Women may have gained equality with men in the workplace, the military and even in politics, but when it comes to training a dog, nature puts most women at a distinct disadvantage. Women are designed to be feminine. We tend to be soft-spoken, more nurturing and smaller than most men... and your dog knows it.
Yes, that cute little ball of fluff with the innocent eyes that youíve been carrying around like a china doll, talking baby-talk to and otherwise spoiling has already got your number. Pup has made a mental note to self: "Man means business. Woman is a pushover - milk that for all itís worth!"
As pup grows older, the woman is usually the one who struggles with getting the pup to obey. Rain or snow or dark of night, theyíll wait until she calls the umpteenth time before leaving that tasty deposit the neighborís cat left in the shrubs and meandering back to the house - even if she is attempting to bribe pup with a treat. About the time her tone of voice gets that beyond-frazzled, about-to-loose-her-temper, "I mean business" tone, pupís lost sense of hearing miraculously returns. Kind of like telling Johnny to clean his room. In one ear and out the other, until the last possible split-second to avoid cataclysm.
It makes matters even worse if pup minds the man of the house but not the woman. Life with a pup - or even a grown dog - doesnít have to be that way. There can be peace, harmony, respect and sanity in the home. You can have a dog that obeys - and is the envy of all your neighbors!
First, donít fall into the trap of viewing yourself as "Mom" or "Dad" to your puppy. Yes, it goes without saying that we love our dogs, and they are an important part of our family - but they are not our children. They are pets. We are their owners - not their "guardians", as the animal rights fanatics would like you to think of yourself. No matter where or how you obtained your dog, most likely you paid money for it - you bought it - it was not a legal "adoption". Terminology is very important because it affects how we view our relationship with our animals. The animal rights crowd believes that our pets are "companion animals" or "non-human animals". They wish to elevate pets to a legal status equal with humans, so they can unleash their hidden agenda.
These "AR" groups encourage the public to think of their pets in human terms: adoption, companion, guardian - as opposed to buying the pet and being itís owner. Our pets belong to us and as such, are our legal property.
Second, from your pupís point of view, it is simple: either you are the leader of the pack - or he is.
Thereís no sense of equality in a dogís world. That concept, simply put, does not exist. Even among itís own littermates, there is a constant struggle to establish the pecking order - and it starts as soon as they are born as they compete for their motherís milk. The mother dog is their first pack leader. She cares for their needs and even loves them - but if the circumstances warrant, she will also discipline them. Itís all part of the learning process. As they are weaned and their mother is no longer with them 24/7, the struggle to establish the litterís pecking order is evident at the feed bowl or as they play. The leader of the pack demands respect for his status and accepts nothing less from his littermates. They accept their station in life - and all is good in the world.
Your new puppy is looking to you, his owner, for that same leadership. Knowing his place in life, gives him a sense of security and will help him to become a mentally stable dog. It is important that all of the human members of your household rank above the dog - and that he understand this fact of life.
The easiest route is to avoid making mistakes in the first place. Although it may take some time, rarely is it too late to correct mistakes that have been made. Either way, the ground rules are the same in both cases:
"Second, from your pupís point of view, it is simple: either you are the leader of the pack - or he is."
1) - The dog is your pet and you are the owner. Never forget it.
All dogs require daily exercise and, as the owner, it's your responsibility to see that he gets it. A tired dog is a good dog.
He also needs to earn your affection. Always expect something of the dog - even something as simple as to "sit" when told - before rewarding him with praise and a pat on the head or a hug. This encourages listening, compliance and a calm demeanor.
2) - No baby-talk. Speak to your dog in a clear, authoritative voice. You can be excited and encouraging, but just donít take it to the extreme and indulge in baby-babble. The point is to establish yourself as a figure to be respected.
3) - Keep it simple. A dogís comprehension of language is limited, so remember to keep commands simple. One word commands are better than multiple words or phrases. Instead of saying, "come here" say just "come" or "here" - but choose one. Be consistent and always use the same word for that command - and have everyone else in the household use the same word, too. Try to choose command words that arenít commonly used in normal conversations. For instance, instead of saying "sit", you may want to go traditional and use the English command of "hup", instead.
4) - Stand tall, even if youíre not! Posture is everything. Straighten your spine, square your shoulders, look your dog in the eye and hold your head high when you issue a command. In difficult cases, you may even need to strike the Wonder Woman pose - with fists planted firmly on your hips and elbows extended on each side. Donít give a thought to what the neighbors may think. A well-behaved dog is so worth it!
For a dog that tends to ignore the call in from the yard, try striking the pose, fixing your eyes on the dog as you walk across the yard towards him in silence. When you're even with the dog, point to the house and command "in". This works with most dogs, but if not, unceremoniously pick him up and carry him in to his crate.
5) - Donít be a broken record. Never, ever repeat yourself. Speak a command once and expect compliance. Your tone of voice is important. Be firm. Speak calmly and without anger. Whatever you do, donít shriek. If your voice is naturally higher pitched, lower it. Think Charlton Heston as Moses in the epic Ten Commandments saying, "Let my people go!"
6) - Donít fall into the "in-one-ear-and-out-the-other" trap. To avoid this, never give a command that you canít - or donít - enforce. If you say it, mean it. Even if you are busy doing something else, donít absentmindedly issue a command to the dog, such as "stop chewing on my shoe" - hoping it will obey - because he wonít. By doing this, you are undermining your training efforts. Donít risk undoing what youíve accomplished.
Maybe the dog is whining to go out. By distractedly putting the dog off, you may also be risking an accident in the house. Then who's fault would that be? So instead, stop what youíre doing and tend to the dog.
7) - Forget the dog treats - commercial treats are like candy to your dog - most are not very nutritious and feeding too many can create a finicky eater. When training a dog, too many treats can quickly become counter-productive. You shouldnít need to bribe a dog with treats in order to teach it.
8) - As the leader of the pack, everything belongs to you and you are in control. In a pack, the leader eats first and the underlings eat only when granted permission. To simulate this natural behavior, spit in the dogís food before allowing him to eat. Have him "hup" while you pretend to eat first from the dish. If he tries to eat while you are, grab his collar, set his rump back down in the spot where he was, look him in the eye and give a "growl" to let him know "itís mine". When you are ready to let him eat, he needs your permission. Release him by saying his name or whatever command you choose.
9) - Sometimes itís necessary to discipline. Donít leave it up to the man of the house to carry out discipline. Be firm, fair, calm and swift. When your dog misbehaves, correct him then and there. If time has elapsed between the infraction and the consequence, he will not understand what he did wrong - so you accomplish nothing but to cause confusion and possibly damage your trust relationship with your dog. A correction can be simply looking him in the eye and sternly telling him "no". An effective correction might be an immediate end to the fun - a walk, field training, playing, etcÖ In some cases, you may find "pack language" most effective - such as a throaty "growl" or picking him up and carrying him to his kennel or crate for a time out. What works best for one dog, may not be best for another. So you will need to take into account your dogís personality and the individual situation.
Under no circumstances should a dog be physically or abusively punished.
10) - The old adage, "practice makes perfect" is true - for you as well as your dog. Repetition is the key to success. A trained dog doesnít just happen overnight. It takes time to get from point "A" to point "B". Chances are that your dog is eager to please you. Most spaniels are. He just needs your guidance, patience, love and leadership to become the kind of dog youíve always dreamed of... one that will truly be a part of your family.