The First Three Days With Your Dog
Dogs have been living side-by-side with people for over 10,000. Years. They are genetically programmed to respond to human contact. In fact, those who have studied Street Dogs have concluded that human contact is their single most successful survival strategy. Your dog is prepared to bond with you.
Here is what you must know right now:
Dogs are positively motivated by FOOD and PLAY. These are your best tools for bonding with your dog. Exercising together is a form of play.
Dogs are negatively affected by Stress. Small stresses can layer to become large, resulting in aggressive or fearful reactivity. Stress interferes with bonding.
Recognize the difference between ‘Above Threshold’ and ‘Below threshold when it comes to stress. If your dog is so stressed that it will not take food, it is above threshold and you need to remove the dog from the situation. You need to effectively manage your dog’s environment to reduce stress.
Your dog will read your body language and your tone of voice. Be careful with both. This is why Positive Reinforcement training techniques work the best, by far!
Things To Do:
1. Structured Feeding
One of very best ways to bond with your dog is at feeding time. Provide some structure. You are the source of the food. Invite your dog to watch you prepare it. Then make it sit, place the food down in front and give it permission to eat with an ‘okay.’ If it moves in before you allow it, quickly lift the food away and make it sit. Be patient. It will get it. Have all family members do it. NOTE: This technique is extremely useful if you have a child or family member that the dog doesn’t respect, or has possibly even growled at. There is no clearer signal as to who has higher status if that person is the source of the dog’s food.
2. A Place of Its Own in the Home.
If your dog still appears stressed, this can be very, very important. Even possessing the best temperaments, a trip from one end of the planet to the other can be very stressful for a dog. So provide it a spot with a pillow or bed that is out of the way of household traffic, yet where it can still observe your family’s activity. Imagine an invisible wall about 3 feet from your dog, and don’t cross no matter how much you’re tempted to move in and smother it with hugs and kisses of sympathy. It will only add more layers of stress. You are giving the dog permission to join you when it wants to. It will.
3. Kenneling at home.
The vast majority of dogs can be successfully kenneled and many of the ISDF dogs have been. Show the dog its kennel and throw some treats inside. Escalate the quality of the treat if they seem resistant (chicken, meet, cheese, etc.). Don’t panic or become frustrated if your dog initially won’t. Many have had bad experiences being kenneled or have successfully argued their way out of them by throwing a fearful or aggressive tantrum. But, behavior modification using food and/or game playing will solve this. There are many successful techniques available online, or you can go to our training tab for some choices.
Here’s a trick for getting them to settle down in their crate and are fussing. If the dog is whining, barking, upright or just generally complaining about being inside its kennel, stand beside the kennel with hands at your side but slightly outstretched. Make eye-contact with the dog and say your correction sound, ‘eh.’ Be firm but not angry. Then remain motionless and wait for it to submit by both lowering its body and putting its muzzle on its bed or front paws. It will submit, at least temporarily. Within a couple of minutes it will likely resist again, then do the same thing. It generally takes 2-4 times the first time you do it, but not much longer than ten minutes total. Then down they go and sleep all night. We use this trick with our new fosters because they sleep close by–we want to know if they are in distress for any reason—and it has never failed to work. Cesar Milan calls this simply ‘claiming their space,’ but I think there’s a lot more to it than that because it really seems to relieve their stress, too.
4. Close Tether Your Dog
Tethering is a technique used to train the dog to soothe itself during times of stress, anxiety or hyper-energy. It is also useful in potty training, reducing reactivity and initiate bonding. It consists of putting your dog on a three foot leash, sitting down and ignoring it until it completely relaxes—no eye contact, no talking, no touching, with no access to anything it might use to entertain itself (like chewing). It will resist by complaining, moving about anxiously, or even trying to hop up beside you (do not push it off–lift the leash straight up and out). Eventually the dog will submit by going to sleep, although initially it could take more than an hour. In a week or two of consistent tethering, dogs frequently relax in less than a minute. Tethering sends a signal that you are in complete control of the environment and it has nothing to worry about. Some behaviorists refer to this as allowing the dog to come ‘off-duty,’ in regards to believing that it has to protect itself and you. Once the dog is used to the concept, you can tether it to your waist and move about the house. Close tethering will be invaluable in the months and years ahead as a way of making your dog into a relaxing state of mind both before potential stressful situations, and after. The technique is described in more detail here.
5. Potty on a schedule
Puppies need to be taken out more frequently, maybe every 2 hours and after feeding. Older dogs can go 3-6 hours, and after feeding.
6. Begin using the Essential Commands
They are detailed below. Notice that they do not include the word, ‘No.’ ‘No,’ is for the future when you’ve established a trusting relationship with your dog. For now it’s too easy to use ‘no,’ in anger, as we’ve all been trained to do. Try using the guttural syllable, ‘eh,’ spoken like a grunt, or ‘tch,’ or something similar. As a rule, try using the simple duck-duck-duck-goose school of positive reinforcement training, making the dog be successful three times in a row (duck-duck-duck) in a task before raising the bar (goose) to make it harder. If it can’t do the ‘goose’ task, go back to where it was previously successful and redo the ‘duck-duck-duck task.
“Here” and your dog’s name. Use this as a protocol for getting your dogs immediate attention. The word will form the basis of a wide ranch of training activities and games, so you will use it a lot! It consists of holding a treat above and in front its nose so that it makes eye contact with you, then say ‘Here Fido,’ and give it the treat. It is doing nothing but making eye contact with you, but you are priming-the-pump to gain the dog’s immediate and complete attention. You need to do it routinely, 10+ times in a row. As you can imagine, it very quickly learns to respond to you. Add a “sit” to this as soon as it learns the command, so that it will sit before making eye contact.
“Let’s go.” ‘Let’s go’ means it is supposed to follow you. You will use lots of treats initially with this one. Coming in from the yard; “Let’s go.” Going for a walk; “Let’s go.” Etcetera.
“Okay.” ‘Okay,’ means that you are releasing the dog from its need to follow or be with you. Use it when you are allowing it to play, eat or go exploring.
“Sit.” Teach your dog to ‘sit’ in front of you and at least initially only pet the dog when it assumes that position. It is learning how to signal you that it WANTS to be petted. You are giving him this control.
The Eye Contact Game. Put a treat in your fist and hold BOTH fists in front of its muzzle. It will stare at the fist, sniff, etc, but do not open up your fist and give it the treat until it looks up and makes eye contact—and it will! It is learning that not only is it okay to make eye contact with you, but good things happen. Eye contact between dog and owner is key to communication. This is the beginning of the dog ALWAYS looking to you for guidance.
“Down.” Show your dog once or twice how to do a ‘down.’ After that, just stand over it, make eye contact, say ‘down,’ and wait…and wait…and wait. Never repeat the command more than once. It knows what you’re waiting for. Eventually it will submit and go down, and as soon as it does, say ‘down’ again and reward it.