Let’s start with the cookie jar. The benevolent use of tasty treats violates the first rule of obedience training – the reward! Pet owners need to realize that successful communication with our canine friends is not verbal. Shouting things like don’t do that, come back here, stop barking, etc – is like yelling at a two-year-old kid. In terms of comprehension, there is none. Sharing your home with dogs when you have little to no understanding of canine behavior is like trying to have a positive relationship without communication. Expect it to fail.

The use of verbal cues like, sit, stay and come is learned by simple association – like when your dog watches you grab the leash and darts off to the front door. Teaching your dog simple commands is all based on a reward system using the power of association. As soon as your dog realizes that commands like sit, stay and come are associated with beef jerky – there is real value in a treat! Rinse and repeat.

Dog owners looking for help to solve their dog problems are most often at the root of the problem. Take my own sister, Sandra. Hands down loving and devoted to her dog Clark – a rescued greyhound. Clark never cut the mustard to be a racing greyhound. Lucky for him. He also does not listen to Sandra’s outbursts telling him to stop doing whatever his crime is at the moment. Now, after years of sharing her bed with Clark, her bedfellow has become threatening. Why? Well, at some point in the relationship Clark decided it was his bed. He began to defend his territory with a growl whenever he felt disturbed by her movements. This is not to say that all dogs will behave this way. It makes sense to me to think of dogs as having personalities. Clark would fall into the category of being anxious and sometimes difficult to handle. Contrast him with my bully dog, Bertha Buttercup. She is calm and the coolest dog to hang out with. I discovered her sitting in a kennel at a local animal shelter. She was the only dog that was not jumping on the bars and barking. I quickly took notice of her unusual calmness. I didn’t yet know she could be stubborn. How did I convince this eighty-pound bully to rest inside a crate after I tried using muscle moves and lost? Fast forward a few weeks and my new house dog willingly enters her crate and dutifully follows basic commands like sit, stay and come. Why? Simple answer – the cookie jar.

Nothing brings me more pleasure then to visit with well-adjusted family dogs living the good life. That’s a win-win. If your canine relationship is not in the zone of something wonderful, consult a certified dog trainer in your area and work things out. Divorce is not an option.