Welcome to the second post in our Dog Training blog series. This ongoing series will feature guest posts by local professional dog trainers and highlight some of the big questions they address to their clients. Today's post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Behavioral Dog Training.
A common mistake I come across is the improper use of a dog’s name. Many dog owners have the bad habit of using their dog’s name when correcting unwanted behavior. If you use your dog’s name to correct inappropriate actions, it is common for the dog to associate its name with being bad and this is something that all dog owners want to avoid.
It is confusing to the dog because owners tend to use their dog’s name when they are being good or bad. I frequently hear the misuse of a dog’s name when I am visiting the Salem Dog Park, Highland Dog Park or a client’s home – "Fifi stop, Fifi quit, Fifi no, FIFI!!!!!" If your dog has associated its name with being bad, the response to hearing their name may be to cower or shy away for you and this is not a good thing. No wonder your dog does not listen to you or come when called. You always want your dog to have a cheerful response to hearing its name – to perk up and look at you.
If you have been making this common mistake, do not worry because it is a pretty easy fix. Stop using your dog’s name when correcting unwanted behavior. Start using your dog’s name generously when working on obedience commands or while doing fun and exciting activities. You want your dog to associate pleasurable and rewarding feelings with the use of its name.
If you should not use your dog's name then what should you use? The words and sounds that you use when correcting unwanted behavior are referred to as “correction marks”. Your dog probably already knows the words and sounds you use when you are pleased with their behavior, such as “good boy” or “super dog”, but it is just as important that your dog understands the words and sounds you use when you do not like your dog’s actions. All good training is based upon clear communication between dog and owner.
Instead of using your dog’s name, I frequently recommend to my clients that they use the same sounds or words that their mother used on them as a child. For example, you could use “uh-uh”, “tsst” or “hey”. But, whatever phrase or sound is used, it must be direct and authoritative and you must back it up with assertive body language. I would rather do one proper correction then ten bad corrections. You want to use a sound that gets your dogs attention and snaps them out of what they are doing… experiment with different sounds until you find your own.
By consistently using certain “correction marks”, your dog will soon learn that these words or sounds mean that you are unhappy with their behavior and that your dog needs to stop and pay attention to you.
This post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Canine Behavioral Training. For more information or to learn how Adam can help with your dog needs, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.