Ask An Expert All About Dog Training

Ask An Expert All About Dog Training

Everyone loves dogs, but that pup might not seem so cute when you come home to a chewed up sofa and trash strewn across the kitchen floor. Training is an essential part of dog adoption and ownership, as even the sweetest pooch doesn’t always behave the way you’d like.

Photo by Jeroen van den Broek (Shutterstock).

Here to answer some common questions about what goes into training dogs and the nuances of dog behaviour is Russell Hartstein of Fun Paw Care in Miami, Florida. He has over 25 years of dog training and pet care experience, and is regarded as an expert on animal behaviour.

My dog has lived in a fenced-in yard for most of his life. We just moved and the new house is also fenced in, but there are now dogs on two sides of us. He goes crazy if they are out when he’s out! Any advice?

Barrier frustration/aggression is a common problem. Your dog should never be allowed to practice inappropriate behaviours because as we all know, good and bad habits are hard to break. Supervise backyard outings, training and having your dog on a leash will help. If not, take your dog for a long walk instead which will benefit your dog MUCH more than a backyard experience.

I have a 6-year-old golden doodle who is very well trained — we have an electric fence around our house and he’s always let out when he needs to go. Recently though he has started pooping on my floor in the room above the garage if we leave the door open. Otherwise his behaviour is fine. Any suggestions?

I would search for Dr Ian Dunbar online and find his PDF that directs families on how to perfect house training. Many times a family has to make environmental changes to achieve certain goals. Although it may be inconvenient, the payoff is tremendous: a lifetime of a well potty-trained dog!

I was wondering if you had any general advice for dog training. I’m planning to acquire a puppy sometime in the next six months, and was uncertain when precisely would be the best time to start basic behaviour training.

Never neglect a dog’s training or behaviour at any age. Dogs are never too young or old to learn.

My dog is a German Shepherd/Chow Chow/Beauceron mix. He is dog friendly, goes to day care, has puppy play dates, goes to dog parks, and is friendly with people. But on walks, he is reactive to other dogs while he is on the leash. He lunges and barks. Because of this behaviour, he is nearly impossible to walk because he is so large and strong. We have tried two different types of harnesses, a bungee leash, gentle leader, met with a trainer and tried her method of trying to get his attention away from other dogs on walks. Nothing works. I would love to be able to walk him by myself, without my husband, two times a day. He’s lucky to get one a day right now with this problem. Any advice would be great. Thanks!

Leach reactivity is very common in dogs as a leash constricts a dog’s natural movement and body language, hence altering their ability to communicate in a fluid manner with other animals. It is a frustrating experience for dogs. Working with your dog with high-value rewards at a far enough distance away from the triggers is a good starting point gradually moving closer and closer to whatever is triggering your dog. If your dog is not focused on you indoors, don’t go outdoors expecting him to be. And if your dog is not able to focus on your outdoors, you have moved too far too fast and need to increase distance to whatever stimuli is triggering your dog. Start slow and boring indoors, master that, than move to the backyard, than front yard, than very slowly increase your areas around your neighbourhood.

what do you think is one of the most common mistakes people make when trying to modify their dog’s behavior?

The most common mistakes is by watching reality television show hosts to get their dog training and behaviour advice. Most of my clients that come to me for behaviour modification (BM) have tried to dominate their dogs as often seen on TV. Dominance theory has been debunked for years, fractures relationships and shouldn’t be used when training or BM.

I have 3 cats who are all more or less used to each other. I’m thinking about adding a dog to the mix. Is this a recipe for disaster? Are there specific breeds who can handle the inevitable freak-out?

I would tend to lean towards a dog that is more docile, friendly and tolerant. Because we measure each dog as an individual, it would be irresponsible for me to mention a particular breed. However I would go on down to the local shelter and find a very relaxed, non-reactive dog with a great temperament that has had some cat experience. Many dogs have lived with cats or are not triggered by them.

However that does not speak to your resident cats — you will have to measure their tolerance, reactivity, temperaments and so on with any dog. Making sure there is plenty of vertical space and separate areas for them will be important. A great way to start may be to foster a dog, take it SLOW and see how it works out.