Want to be an effective teacher to your dog? Here's a little bit of advice that will get you closer to your goal: get organized.
I just spent an hour with an organizer — and will spend another 2 hours on Wednesday — getting myself and my office organized and streamlined. I had a hard time giving up an hour of my day today even though I know it's worth it. I keep thinking: I could have answered email, I could have written a blog post, I could have blah, blah, blah. Here's the real truth: I probably would have been on Twitter and Facebook if I weren't with the organizer.
So: I now have the beginnings of a plan to get organized. Yes, it will take some time out of my schedule to implement the organizational plan, but in the end, I will actually gain hours — and lose stress! I think the same can be said for people who are trying to teach their dog new things.
Here's my thumbnail sketch for you if you're so overwhelmed that you can't even get started with your dog (like me with my office!).
- What's the one thing that bugs you the most about your dog's behavior? Just one. (Write it down.)
- What new behavior would fix that? For instance, if the one thing that bugs you the most is that your dog jumps on guests, what do you want the dog to do instead of jumping? (Here's a hint: sit is a great replacement behavior, because if your dog is sitting he can't also be jumping.)
- Manage your dog until you teach him the new behavior so he can't get into trouble. This means: when guests come, either leash your dog (and keep him on a short leash so he can't get close enough to jump) or put up a gate so your dog can't have access to the front door and the guest when they walk in.
- Teach the new behavior ("sit" in this example). Make it easy for your dog — teach the dog when he's already had his exercise for the day, when there aren't any distractions, and use really delicious treats to show him just how great it is to sit.
- Systematically work in the "real life" elements like distractions and duration. (For "real life," your distractions will be the door bell ringing, your movement toward the door, the actual movement of the door opening, and the appearance of the guest. The duration will be how long the dog needs to remain sitting.)
That's it! Honestly, it really is that easy. I know, it doesn't feel that easy sitting on your side of the fence. I'm sure the organizer that left here today thought "this isn't rocket science lady, just have a place for everything and then put it there!" And really, I already knew that. I just needed someone to break it down into manageable pieces for me.
Teaching your dog good manners is just a matter of getting organized . What seems like an insurmountable problem is really just a matter of teaching your dog a few new habits, rather than spending all your time trying to get him to stop the old habits.