I was at the dog park the other day and observed a gentleman who was there with his 4 herding dogs. His approach to the park gates with the dogs (or rather their approach to the park without him) is less than desirable - but that's a whole different issue. Anyway, one of his dogs was being a bit dominant - not horrible - but it looked like he was maybe trying to stir something up.
The owner, with good intentions, sat the dog down, cradled his head in his hands, and his puppy-wuppy-lovey-dovey voice said, "nyooo thyat's not good....byaad dog". I nearly vomited in my mouth. If that's a "correction" then these dogs can obviously get away with murder.
With that, dogs understand tone and body language. Our hero's tone said, "I love you and you're a wonderful dog". The body language was gentle and nurturing. In essence, this dog owner was rewarding bad behavior.
You must understand that dogs do not understand consequences - so taking something away, or putting them on time out is nearly as useless as the nurturing speech and body language.
To correct your dog effectively. Remain calm. Speak assertively. Use meaningful touch (not hitting). Your dog is looking for a stable leader to clearly lay out the rules for him. A nurturing tone, an angry tone, or a frustrated tone are ineffective ways to attract followers.
Have you ever seen a CEO who talked baby talk, went berserk on employees or the media, or stomped her feet when something didn't go her way?
No more cutesy talk with your dog, no more picking her up off the ground when she's being anti-social, and no more time-outs!
From now on it's immediate, deliberate, clearly communicated, and meaningful corrections presented in the inter-species language of "NO"!
Here's an example of 2 dogs NOT fighting at the dog park. The one with the harness is 5-month old Porter. The boxer is 3 year old Ginger. Notice the following:
* Heads bowed low
* Ears Back
* Lack of determined dominance/aggression
* Curled bodies
* They're just playin!
Just like our human relationships, the problems we experience with our dogs can usually be attributed to a misunderstanding or miscommunication. The premise behind the popular book, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus", by John Gray, Ph.D. is that men and women speak different languages.
Similarly, dogs and people speak different languages. Perhaps humans are from Earth, and dogs are from Pluto?
Unfortunately, you and your dog cannot sit down at the dinner table or lie together on the couch and express your feelings and perhaps even apologize. You, the human, are left with the entire burden of both interpreting your dog's foreign language and trying to deliver instructions in something other than your native tongue!
So - what to do? Ask yourself, "What conversation am I having with my dog when Problem X arises?"
For example - if your dog is pulling on the leash while you walk, look at the mechanics and positioning of you and your dog. Now put yourself in the dog's shoes. Does your dog think, "my pack leader is taking me for a walk", "I'm taking my human for a walk", or "OMG! I see and smell everything! It's total chaos...every man for himself"?
If you come to the conclusion that it's one of the latter two - you should feel good about yourself. After all, you now have a deeper understanding of your partner. :-)
One technique that can help you change the conversation is to re-trace your "go for a walk" ritual from the moment you decide you're going to venture out of the house. At what point does the situation transition from, "I'm calmly laying down on my dog-bed with the TV on in the background" to "it's party time, come on - let's go crazy!"?
Once you've identified that point - modify your demeanor so that the conversation you're having with your dog is, "I'm taking YOU for a walk. It will be a peaceful journey in which you will follow MY lead".
With walking in particular, forward progress should be made with you: physically out front, relaxed and confident, and acting purposefully (short potty break, bonding experience, fitness walk, etc).
When you blurt out in your cutesy-tootsy voice, "come on puppy, mommy's gonna take her little pumpkin out for a walk" - are you communicating relaxation, confidence, or purpose? Are you inviting insanity?
When the dog starts getting excited before you put the leash on, are you continuing the "go for a walk" routine - or do you stop there and wait for the dog to be calm before progressing? Excitement is fine at play time or when it's invited by you - be sure you're not unintentionally inviting excitement at walk time.
For other behavior issues, apply the same process: What is the conversation? How might the dog be interpreting the situation? When does the miscommunication start? What universal language gestures do I need to use to display my relaxed and confident demeanor? What universal language gestures do I need to use to clearly communicate what I want from my dog?