Training Tips

A few training tips for your Labrador Retriever Puppy

BE THE ALPHA LEADER

This is the Most important thing I can help you with. It is the guild to success in training. BE THE ALPHA LEADER

Labs like all dogs come from a “Pack” and need to be one of two things Leader or follower. If you do not take the role of the pack leader you WILL FAIL. You puppy has just left his/her pack and is now lost as for what he/she should do. Right away assume the roll of leader and your problems will go away fast!!! Picture the “Nest” and how the playing pup will bite each other to play/find their position in the Nest/Pack. Now in your mind see the pup bite the mother and see her Snap at him QUICK and its over. No such thing as a grudge, no beating, and no holding this against the pup the next time it happens just another Quick snap. The pup has learned who the Alpha leader is and will eagerly learn by example and will willingly watch the leader for more learning lessons.

Your pup will also from time to time test the waters to try to take the role of alpha leader. Stay one step ahead with Trust and the pup will be happy with his/her position in Your pack.

DIGGING

Digging is really perfectly natural for a dog, especially for a dog that is left unattended, as digging is also a product of boredom and frustration.

A simple solution is to give your dog his own place to dig. Of course you also have to keep in mind that dogs (not too much unlike people) learn by association; in other words, what is to their advantage and best interest they will most like do again…or repeat with joy (depending on the association with the experience).

It isn’t all that difficult to build your dog his own box to dig in; take some 2×6’s, or 2×8’s, make a frame, put it on the ground, and fill it with dirt. Bury some toys in the dirt and take your dog to the box, show him one or two toys, and then encourage him to find the rest. As he discovers the toys praise him (enthusiastically) and reward him for his accomplishments; here again, keep in mind that your dog will gladly return to something that is to his best interest.

Each time you catch him digging where he shouldn’t take him back to where he “should”/is “allowed” to (dig). Do not get upset, yell, or stress out …simply take your dog to his place to dig, entice him to dig there, and then lay on the praise and goodies when he responds.

PULLING

Have you trained your dog to pull on the leash when you take him for a walk? OK, let me rephrase that: Do you follow your dog when he pulls on the leash? Dogs learn by association so whether you know it or not every time your dog pulls on the leash and you follow you are actually training your dog to pull on the leash.

This is another one of those annoying “learned” behaviors, but it’s not really that difficult to correct. Correcting this behavior, or re-training, is very important not only to overcome an annoying behavior, but also to establish yourself in the Alpha role with your dog.

In dog thinking it goes something like this: “I pull human follows…Oh boy (!), let’s go for a walk!” In other words, your dog has “predetermined” that when that leash is attached to him he pulls and you follow; again, this is a “learned” behavior … that you have taught him.

The trick to getting your dog to quit pulling is to interrupt his predetermination and interject something new. It will boil down to a win/win situation: he wants to go for a walk (as if you hadn’t figured that out already) and you want him to walk next to you.

And so first we need to interrupt the predetermination that he has developed. As you walk your dog, or rather as your dog walks you, pull gently back on the leash; when your dog is along side you release the tension on the leash (let it go loose). He will once again return to pulling and you will once again gently pull back on the leash. Repeat this until the time when you pull on the leash there is less resistance on his behalf (it usually takes about ½ dozen times).

When you start to gently pull back on the leash and your dog’s resistance has lessened you have interrupted his predetermined logic process: now we can interject something new. This time when you gently pull back on the leash, and your dog is by your side, praise him  and treat if you have ’em (and you should have some treats with you for this solution).

For as many times as it took to interrupt his predetermination it will take that many times again before his learning process takes hole, but time you gently pull him back to you. you will notice that his resistance will be less and his position will be further back where you want him to be.

Keep in mind that as with all training you will have to work on this consistent for a few days, but after a day or two you will see marked improvement…. but do not stop working on this.

BARKING

Barking, of course, is a natural part of the way dogs communicate; accordingly the bark of a dog can mean many things. The frequency, pitch, and duration of a dog’s bark all mean a different thing. The differences can include exhaustive studies. But for the purposes of this behavior solution I will address the generalization of the barking behavior.

Domestic dogs usually bark because they are bored, scared, or in need of attention, and this is most usually when they are left unattended. For the most part they are simply saying, “Hey, here I am…won’t someone pay attention to me, or come play with me? HELP!”: a minor anxiety. On the other hand dogs will also bark over more extreme anxiety issues such as Separation Anxiety (SA). Believe it or not I have actually had dog owners make the request of me to help them get their dogs to never bark again; of course, I will not entertain such a request because that would be cruel and abusive to the dog.

And so for the most part what I suggest is one of several responses to your barking dog, each depending on the circumstances and the dog. First and foremost is to understand that the dog, indeed, simply needs attention. This is not to say that I advocate allowing the dog to dictate anything, but rather to understand that your dog may need more attention and more exercise than he is being given. Many dog owners simply “house” their dogs in the back yard, a garage, or a dog run (kennel) and either ignore them, or allow them very little of their (owner’s) time. Dogs, being a pack animal, need to bond with their pack and the family within which they live (human or canine) is the “pack”. Dogs need a relationship with their human counterparts and depending on the breed and the background of the dog sometimes this relationship takes longer than with others.

Crate training and using this training for a 15 minute “time out” also works (Crate Training), but is not intended to take the place of a healthy and active relationship with a dog. Crate training should not be used where anxieties have developed as this will only worsen the stress of the dog.

What blows a lot of dog owners minds that are faced with barking dogs is when I suggest to actually teach their dogs to bark “on command”; yes, that’s right, actually teach their dogs to bark on command. You see, there are two principals at play here: 1. dogs learn by association, and, 2. what is to a dogs best interest he is most likely to repeat. In correctly teaching a dog I always teach positive reinforcement and reward-based training; in doing this the dog has a constant recollection of the things that are to his best interest: being rewarded for what he does. And so when a dog is taught to bark, and taught correctly, it is not worth his while to bark unless commanded to bark (my site covers both reward-based training and how to effectively praise your dog).

JUMPING

Dogs jump up on people for attention and affection.

Commonly people will react in one of two ways:

  1. Push him away and tell him “NO!” or
  2. Will pet the dog and talk to him.

Both of these reactions only enforce the behavior; think about it: your dog is seeking attention and you push him – you have just taught him the “pushing” game and have given him the attention that he was after. If you pet him and talk to him he has received the attention he was after and you have returned his affection; all in all, you have given him what he wanted and you can be assured that he will do the same thing the next time he wants attention.

STOP AND THINK

If giving your dog the attention and affection that he wants when he jumps up on is really enforcing (teaching) your dog to jump up on you then perhaps it’s time to do just the opposite: ignore him. That’s right, simply turn your back to him, say nothing, and do not make eye contact with him.

Now for the “redirecting”: when he has all four on the floor and has calmed down reward him for this behavior; after all, it’s the behavior you do want. Test this several times being consistent in both how you respond and reward.

Ignore them, or allow them very little of their (owner’s) time. Dogs, being a pack animal, need to bond with their pack and the family within which they live (human or canine) is the “pack”. Dogs need a relationship with their human counterparts and depending on the breed and the background of the dog sometimes this relationship takes longer than with others.

Crate training and using this training for a 15 minute “time out” also works (Crate Training), but is not intended to take the place of a healthy and active relationship with a dog. Crate training should not be used where anxieties have developed as this will only worsen the stress of the dog.

What blows a lot of dog owners minds that are faced with barking dogs is when I suggest to actually teach their dogs to bark “on command”; yes, that’s right, actually teach their dogs to bark on command. You see, there are two principals at play here: 1. dogs learn by association, and, 2. what is to a dogs best interest he is most likely to repeat. In correctly teaching a dog I always teach positive reinforcement and reward-based training; in doing this the dog has a constant recollection of the things that are to his best interest: being rewarded for what he does. And so when a dog is taught to bark, and taught correctly, it is not worth his while to bark unless commanded to bark (my site covers both reward-based training and how to effectively praise your dog)

HOUSE BREAKING

There is actually a Potty Clock that you can use to housebreak your puppy or adult dog and it goes like this: These are key times that you should take your dog outside to go potty: when your dog wakes up, eats or drinks, and after he/she plays. If you are consistent in observing these times, and the need of your dog, you WILL successfully overcome your housebreaking dilemmas. And if you take a weekend, or a three day period, that you can devote to this, you can have it taken care of in about 3 days.

If you find that you do these things and yet your dog waits until you come back into the house to relieve himself then you have overlooked the “play” part of the clock. When you have your dog outside (according to the Potty clock) and your dog does not go potty then play with him/her. Play hard and fast for about 7-10 minutes, put your leash on your dog, and just stand still … and then watch the magic! Now, PRAISE YOUR DOG!

CAUTION: DO NOT PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR YOU NEGLECT TO TRAIN HIM NOT TO GO POTTY IN THE HOUSE. IF ANYTHING PUNISH YOURSELF FOR NOT DOING YOUR JOB. YOU WILL ONLY TEACH HIM TO FEAR YOU AND CREATE OTHER BAD BEHAVIORS THAT YOU REALLY DON’T WANT.

I have used this Potty Clock method for over 3 decades and have been successful. It will not work without consistency and patience so unless you commit yourself to this then don’t even start it … you’ll just confuse and stress your dog … and yourself. Note that although it only takes 3 days for this to work with most dogs, it may take longer if your dog has experienced improper housebreaking methods in the past.

CHEWING

Teething and boredom are the probably the most common reasons that your dog chews on things that you’re rather he didn’t chew. For either, however, there is a solution that is not all that difficult.

When I ask dog owners if they have chew toys for their dogs most will say “yes”, but few realize that their dog may not know what the purpose of the chew toy is. I mean it would be great if when you brought home the new chew toy you let your dog read the label and go from there, but it just doesn’t work that way; more likely than not you will have to show (train) your dog what you want; simply throwing the toy down and expecting him to redirect his chewing to the toy won’t always work…and either will punishing your dog for chewing: remember, chewing is a natural behavior for a dog and to punish him for it would be similar to you being punished for walking upright on two legs.

Two ways to approach the chewing problem:  Teach your dog to let go of the object (“drop it”), or Teach your dog the difference between what is his and what is yours.

(Actually teaching him both will work to your advantage in other circumstances).

Teaching your dog the difference between what is allowable to chew and what isn’t is simply a matter of consistently redirecting him from what he is NOT allowed to chew on to what he is allowed to chew. Don’t expect that he will do this on his own; you will have to take him to his chew toy, encourage him to play with it, and then reward him for doing what you wanted him to do.

You say you are not home when he chew what he is not supposed to chew? Understandable, but if he does it is because he has not been taught otherwise, or that the training you have been doing is not yet successful; again, DO NOT PUNISH HIM as he is doing what comes natural to him. After you are home wait until he chews the “unacceptable” object and the take him to his chew toy and repeat encouraging him to play with it and rewarding and praising him when he does.

A consistent effort on your behalf with this behavior solution will net you positive results within 3 days.