Apr 10

KISS Training - A Revelation!

Don't Let Them!

Recently I was talking with my college age son Eric about Wyatt, one of our dogs who, when we first got him, was insistent on jumping up on me but would never jump on my son. When I asked Eric why Wyatt did not jump up on him, he simply said "because I won't let him."

This morning I was thinking through why so many small dogs have potty accidents in the house, show aggression towards people, rip up paper they find on the floor, etc.  Then the light bulb moment hit - it's because we let them!

The beach photo is of Mastiffs owned by a client of mine who came for private lessons when she was first learning how to show dogs.  She was a petite young lady, weighing maybe 90 lbs, at the most. The dog she was bringing for training weighed over 200 pounds. There was NO WAY I was going to let this dog continue pulling her. So we got the pulling issue under control in just a couple of lessons, and she went on to finish his  AKC championship fairly quickly. My client quickly learned that we just could not allow pulling; it was just a totally unacceptable behavior in a dog this size.

Her dogs did not have housebreaking or aggression issues.  I imagine this is because she didn't let them! We can learn valuable lessons from watching people who own giant breeds.  Smaller dogs need to be treated the same way as larger dogs--when they first try a naughty behavior like growling or snarling at someone, put a stop to it!  Practice makes perfect, and often small dogs have been practicing bad behavior for a long time before I receive a phone call from their owner.

When housetraining a tiny dog , don't allow them any unsupervised time out of their crate. When they are out, keep them right with you, even on a leash, so that you can see any signs of needing to "go" and quickly get them outside. If you had a Mastiff pup in your house (I've seen 4 month old puppies that already weighed over 60 pounds) - you would NOT let them go potty in your house, and you would DEFINITELY not let them jump up on your visitors. If we are capable of preventing this behavior in a dog this large, surely we can prevent it in a Yorkie!

Sometimes we miss out on the solution to the problem because it is really simple. Remember the  slogan K.I.S.S.?  Keep It Simple Stupid--or my version,  "Keep It Simple Sweetheart".    We aren't stupid, but when simple works, let's try to keep it that way. K.I.S.S. in dog training can translate, many times, to simply being disciplined enough to just "not let them" engage in unacceptable behaviors. Prevention is always the best cure. Sometimes you might need a little extra help to stop ingrained unwanted behaviors (like a special collar for the determined puller) but it is important to realize that you can control your dog! 

Thoughts?  Leave a comment below to share with our readers.

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Comments (2)
  • Kristen  - separation anxiety

    I'm wondering how best to train/care for/help a former shelter dog who seems to have signs of separation anxiety. He does fine holding his bladder for long periods of time (such as overnight) in the house when we're home, but if we leave he has an accident. If we leave him outside in the fenced in yard, he finds a way to scale a 4.5' wood slat fence, whimpering and barking horribly. So far the best result is to leave him on an enclosed porch and not make a big deal about leaving - he can see us walking around through the glass door and then we're gone. However, that won't work as the weather turns cold. I've read mixed reviews about crate-training former shelter dogs (he seems to have had some abuse in his background). How do you "not let" a dog freak out?

  • Melanie S  - separation anxiety

    Hi Kristen, separation anxiety can be really tough, on dogs and owners. The book, "The Dog Who Loved too Much" by Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist from Tufts, does an excellent job of covering this subject. In answer to your question, I would definitely try crate-training him, at first while you are at home to see how he handles it. I would use a DAP plug-in beside the crate, to help him connect it with a calmer feeling. Sometimes tranquilizers are needed and Clonicalm, a daily med you can get from your vet, can be helpful. This behavioral issue is one that most vets are very knowledgeable about, and your vet probably even has a video you can borrow (produced by the makers of Clonicalm) that covers behavioral recommendations.

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