Knowing your expectations

Most people have varying ideas of what they expect from their companions. Some of these expectations are realistic; others aren't. You have heard people say, "My dog understands every word I say," and perhaps you think that your dog does. If it were as easy as that, you wouldn't need dog trainers or training books.

Sometimes your dog may seem to really understand what you say. However, if a dog understands every word his owner says, how come the dog doesn't do


what he is told? Still, enough truth does exist to perpetuate the myth. Although dogs don't understand the words you use, they do understand tone of voice, and sometimes even your intent.

Are your expectations realistic?

Do you believe your dog obeys commands because he

1 Loves you 1 Wants to please you 1 Is grateful 1 Has a sense of duty 1 Feels a moral obligation

We suspect that you answered, "yes" to the first and second questions, became unsure at the third question, and then realized that we were leading you down a primrose path.

If your approach to training is based on moral ideas regarding punishment, reward, obedience, duty, and the like, you're bound to handle the dog in the wrong way. No doubt your dog loves you, but he won't obey commands for that reason. Does he want to please you? Not exactly, but it sometimes seems like he does. What he is really doing is pleasing himself.

Moreover, Buddy doesn't have the least bit of gratitude for anything you do for him and won't obey commands for that reason either. He's interested in only one thing: What's in it for me right now? Buddy certainly has no sense of duty or feelings of moral obligation. The sooner you discard beliefs like that, the quicker you'll come to terms with how to approach his education.

Are your expectations too low?

Do you believe your dog doesn't obey commands because he

1 Is stubborn 1 Is hardheaded 1 Is stupid

1 Lies awake at night thinking of ways to aggravate you

If you answered "yes" to any of these, you're guilty of anthropomorphizing, that is, attributing human characteristics and attributes to an animal. Making this characterization is easy to do, but it doesn't help in your training.

Dogs aren't stubborn or hardheaded. To the contrary, they're quite smart when it comes to figuring out how to get their way. And they don't lie awake at night thinking of ways to aggravate you — they sleep, just like everybody else.

What should your expectations be?

So why does your dog obey your command? Usually for one of three reasons:

1 He wants something. 1 He thinks it's fun, like retrieving a ball. 1 He has been trained to obey.

When he obeys for either the first or the second reason, he does it for himself; when he obeys for the third reason, he does it for you. This distinction is important because it deals with reliability and safety. Ask yourself this question: If Buddy obeys only because he wants something or because it's fun, will he obey when he doesn't want something or when it's no longer fun? The answer is obvious.

The well-trained dog obeys because he has been trained. This doesn't mean you and he can't have fun in the process, so long as the end result is clearly understood. When you say, "Come," there are no options, especially when the safety of others, or his own, is involved.

Dog Potty Training

Dog Potty Training

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