I got a Maltese Shitzu and I need need some advice about how to train her. Can you please give me some advice?
Regan from WA
First off, educate yourself about positive reinforcement training methods. There is a lot of information on the Internet. "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor is a great start. It's a fairly easy read.
When training your dog remember these guiding principles:
A dog will continue a behaviour if he/she is getting rewarded for it.
Sometimes to figure out what the dog sees as a reward is the challenge.
Rewards can be food, attention (good and bad, including voice and eye contact), toys, access to outside, access to the couch, access to the bed, touch (good and bad), etc. Sometimes the reward will be when the mailman leaves the yard. The dog has barked furiously and the mailman left. The mailman would have left anyway after dropping off the mail, but the dog doesn't know this. Every day this happens, the dog barking at the mailman behaviour is being reinforced.
When your dog is giving you the behaviour you want, then give her what she wants (or a suitable reward). For example, if you want her to walk loosely on a leash, let her progress in the direction she wants ONLY when the leash is loose. If she pulls, stop, call her to you, and walk backwards if you have to. Do this until she, of her own will, proceeds toward you enough to loosen the leash. Say "Good girl!" and continue in the direction she wanted to go originally. The reward is that she gets closer to the park, or the fire hydrant, or the exciting thing she wants to get to. Be consistent and she'll pick this up quickly.
Another common mistake people do, especially with little dogs that are so cute and cuddly, is to coddle the dog when it is agitated (upset, frustrated, fearful, excited, etc.). We want to calm the dog down so our first instinct is to pet it, speak softly and coo, and often we use a happy, high voice. This is a mistake. The dog interprets this as praise and thinks we are pleased with her behaviour. Instead, ignore the dog and the behaviour, you can say a low neutral "no", remove the dog or the offending stimulus and only when the dog is showing a calm, controlled state should we look at her, speak to her or touch her. It seems hard-hearted, but the dog doesn't see it this way. You are teaching it, so be strong and don't give in. She'll model her reaction to yours, so if you are upset, so will she be. It's like a child who falls and skins her knee. If the caregiver reacts with too much concern, the child will cry. If the caregiver looks at the knee, tells the child with calm confidence that they'll be okay, and doesn't make a big deal about it and moves on, the child will react the same.
A dog is pre-programmed to want to please you, the leader of the pack. If she sees you as the leader, and if you don't give her mixed messages about how you want her to behave, then you shouldn't have any trouble. (NOTE: sometimes health issues can cause behaviour problems, so be sure to rule this out if you are having problems with her.)
Now, if your dog doesn't see you as the leader of the pack, you may have problems. Remember this concept: the leader of the pack is the one who is in control of the resources: the resources include food, toys, playtime, outside time, the best places to sit and sleep, etc. Have your dog practice good manners ALWAYS by having her sit before feeding, sit before putting the leash on, sit before exiting/entering the house, etc. Sit is like "please" in dog language.
Your local Petco or other big pet store will have classes and a number to call anytime.
Watch or DVR & then watch The Dog Whisperer on The National Geographic Channel. He is on weekdays at 2 pm ET and Friday evenings at 8 pm. He is AMAZING. He teaches pack leadership to humans. He says you need to provide: 1)exercise, 2)rules, boundaries and limitations, 3) affection. He says little toy dogs are the most neurotic because all they get is affection.
I think that every dog owner needs to watch The Dog Whisperer to raise a balanced dog. :-)
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