“The dogs on Main Street howl, ’cause they understand, if I could take one moment into my hands…” Bruce Springsteen
In an earlier post I mentioned that we were hiring a dog trainer for our two year old shepherds. We have since had two, hour and a half sessions and a third booked for later this month. These sessions have already been truly life changing!
The trainer is absolutely wonderful. Her approach and direction with the puppies is exactly what we were hoping for. She encourages setting boundaries, in a calm and stimulating environment, maintaining a soft, yet firm tone. This is important as we are both fairly soft spoken; raising our voices to our puppies is not something we like to, or want to have to do.
Our first session was immediately worth the investment. The changes we have witnessed in some cases have been instant and a little shocking! In SUCH a great way! The first meeting with the trainer did not involve the puppies at all, that makes this more profound for me.
She taught us a few simple changes, which included:
- Absolutely not allowing them to be on the furniture. No couch. No bed. No exceptions.
- Eliminating the use of the word “no”. All interactions must be positive.
- Reiterating commands. When telling the puppies to “sit” for example. When they are successful follow up with “good, sit!”, “good boy/girl!”
- To dress them up in our clothes. This helps with getting them accustomed to physical responses.
- Being aware of body language. Not making eye contact when giving commands or if you do not want to engage with them. Holding your head high and back straight, placing yourself in a dominant stance.
We practiced these changes for a week. The furniture one was especially difficult for me. I really enjoy the morning snuggles with these guys; it took me some time to adjust. They seemed to adjust very well. Although, we still find them trying to sneak in a couch sit for a minute! Overall they are doing fantastic. Eliminating the use of the word “no” has been huge. They respond SO well to reiterating commands and seem to understand more of what’s happening and respond more calmly as well. Dressing them up was a blast! We had fun with it and they really seemed to enjoy those interactions and were a very good boy and girl. Finally, being aware of our body language and communicating to them that we are “the leaders of the pack” has also vastly changed the way they respond.
Hearing the trainer speak of the history of dogs and how simply understanding their natural instincts can help to eliminate some frustration for them. Appreciating why the puppies are responding in a particular way is critical. Learning what their actual needs are and how to engage accordingly has been greatly beneficial.
If you are considering hiring a professional dog trainer, I encourage you to do a little research to find a trainer that suits your personality. Our trainer is a perfect fit for us, which has made all the difference in the world. The past few weeks have been challenging, also very rewarding. Set your hesitations aside, go ahead and take the plunge! You won’t regret it!