This week's PAW Dog Tip is based on the wise, easy-to-read advice offered in the book, "The Adoption Option: Choosing and Raising the Shelter Dog for You," by Eliza Rubenstein and Shari Kalina (who is also a PAW volunteer).
Training your dog is essential, but not everything. You must also EDUCATE your dog to help him or her develop good house manners and good behavior.
In fact, educating your dog is the best way to get rid of behavior problems. Education is more than a short-term commitment. And dogs of all ages can and should be educated.
Here are the keys to educating a dog:
* Consistency: Establish rules for educating the dog, and make sure everyone in the home sticks to them. Dogs have trouble with the concept of "sometimes," so if climbing on the couch is acceptable sometimes, it had better be OK all the time.
* Positive Reinforcement: Like anyone else, your dog seeks pleasure and avoids displeasure. Praise enthusiastically when your dog responds properly. And when he engages in unacceptable behavior such as growling, don't coddle, sweet-talk or excuse the dog. Instead, immediately correct using firm no-nonsense vocal and leash corrections.
* Repetition: This not just repeating vocal commands, but practicing them diligently. For example, help your dog engage in 10 to 12 good sits good in one training session.
* Persistence: Keep at it; don't give up or skip opportunities to educate your dog.
* Patience: Don't expect the dog to learn overnight. Correct humanely, but don't lose your temper and punish or convey disgust.
* Attitude: Maintain a good attitude.
* Voice: Remember, your voice is a key tool. Use it to get attention.
* Don't repeat a command (as in, "sit...sit...SIT!"): Teach the dog to respond to the first command.
* Never give a command when you're not in a position to enforce it.