In 2007 V was born. His full name is V for Vendetta, but he just goes by V. On easter Sunday he was 6 weeks old and I went to get my new best friend. At the time I knew very little about dogs. I knew that they needed to eat, pee, poop, and that you were supposed to walk them. I think my sister may have mentioned to me something about making sure he met people and dogs. But that was it, that was all I knew.
In 2009 V was 2 years old and was about as wild as they came. One day I stopped over my parents' house and my dad was watching a show called the Dog Whisperer. I started watching it and I believed everything I saw. It was like, all of the sudden I got it. If I wanted V to stop acting like a wild child, all I needed to do was be his pack leader. I mean, it's such an easy concept. All you have to do is get your dog to respect you and everything falls into place. So I tried it.
In early 2010 V was a different dog under my dictatorship. He was far from perfect, but I could at least get him to respect my status of pack leader. (A pack leader shapes the behaviors it wants via corrections.) This means as the pack leader I was waiting for V to do the wrong thing so I could give him a correction. The corrections came in the form of a leash "pop" or a jab to the neck which was supposed to simulate a bite. This was my approach. This is how I did it and it seemed to be working. I still loved him, but I was doing what I thought had to to get him to act appropriately.
In December of 2012 I received my certification as a professional dog trainer. Between mid 2010 and into 2012 I spent a lot of time working under other trainers, and reading lots of books which led me to a new way of training. This way meant I no longer needed to "assert my dominance," give collar corrections, or any other physical/forceful corrections and still have a dog that does what I ask.
A Proactive Approach
I refer to the way I train now as being proactive instead of reactive. Being proactive means setting your dog up to succeed. Now when V and I are walking down the street and another person and dog approach, instead of waiting for V to bark and then giving the collar correction, I ask for V to look at me, or "leave" the other dog followed by a food reward to reinforce that behavior. (The reinforcement makes the behavior likely to happen again in the future.)
Another example of how being proactive comes in handy is giving your dog something to do, while you're doing something. If you're getting ready to sit down and do some emails, you'd be setting your dog up for failure if you didn't give him something to work on. (Or put him in a place where he can do no wrong.) A great option is an interactive toy. If you get one with a big enough opening you can stick awesome stuff in there like banana, peanut butter etc. By doing this, you're giving your dog something awesome to focus on. This will prevent him from looking for something awesome all on his own. (Because he will find something awesome and it's probably going to be a shoe.)
Being proactive means working with your dog as a team. If you know he has trouble with jumping on people, ask him to sit to get his reward of meeting the guest. (Practice this a lot and use a leash as a management tool.) Below is video to help:
And to get the best performance out of your teammate, find something that your teammate really likes. For most dogs it is small tasty food rewards. (cheese, hot dogs etc.) For some dogs, toys are their favorite thing to work for. (tug toy, ball etc.) Once you've got that you just need to ask your dog to do what you'd like it to do in those situations and then give him some of his favorite thing. Now obviously there is more work to it then just asking them to do something, but that's the general idea. Below is an example of how I practice working on V's skills using a ball as his reward.
Being proactive also means setting our dogs up for success not only at the present time, but for in the future. Instead of waiting for a dog to start having guarding issues around the food bowl and then trying to dominate the bowl back, (whatever that means) I have my clients work on conditioning for when they approach the dog around the food bowl. Because of the conditioning, the dog realizes that when he is eating and approached good things happen and not bad things.(Stuff is given and not taken) This is a proactive way of preventing guarding from ever happening.
The big take away with all of this is that once I started having a proactive approach towards training V, I started having fun. He also started having fun during training, which was definitely not happening before. Additionally, he is way better trained now than before. He now has his Canine Good Citizen Certification and his Therapy Dog Certification. These were achieved all by using a proactive approach that focuses on rewarding appropriate behaviors and preventing inappropriate behaviors. If you're looking for visuals of how to do this, click here.