One of my theories about dogs and their personalities is that most of what they need to know in order to have a happy, calm life, can be put in place before they are eight weeks old.
I know it sounds a little unrealistic …mostly because we don’t even get our puppies until they are at least that age and often not until much, much older.
However, my experience has shown me time and again that the earlier we start to mold our dogs, the more success we have in “training” them to be good partners. Due to the “cuteness factor” many of us wait until long after the dog has formed his/her habits and patterns and then we call for help!! My challenge is to figure out what the dog is already accustomed to doing and then changing these behaviors. Of course, the length of time these behaviors have been in place, the longer the “training” will take and the more succinct the message must be.
A little puppy will quickly and happily adapt to even the most bizarre requests while a two-year-old rescue has learned coping skills that can be very complex to interfere with. In order to “train” (teach a behavior), we must start with a willing dog and if he or she has already decided how to operate, it can be a challenge to change their minds. This is where we run into the question of training vs. rehabilitation.
I do not think of rehabilitation as some sort of emergency intervention. I do not think of rehabilitation as any sort of “treatment”. I believe that rehabilitation is, in the true sense of the word, restoring something to its original state and is about taking the dog back to a place where he was not afraid, unhappy, confused or overly entitled.
A dog as young as five months old may need some rehabilitation, a six or ten-year-old dog may need some rehabilitation and it is with this in mind that I approach all new students and some returning ones! A large part of any “training” experience with me revolves around teaching the dog how to be a dog and how to live in a human world and this often involves some “rehabilitation”.
If we can bring a dog to a place of understanding and build trust with clear and consistent information, we can begin to develop new patterns that will allow everyone to get more of what they want. I have so many people who call with questions about “training” when what they really want to ask is “How do I change this situation?” It is first important to “tune in” to where the dog lives before changing his mind and sometimes the behavior has become so disruptive that even sharing the same room is impossible!!
So, often sharing my home with my newest “client” is not all that fun but, in order to truly effect change, we need to create a receptive mental state and this happens slowly. Yes, the “tricks” are fun…Sit, down, stay etc. BUT lying calmly in the kitchen while I make dinner and sharing a space with five other dogs makes for a happy life.
So, yes you may see me in Lowes simply standing around while some Doodle bounces off the end of my leash or barks incessantly at every passing trolley but yes, this is one of the “rehab” parts of “training”, right along with getting in and out of the car in the parking lot and sitting nicely while some guy in hat reaches in for a scratch!!
Rehabilitation is not a bad word but the beginning of a new start… Rehab available for puppies thru’ senior citizens…changing lives, one dog at a time…
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