You will be a more effective teacher/trainer if you know your dog’s temperament tendencies and then deal with them accordingly. Which category fits your dog best?
A bold dog pulls you out the door, greets everyone like a long-lost friend, has little fear of other dogs, and generally lets the would know that she has arrived! Her motto would be “Howdy, we’ve never met, but you’re gonna love me!” things don’t startle her much, and she recovers quickly if they do. She lives her life on the far end of the leash, dragging you off to some new adventure.
What can you do?
This temperament is both easy and challenging. It is easy because this type of dog is unlikely to build stress about life in the city. She copes well with the urban hustle and bustle. She doesn’t mind a few minor changes in schedule and is fine with strangers both human and canine.
But she can be challenging. She will absolutely take over the leadership position if you let her. She may run off to parts unknown to explore. She is likely to look at you when you issue a command with a “So?” look on her face. She needs consistent direction. Use your commands all the time, especially when she least expects it, then be ready to reward immediately when she complies.
He isn’t frightened of much. Strangers? He can take `em or leave `em. Follow you around the apartment? Why? He knows where you are going. When he obeys a command, you can pet him, but don’t be surprised if he wanders away in the middle. When guests come by, he gives a brief sniff, then goes about his business.
What Can You Do?
Make yourself relevant. Have your dog respond to a command to get to anything he desires. This will get his attention. Once he understands the deal—listen to you and all good things come—he will start focusing on you more.
Another opinion is to put away his food bowl and feed him completely by hand and only in small doses when he listens and responds. Measure out the day’s food in the morning, then, if he gives you no response or a slow response, let him see you throw that handful back in the food bag.
Give him brief, sincere bouts of attention—less than ten seconds each—then ignore him. Always try to stop before he withdraws. Leave him wanting more!
When a reactive dog gets stimulated, he may spin, bite the lead, race back and forth, leap up, and grab your clothing or hands. The common human reactions to frustration and pain, such as yelling, slapping, fast movements, and pushing the dog away, all cause these dogs to act out more intensely.
What can you do?
Whenever possible, allow the world, rather than you, to correct and control. You need to be a source of reward, calm reassurance, and direction. Relax and model calm behavior for this dog, because the calmer you are, the calmer the dog can become.
Keep his able mind occupied. Structure his day by having him work for everything he enjoys, taking him to class, and exercising him. Give him many ways to succeed and few ways to fail. We’ve had great success with calm, clear leash and collar work with these dogs. Unable to structure themselves, they seem to benefit from having you take over that job. Luring into position with food can work well, but the food can overly excite some reactions. Try either a different, less exciting food or a different method. Clicker work can focus these dogs. A head halter, introduced slowly, can be helpful, though the reactive may fight it at first. (Please see page 180 for information about head halters).
Reactives can be astonishing working dogs once you learn how to help them display their innate intelligence.
The sensitive dog is a shy, sound-sensitive, visual-sensitive, “takes everything to heart” dog who has large reaction to new things in his environment. Generally these are the dogs who freeze, slink off, cower, and look extremely “upset” when stressed.
The sensitive dog may approach people, but when the human reaches out the dog retreats, urinates submissively, or turns his head away. When people visit he may anxiously approach and retreat while barking.
Other signs of stress include startling, tucking his tail, pulling toward home, shaking, panting rapidly, and climbing your leg. Less obvious signs might be pupil dilation, closing his mouth, licking his lips, sweating from his paw pads, displaying a tense muzzle with facial wrinkling, ducking behind you, and clinging to the side of the building on a walk.
What Can You Do?
To help this dog, encourage him to explore and be bold by behaving as you want him to behave. Be observant and reward even the smallest sign of exploration, play, happiness, confidence, or even lack of fear. Introduce him to new things regularly, but in small doses that he can handle. Use treats generously to help your dog enjoy new things. Know that he is depending on you to teach him to be safe, secure, directed, and happy in what is a challenging environment for all.
Explore “clicker training,” which is a great way to build confident behavior. Look in our resources section for information on this fun way to communicate Join small, fun training classes. If your pup’s fearful reactions are severe, please consider getting the help of a private trainer or behaviorist. Timely intervention can help prevent tendencies from becoming habits.
She startles, but then explores, hangs back for a second, then says hello to a friendly stranger. She’s aware of all that goes on around her, but it does not frighten her unduly. She does not build stress about things and is as relaxed at the end of the walk as she was at the beginning.
What Can You Do?
Enjoy! Expose her to new things, have fun, teach her everything, treat her as the partner/companion/buddy that she longs to be. Build on the good behavior, ignore or redirect the less wanted behavior, and she will flower into a terrific companion. The biggest threat to the stable dog is that she is so darn good, you can let her training slide. Don’t, she’s got too much potential for that.