By Erik Davis
I am very honored and grateful that DRON gave me an opportunity to participate in writing for their newsletter about my personal and professional view on obedience training. I am pleased to not only give you some insight into my method of obedience training but to tell my personal experience with our newly adopted Doberman Gracie f/k/a DeeDee.
I’ve been training dogs for 23 years and I teach dog training on the side from basic to advanced obedience to correcting behavioral issues. If you are considering adopting a dog and you currently own one or more dogs, it is important to have your “pack” help “pick” your new addition and to consider learning obedience training. Understanding and practicing obedience training will not only challenge your dog to seek your winning approval and build his/her confidence, but also helps establish alpha and the development of a strong bond between you and your dog.
Learning how to correctly walk your dog is a great place to start. For example, 99% of the time I see people being “walked” by their dogs, the dog is in front of the owner(s). This is the most common mistake dog owners make. It puts the dog in a dominant state of mind and in the alpha position. Developing you as alpha starts with teaching your dog not to pull and to walk along side and slightly behind you.
There are several different methods and tools you can use to teach your dog how to walk correctly. I strongly recommend taking an obedience class and/or having a qualified professional trainer show you the proper steps and techniques you will need to practice in order to achieve the desired result. I personally have experienced the greatest results using a 6′ training leash and a choke or pinch collar. It is important to understand that you communicate to your dog through your leash. Keeping your leash relaxed and somewhat slack is crucial. Any tension in the leash confuses and creates tension in your dog, usually resulting in a dog that constantly pulls.
In the example photo provided, notice the correct position of the dogs and the relaxed leashes.
It is very important to walk your dog as often as possible; not only for their physical well-being, but also psychologically it helps keep your dog in a balanced state. I have personally witnessed a transformation in our Papillion’s behavior just by taking our pack on more frequent walks. People see me with my dogs and approach me with this question “Can you teach my dog how to behave like yours?!” My response is always: “It’s more about teaching YOU how to become a pack alpha that your dog looks to for leadership.” Unfortunately, this is most people’s perception of dog training. They usually think it’s just about teaching the dog.
It has been my experience when people have issues with their dogs; it almost always comes down to a lack of knowledge and/or misinterpretation what their dog is communicating. I have had several clients over the years. Usually on our first session of training, their dogs were out of control and within minutes of meeting them, I would have their dog respond to my alpha position and the dog would appear to be a completely different dog!
This is our Doberman Gracie’s story: I was interested in a large and beautiful 2 year old male, but our Silky Terrier Britney wanted nothing to do with him. After observing her reaction, I decided to introduce the other Doberman that was at the visiting site, a very sweet 5 1/2 year old female. Again, I was observing how Britney would react and instantly the female and Britney were relaxed. We were able to go on a short pack walk without any resistance. She already looked like a member of our pack! One and a half weeks later after going through the adoption process, Gracie Layne came to her new home.
Gracie apparently was put into a shelter because she wasn’t getting along with a new female Doberman that her previous owners brought home. Even though they had her since she was a puppy, and she got along fine with the four other dogs she lived with, they gave her up and she wound up in another state and thankfully, with DRON.
I was anxious to see how Gracie would respond to her new environment and to obedience training. Considering we also have a cat and two parrots, I needed to establish my alpha role right away! Gracie did show some aggression towards our cat almost immediately even though she had passed her cat test. I immediately began working with her on that issue as well as taking the pack for daily walks and obedience training. After a couple weeks, Gracie was making a lot of progress. She already knew and would respond to sit, down, come and heel! We also made great progress with her aggression towards our cat.
Seven months have since passed and Gracie has been just wonderful! She is so happy and loving and is exceeding all my expectations in her obedience training. I take her to work with me every week and she gets along fine with another dog there. She gets along well with our cat and two parrots and even comes to the bank with me! I can call her off leash at long distances and she enthusiastically runs to me (along with her brother and sister at her side) and sits perfectly in front of me waiting for her next command!
Within seven months, Gracie was taken from the only home she had ever known, placed into a shelter, traveled to another state, introduced to a new home and to a new pack. She has not only adjusted well to her new environment, but she has also managed to exceed all my expectations in training! It has been a rewarding experience adopting a dog and I am pleased to share our experience with you and DRON and hope this article has given you some invaluable information on the importance of obedience training all dogs!
Erik Davis is a trainer. If you are interested in having him train your dog you may reach him at Edav7star@cox.net