Few dog owners realize that obedience training should be practiced using a leash and collar in the home. The home is where many of the problems with dominant dogs crop up, yet people will happily go off to a club once a week to learn training and may even practice in the park, but few teach obedience in the home.
Practice three times daily using a collar and leash always. The dog can now see you asserting your authority in the place where it often feels more dominant – the effect can be immense. Having trained your dog in basic obedience, you can then extend this control to influence its bad behavior. For example, when it will not move off the couch or when it growls when you try to move its food bowl, you can command “Come”, then “Down”, and then “Stay”. Your dog will obey and will accept you as leader. This will take time, but it does work provided you are consistent and patient and are prepared to put in the necessary long-term effort.
The next step is to implement structured training routines that alter your dog’s ability to behave badly; in other words, stopping repetition. You will now decide how your dog will behave in your house.
Controlling The Dog In Your Home
The first action is to stop your dog from using the entire house as its own territory with the right to roam anywhere, anytime. You will now decide when and what will happen – in simple terms like a child the dog has to learn and be aware of your rules, but you also have to rediscover how to teach them. Patience for the first five days is important; no anger, no shouting, no rough-handling of the dog.
While you are at home, place your dog on the hook using his leash and collar for about fifteen minutes at a time, three times a day. Condition your dog that you will only release him when he is quiet and relaxed. After fifteen minutes, approach him; if he becomes over-excited, barks, or jumps up, walk away immediately. He may continue to bark or yelp. Say nothing. Ignore all remonstrations. Repeated many times over a week or so, the dog learns that you release him only when he is quiet.
The Food Toy Reward
It is very difficult to leave a dog restricted on a hook and leash and simultaneously provide a reward that he associates with that restriction. By using his daily diet packed in a rubber food toy, you can achieve this most powerful reward. The end result is a dog that associates being placed on the hook with a pleasurable reward.
You will have to alter the type of food he is given. He will now only get his food through this toy. For several months no food will be delivered through the food bowl. In fact you can lock it away – but not his water dish.
We begin by dividing up the food into enough portions to match the number of times we plan to restrict him on the hook daily, three times in this case. Always use healthy dog food. Foods that contain chemical additives may be influencing your dog’s behavior. Do not use heavily processed foods; we need real meat, which is sticky and of a nice texture that gels to the toy.
On The Hook
Each time you take the dog on his collar and leash to the hook and secure him there, place the food toy on the floor. The more the food is jammed tight into the toy, the longer it will take the dog to extract it. That uses up energy, occupies his mind, and keeps him quiet. Over time the dog will learn to associate the restriction with a powerful reward. He’s also being conditioned to accept being tethered as a norm – just the same way once accepted being restricted by a collar and leash as a norm when a puppy. After several weeks most dogs happily accept the training lesson.