How can I get better at my dog? What to Know

Rub them the right way.

Most dogs, like most people, appreciate a good massage. It not only promotes relaxation, healing and bonding, it feels sooooo good (you’ll know for sure when they’re back leg starts twitching).

Let Your Dog Make Choices

Most dogs love the freedom to make their own decisions. If there are places your dog can safely be off-leash, take advantage of them. Allow your dog to choose where to run and how fast, whether to roll or frolic, and what to smell and for how long.

When that’s not possible, give your dog choices on some of your walks. Let them choose the route, the pace and what is worthy of extensive sniffing. Just like us, dogs like the chance to do what they want to do — to explore and to roam — and facilitating that is a great kindness.

The basic strategy for solving annoying problems and calming your crazy dog

How can I get better at my dog?

  • Prevent unwanted behavior from getting rewarded, while training and rewarding a preferred behavior (i.e. “prevent bad, reward good”).
  • Read more here: How to Solve Practically Any Annoying Behavior Problem

  • Wear your dog out by providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and then help her calm down by incorporating structured downtime into her day.
  • Read more here: How to Live with a High Energy Dog Without Losing Your Mind

    There are detailed tutorials for this strategy at the links above. But for now, let’s recap:

  • Any behavior that gets rewarded is likely to be repeated. Make sure Loki only gets rewarded for the behavior you want.
  • A “reward” (reinforcement, technically speaking) is anything the dog wants or needs at that moment. Liver treats. Going for a walk. Your attention. Walking faster toward the dog park.
  • Prevent unwanted behavior from getting reinforced. If Pandora pulls on leash as you approach the dog park and gets you to speed up, she’s just been rewarded for pulling.
  • It’s not enough to make bad behavior stop. You have to teach Loki a better way to get what he needs.
  • Train a new, good behavior to replace the one you’re trying to get rid of. Sit to greet visitors, instead of jumping on them.
  • Reinforce the crap out of any behavior you like. Always be reinforcing.
  • Many behavior problems are caused by the dog being bored out of her mind. Give her something cool to do.
  • A tired dog is a good dog. But get this: mental exercise is more tiring than physical exercise.
  • After wearing him out, give him a calm task to help him settle down. No more being “up” 24/7.
  • The above strategy is for irritating problems like the ones listed here, but it will not work for fear or aggression. Those issues require you to change the dog’s emotional response to the triggering situation, and therefore require some different strategies. Here are some of our articles on that subject:

    The Best Trick I’ve Taught My Dogs!

    Whether they occur within a species or between them, relationships are much the same in what they require to grow and flourish, and books about improving your relationship with a partner, child or friend offer very similar advice. The ideas that follow could also apply to other close bonds, but in this case, they refer specifically to improving your relationship with your dog.