My parents have a dog named Copper. She's a good girl, but she gets over-excited very quickly. When we want to take our four dogs down to the lake, it's mayhem. All four of ours are ready to rock out the door, and Copper is too, but she's not allowed down at the lake with my dogs. She chases Tango, bites him, and generally makes a nuisance of herself.
My parents are old-school: yell at the dog, grab her by the collar and MAKE her stay. Yeah, that works. [Not.] And I'm just the daughter. I'm not a professional dog trainer — to them.
After about four days of enduring the same process (with the same, predictable results — Copper continued to bark and thrash about — it was escalating in fact. Surprised? Not me…but I digress), I decided to just step in and do things my way.
I got a Kong, put a little peanut butter in it and gave it to Copper as we were walking out the door. If you'd not witnessed the chaos the way my parents were handling things, you'd never have believed it. Instead of anticipating our leaving with barks, whines, and jumps, Copper laid on the floor and worked that Kong like she'd been doing it her whole life.
If we'd have stuck with the old way, it was very clear that Copper's behavior would escalate. All that collar-grabbing and excited state was going to lead to some unfortunate teeth-on-skin action, I can almost guarantee it. Then it would have been "Bad dog! Rotties are so aggressive! We need to heavy hand her even more now." Ugh, the thought of it just turns my stomach.
So. There's an easy answer (give the dog something else to do) and there's a hard answer (MAKE the dog obey you no matter what). I'll take the easy way any old day.
By choosing the easy way, we're not just solving the problem. We're actually changing Copper's expectations. Instead of getting more ramped up, frustrated, and frantic, she's now calm — but eagerly anticipating — getting that little smear of PB out of the Kong. Voila.
It's not rocket science. It's just good training.