Self control in dogs

I have learned that, like many other behaviors, dogs can learn to calm themselves down.  It takes patience and time, but positive reinforcement works – ‘when I am calm, something good happens.’

I use the method for some basics – a dog that jumps to get out of its run for example. I ask the dog to sit, dog sits (hopefully it knows this command otherwise its back to basics). I begin to open the gate, dog even budges the gate closes. I ask the dog to sit, begin to open the gate, dog even budges the gate closes. Eventually I can open the gate wider and wider before movement, and finally dog needs to sit until I get a leash on it.

Recently I was asked to work with a dog that a rescue organization said had dog aggression. I couldn’t get too much background, just that she was going after other dogs during an adoption event. I took her out to a local dog park, kept her on a loose leash.  There was no aggression at all, good manners. When I had some time, I did some more investigation. Turns out she was barking at the other dogs while in a crate at the event. Sitting next to her crate before the next even started, rewarding her for every time she calmed herself, she began to realize that barking meant no treat, calmness meant treat. By the time the event started she was good to go in the crate.

Trainer has to be calm and in control, the dog always needs to know that nothing bad will happen if I am around.  Build this trust, reward calmness and good things follow.