Sometimes it feels as if there is an overwhelming amount to learn about our dogs.  We'll be getting more and more in depth as this blog continues, but I wanted to take a moment and distill some of my thoughts about what is absolutely ESSENTIAL information for people to know about dogs.  This list isn't designed so much for the "trainer" as it's designed to help people overcome the "mythology" about dogs - to subsitute a little fact for the vast amounts of fiction that persist.  Here you have it - the eleven most important things that everyone should know about dogs:

  1.  Dogs are animals that are designed to hunt prey. That means that they are not toys, and you should be wary of their teeth. Show them respect - don't tackle them, don't hit them, and definitely don't tease them.
  2. The way to approach a dog is: you NEVER approach a dog (with occasional exceptions). Let the dog come to you. Entice the dog with a treat if necessary.
  3. Don't make prolonged eye contact with a staring contests.
  4. When you reach out to pet a dog, reach out with your palm face-up. Let the dog sniff your hand. Slowly transition to a slow stroke - no quick scratches or pats. When you pat a dog you should be trying to get the dog to relax.
  5. The best way to show affection to a dog is through touch and treats. Touch means "slow, methodical, massaging strokes". Treats means "tasty snacks". Don't kiss a dog, or put your face right up to a dog's face - dogs find that to be very threatening and provocative.
  6. Dogs do not really understand much English (or insert your spoken language). They DO understand tone and body language. Pay attention to the way that your body language is affecting the dogs in your life. Is your dog relaxed and attracted to you? Good! Is your dog getting tense and trying to get away from you? Time to change your pattern of behavior. Think about whether you're too much "predator" and not enough "prey".
  7. It's much easier to teach a dog to DO something than it is to teach them not to do something. Instead of focusing on reprimanding your dog for doing things "wrong", put your energy into rewarding your dog for doing things right. For instance, lets say that you discover your dog on the couch, which is off-limits. Instead of scolding the dog, you could use a treat to lure your dog off the couch, and as soon as the dog leaves the couch give the "off!" command. Use another treat to encourage your dog onto their bed (where they're allowed to be), giving them the "on your bed!" command as they get on the bed. Praise your dog. Do this enough times, and your dog will learn the meaning of "off!" and "on the bed!" - AND they'll get sick of having to always jump off the couch, so they won't bother getting up there in the first place.
  8. Never run away from a dog unless you're expecting to be chased. If it's a strange dog, or a dog that's threatening to attack you DEFINITELY don't run away...unless you can quickly get out if its reach.
  9. Always ask a dog's owner before you interact with the dog. Also, always ask a dog's owner before you let your DOG interact with their dog. Teach your kids to ask permission and then GUIDE THEM in the proper means of interacting with a dog (see all the other rules). If a dog's owner tells you that it's not a good idea, don't get all mad at the situation - be thankful that the person understands their dog enough to keep you out of danger. And then tell that person to visit our site, where they'll learn how to help their dog overcome their issues.
  10. Let sleeping dogs lie. What that means is if your dog is chilling out all by themselves, sleeping in a corner or minding their own business (and staying out of trouble) - then, by all means, give them their space! They'll come to you when they're ready for some attention. In the meantime, satisfy your craving for connection by connecting with yourself or the other humans in your life. Or the cat.
  11. Honor the "dog-ness" in your dog. Don't expect them to be little humans. Spend your time discovering the things that give your dog fulfillment, and dedicate a little bit of time each day to giving your dog what they REALLY need.

I had trouble narrowing this list down to 11 - there are definitely more "essentials".  Learning how to play tug of war correctly is one of them.  Are there things that YOU consider to be essential that aren't on this list?  Let us know what they are - the comment lines are open!

 Thanks for stopping by!