Rules Matter, For You and Your Dog!

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By Melanie Barrett

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Exercise. Discipline. Affection. Rules. Boundaries. Limitations. These words have been ingrained in my mind over the years as I’ve  followed the training methods of Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer”; first on his television show and then again in person, when training under his leadership, at his ranch in Santa Clarita, California.

And since I’ve trained with some of the top dog behaviorists in the country, all who follow the same concepts. Dog behaviorist is really applied psychology. First, we figure out why a dog is doing what he/she is doing, and then we can help create a path to resolving their issues. If you have children, most likely you lay down rules and set boundaries and limitations every day, in order for them to become well-balanced adults. Make your bed, clean your room, take out the garbage, don’t play in the street, do your homework are just a few of the “commands” moms and dads use everyday. Well, the same goes for dogs.

Many times the first issue is exercise. Taking your dog for a walk or putting them on a treadmill- if you have one, is great for “brain drain.” Remember: a tired dog is a happy dog! Letting them out in your back yard isn’t enough and doesn’t fulfill most dogs’ needs. A pack walk allows for bonding with your dog, even if the “pack” only consists of you and your one dog. This provides structure in your dog’s life. It also makes you become relevant to your dog, so not only does he/she see you as protector and provider, but also as the pack leader who the dog will turn to for direction. And direction is what a dog truly needs within the pack. And, if you don’t take the pack leader role, your dog will. When dogs misbehave, it is likely because of a lack of boundaries and rules mentioned above.

After making sure your dogs have regular exercise to relax their brain, it is important to provide discipline. Discipline is not a negative concept any more than making a habit of going to the gym each day or choosing to eat a healthy diet is for us. Dogs I work with are taught to be disciplined by following me across a threshold, going in and out of a door; not to go ahead of me and to sit and stay in place when asked.  Of course affection is the easiest. But be mindful not to give affection at the wrong time. For example, if your dog is in the wrong state of mind—misbehaving, or fearful in a situation—that is not the correct time for affection because it will encourage that behavior. When I’m working with a dog for behavior modification, I always thank them for responding positively to my request.

All of your efforts to provide structure, exercise and discipline will ultimately result in trust, loyalty and respect from the dog. And you’ll have a calm pack too!

Melanie Barrett is owner of Emerald Coast Dog Behavior/30a Dog Trainer in Santa Rosa Beach. Call 850-218-0476 or visit www.emeraldcoastdogbehavior.com for more information.

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