Parris Island for Pups

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Does your dog need boot camp training? If she is seriously misbehaving, it is possible that she needs a serious drill sergeant to correct her bad behavior and remind her of who is really in charge in your home. This is where a boot camp becomes the answer to your problems.

Boot camp is designed to retrain the dog—and its owner! Unless you recognize that the dog is a dog and not a lovable but misbehaving child, the training won’t take and you’ll never leave square one. Most dogs want to please their owners, so don’t worry that she won’t love you! She will want to please you and must understand the consequences of not doing so.

As the owner, you must commit to daily training at regular times every day. Your dog not only needs the regular training periods, she needs plenty of socialization and exercise. Her environment needs to be stimulating. All dogs need these three items and they will not improve unless given them. Dogs that have long, boring periods by themselves get into mischief.

Once you have committed to reforming yourself, your commitment to you and your dog, boot camp is ready to begin. Many trainers believe that training can be accomplished in a few short sessions, and many bad behaviors can be improved. However, for lasting effects, boot camp instructors recommend ten solid weeks of training! If you are ready, let’s get started.

Your dog must learn that attention and privileges come from you. Only when the dog has accepted these new ground rules will she gain your attention and earn her privileges once more. This is often harder for the dog owner than the dog. For example, there will be no more free attention and petting, no more free play, no more access to the backyard and no more toys. If the dog isn’t being supervised by you or another person, she should be confined to her crate, run or some other area where she cannot misbehave. When you are able to see an improvement in her behavior, the dog can be granted small privileges once again.

Since this is boot camp training, you must reassert your leadership as leader of the pack. Go back to the basics and teach “wait” at the door. Feed the dog after you eat. Take walks at your pace and not the dog’s. All training sessions should be short but pleasant. Stop as soon as a good behavior is achieved. Praise quietly without excessive patting.

When exercising your dog, use games that prevent her from trying to compete with you, such as tug-of-war. All social interaction with other people or dogs should be initiated by you and not your dog.

When training at home, use a short leash and save the long leash for teaching “come.” Coming on command is the hardest command to master, so give extra emphasis to this command. In the house, teach “down and stay.” If necessary, tie her indoors to teach her that it isn’t always necessary to be the center of attention. She can observe quietly while you are busy doing chores.

If your dog has potty training issues, place her in her crate. Animals will not soil their quarters so this works better than pee pads. Still, be aware of the dog’s needs and be sure to give her ample time outside to accomplish her necessities.

All bad behaviors should be stopped as soon as the idea begins to form. This is like being a mom who has eyes in the back of her head. Don’t let the dog even begin something that will lead to bad behavior. Stop her immediately and show your disapproval.

A word about treats—treats are good when you want a dog to do something new. Yet over time they become the focus of your dog’s interest and you will create an animal that is more interested in getting her reward than pleasing you. Dogs frequently become obese because the owner wants to give the dog treats. Save the money and remember, pleasing you should be the main focus of your dog’s motivation. Skip the treats for training.

Occasionally, there are dogs that owners cannot train, either because of serious phobias or aggressive behaviors. If your dog is one of these, then by all means seek professional help. Most dogs will respond to the routine suggested here. Just stick to it. You must continue to train and educate your dog. Keeping the dog motivated with something to look forward to is vital in the life of a well-behaved pet. Pets are like children; give them an inch and they will take a mile. Stick to your routine—walking, feeding, training and play time. Both you and your dog will enjoy each other’s company much, much more. ■

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