Emily. What I do is keep my dog on a leash in my home and teach the dog to sit still and calm beside me and use my family members to be the stimuli which leads to the control I need in the park. This is a small way to aid with the impatient, anxious, annoying dog that everyone wants to stay away from. The alternative is taking a chance to what the outcome is going to be because of the dog’s decision, whether it be a negative response from a person or another dog.
When I can't pay attention to my dog or he has had enough, again, I cannot emphasize how important it is to give my dog some down time. This is where my crate comes into play. By using my crate I am giving the dog and myself some much needed alone time. We are both eager to start the training process again happy and refreshed. This greatly avoids what I call training overkill or failed behavior.
At the end of the day, the old adage of “what we don't know won't hurt us” comes into play. This has never been more defined when it comes to our canine friends.
“ Through our own discipline - teaching a dog the ability to be off leash and free is the greatest gift we can give them. "