10 Principles for a well behaved dog.

Click to CalmEmma Parsons is a canine behavior consultant and has written a wonderful book on effectively managing as well as helping aggressive dogs to become calmer. Titled Click to Calm, Healing the Aggressive Dog,* this easy to read book has a thorough table of contents, an excellent resources section, and a section called “Training Recipes” which are detailed instructions on how to treat specific problems. This book quickly became one of the staples in my training repertoire and has provided me with many useful ideas and strategies that I employ not only with aggressive dogs, but with my general training clients as well.
Ms. Parsons begins the book with an honest and moving story about her dog Ben and how she discovered that positive reinforcement/clicker training could change her dog’s aggressive behavior and improve her relationship with her dog. She then explains clicker training and launches into her “Ten Principles of Clicker Home Management”(pg 17)**, which I employ to one degree or another in my training classes and private lessons. She states:
The following clicker home management program will help you teach your dog that you are the leader; you can do this without frightening or threatening him. The program establishes a balanced handler/dog relationship, and teaches your dog to trust and respect you without you requiring what you prove your dominance over the dog. Most dogs are less stressed when they leave the decision-making responsibilities to their handlers…Your dog must learn to trust your judgement, allowing you to make decisions for him (pg 17).

She suggests that you implement one or two of the ten principles every week or so, depending on how well your dog progresses with each of the steps. What I like about the 10 principles is that they are great foundational behaviors for any dog and, if followed, will help to insure that your dog is a happy and well mannered member of the family. I have written my own columns on similar themes

#6: Mental stimulation is a must!

#6: Mental stimulation is a must!

and have provided links to those blog posts. Her 10 basic principles are:

  1. Teach your dog to say “Please.” (http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=2455)
  2. Catch your dog being good.
  3. Calm gets you everything, noisy gets you nothing.
  4. Excuse Me!
  5. You begin the play, you end the play
  6. Your dog’s mind needs as much exercise as his body. (http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=1687)
  7. A room of his own. (http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=2089)
  8. If you give me that, I will give you this. (http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=2238)
  9. Limit your dog’s access to his toys.
  10. The bowl is the cue to eat.
#10: The bowl.

#10: The bowl.

One of my favorite principles is: You begin the play, you end the play. This is a good way to keep your dog’s arousal level under control, especially if you have a dog who revs up quickly. If you set the ground rules for play, then you can stop before your dog veers off into hyper activity. By scheduling short breaks in play not only do you help your dog to stay below his high arousal level, but you can use the breaks as opportunities to practice some obedience, with play being the reward.
For example, if you are playing fetch, when your dog gets back to you and drops the ball, make him sit before you throw it again. As soon as his bottom hits the ground, you reward the sit by throwing the ball. Or, if you are playing tug, do an exchange, a sit and then tug again. Changing things up a bit by adding in some obedience practice will make both play and work a lot more fun.
Let's play ball!

Let’s play ball!

Ms Parsons clearly explains each of the 10 principles and illustrates them nicely with specific examples and/or suggestions on how your dog might be perceiving the situation. She is not preachy, or insensitive to the challenges facing owners of aggressive dogs. And, she clearly understands when additional help from a positive reinforcement trainer or canine behaviorist is necessary for the health, well-being, and safety of all parties.
http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB825: Dogwise.com provides a detailed description of the book as well as terrific suggestions for other compatible titles.

**All quotes are from Click to Calm, so I will end quotes with the page number in parenthesis.

 

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