Now I don’t claim I’m a professional trainer by any sense of the word. But I will pass on what I’ve learned over the past 40 years of working with my own dogs. These are lessons I’ve learned and sometimes the hard way.
1. All breeds are not the same. They were developed to do and/or look like the vision the breeders had in mind for them. What works for one breed could be totally wrong for another.
2. All dogs of the same breed are not the same. They are a product of their environment and upbringing and events of their lives. They hold to common genetic traits, but they are still individuals to some extent. This is important to remember when working with them. Even your own children are different than their siblings. Siblings are not clones of each other, they all have a certain amount of individuality that must be known to be successful in behavior and learning.
3. The huge debates about being Alpha to your dogs have been distorted and rearranged so many times that it has lost the true meaning of it. That meaning is to be in control of your dogs. You have to be the final say of what they can or cannot do. This is no different than being the final say of your own children, and it is not cruel. It is what must be done, everyone has to learn some discipline, or they will not fit into society…dogs included. You don’t have to do it with a club, but leadership and being the boss must be maintained, or you will suffer the consequences.
4. Humanizing dogs is the most gigantic mistake anyone can make. They are a different species and think on a fundamental level. They do not ponder or overthink everything in life. They follow the code of their genetics…they are animals, not humans. So forget feeling sorry that Buffy got scolded for peeing on the rug. She ignored it two minutes after you scolded her.
5. Your 5-year-old son Jake runs down the aisle at Wal-Mart. You call him, and he ignores you. What do you do? Do you offer him a chocolate bar if he behaves or do you go and get him. Are you going to be subjected to bribery from then on or enforce the rules? Dogs are no different, they respect law and order, and it’s up to you to enforce it. It’s not cruel; it is called “Education” of what is acceptable and what is not.
6. Powerful breeds require potent owners. Not in strength but in the force of will. These dogs possess powerful intentions, and you need to be stronger than them. You have to enforce your rules, or they will own you from then on.
7. One rule I have: Teeth on human skin is not allowed. A puppy nipping on you will turn into a dog that possesses the ability to break your arm when full grown (powerful breeds). This is not allowed and must be stopped at an early age.
8. The reason dog trainers have a job is that people humanize dogs and cannot possibly accept the fact that the dog must be made to behave. The secret is only to use enough force to make that happen. The line in the sand between cruelty and being a good parent is to know how much. This is what separates the good from the bad.
9. Cruelty: I hear so much about tethering sled dogs. Let me ask you what is really cruel. Is it more brutal to have a dog on a rope outdoors, or confined in a 4X4 foot crate inside a house for 8-10 hours a day while you work? I think the answer is obvious.
10. Just like kids, dogs need discipline and education to become productive members of society. To let them do whatever results in the same thing as turning out a teenager with the same disregard for rules. It only leads to heartache. You have to instill the standards, and then you can build on the rest.