There are mistakes you may be making with your mutt that you’re not even aware of. Dog trainer Tamar Geller, who’s trained Owen Wilson’s dogs and Oprah Winfrey’s, sets us straight. 

  • “Good dog!” Do you say it when your dog does something right? Who doesn’t? Well, Tamar says knock it off! Sure, Fido loves it, but what he’s really responding to is your inflection. Tamar says “good dog” is too vague to have any value. It won’t reinforce the good behavior. Instead, tell your dog which action was good – like “good sit” or “good fetch.” After some time and a few reinforcing treats, your dog will be responding to your commands with lightening speed.
  • Don’t say “no.” It’s clear enough to us humans, but Tamar says a dog doesn’t know what to make of ‘no’ because it’s not a command. If you want to modify your dog’s bad behavior – like eating off the table or drinking out of the toilet – direct your dog’s attention to something else. So if he’s jumping on the guests, give him a command like “down.” Just make sure it’s a command he already knows. Then, when he obeys, give him a treat, and say “Good down.”
  • Don’t leave your dog unemployed. Dogs need to stay busy. You may think, well they have the run of the house, or they have a whole yard to play in. When you’re not with them, dogs don’t do much. They’re not running laps while you’re away; they’re sitting on the couch waiting for you, and that can lead to two things: weight gain and destructive behaviors. So give your dog a job – like a treat ball that’ll take him hours to get the treats out of. Or enlist him in agility classes, flyball – which is a new sport for dogs – or good citizen classes. When your dog has mental and physical stimulation, he’ll be calmer and better behaved, guaranteed.

Want to know more? Check out Tamar’s book “The Loved Dog.

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