Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Puppy Training for Dummies

First of all, IF you came here thinking you would learn ANYTHING useful you came to the wrong place.  You need to find a site run by someone who knows about training a dog, because I surely don't.  This is just a post about the things that I have learned in my 1 whole week of having a new dog in our home and how the training of a puppy and children have a lot in common.

Last Thursday we surprised our children with a 4 month old puppy named Max.  We were told that he is a Boxer/Lab mix, but everyone who sees him says he has to have a little German Shepherd in him, Max is super smart and cute.  Max is also very much a puppy and likes to jump, chew, bite, and play.  

Max is a super sweet boy, but he needs to be trained.   He needs to know what kind of play is ok and what is not...  like he can not run and pounce on the 2yr old, that's NOT acceptable.  He needs to learn what he can chew on and what he can't.  He needs to learn that he can't climb on tables and grab food.  From what I have read all of these things can be taught, but unfortately learning to train my dog has been very similar to training my children, which I don't have a great track record at.   Training Max has taught me three valuable lessons that also apply to my child training.

Consistency is the main thing you need in training and that just happens to be the one think I stink at the most.  Training takes repeated action OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  It's not just a one time thing.   I am not consistent in anything, which causes me a  lot of frustration.  I only do what I feel like at the time...  When I'm tired I forget about training and resort to yelling...  then I wonder why no one listens, which leads to frustration, which then leads to counter-production.   It just doesn't work.  Take chewing for example, when Max chews on something, like one of us humans, I am supposed to offer him a toy to chew on over and over again and eventually he will learn that he can only chew on toys.   This works great WHEN you are consistent, but when I'm not, it's a battle. 

Starting EARLY is the second thing... I thought about this last night when I was putting my little one in the bath.  We have been sleep training for two weeks.  They (the experts) say establish a routine and be consistent.  Our routine is bath, read a book, rock a little, and lay him in the bed.   It's been working wonderfully.  Part of our little routine has been Asher taking his dirty clothes to the hamper, before he gets in the bath and last night as he put his clothes in the basket he noticed another pair of shorts was on the floor and he picked them up and threw them in the hamper.  I was seriously impressed with him considering that I have been yelling at my other kids for years about picking up their dirty clothes.   The difference with him is starting early.  You know the ole saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."  It's true with humans as well.  The Bible says train a child in the way they should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.    Science is supporting this theory as well...  repeated behavior establishes grooves or ruts in the brain that then become habits that are very hard to break.

Focus on the positive-  I know for me this is so hard and very much against my nature.  This is probably the thing I have to work on the most, because I am so prone to focus on the negative.   When we focus on the positive it reinforces that good behavior that we want in our children or our puppies.  They really don't come programmed to know what is ok and what is not.  One of my biggest failures as a parent has been thinking that training means looking for the bad and weeding it out.   We want to discipline (which means to TRAIN)...  the definition of disciple is: training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.    We have to train by reinforcing the positive and ignoring the negative...  eventually the good will be an established habit and the bad will usually with time be self corrected.    Finding things to praise takes a big effort on our part.  We have to have a positive mind-set, meaning that we are always on the look out for the good things our children or pets do and reward with praise and puppy treats(not the kids).   If they know what we like they will try to repeat that over and over again.  

I don't know a whole lot about training, except what I have learned by making big mistakes, and then in desperation looking to experts to help me, but I feel like these 3 things are going to lead to success in our future training adventures.  I hope in some small way this helps you today! 

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