Know your Dog’s Mind

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A good dog is the best friend you could ever have but a bad dog can be a real disaster. The bad dog destroys your garden, barks all night, jumps up on guests and never does what it is told. Sadly, many dog training techniques leave a lot to be desired, yet all dogs can be trained quite easily. No matter whether you own a Maltese or a Mastiff, a bulldog or a basenji, it can be trained.

Don Burke’s method for training dogs

In virtually all dog training manuals, it is assumed that all dogs are the same and that one training method will suit all dogs. This is wrong. Dogs’ minds differ and you need different training methods for each type. The normal dog training techniques are designed for dogs like German Shepherds and they work very well on this sort of dog but not as well on others. There is a key to your dog’s mind that is different from breed to breed but is often quite consistent within the breed. To train your dog you need to assess its personality. We could conveniently divide dogs into groups and these are given below. Now obviously most dogs are a combination of personality types. Once you have assessed your own dog, then training it is much easier. Remember the basics of each personality type are born in the dog. These are genetic traits and you must come to grips with them prior to training.

Examples of some personality types from Don’s own dogs

1. The People-lover (Ralph): These dogs adore humans and often need constant attention. They prefer humans to other dogs. Classic examples are most terriers, pugs, chihuahuas and lap dogs in general.

Training: This dog is all over you when you get home. “Where have you been I’ve missed you!”. “Can I come with you?” Friendly as these dogs are, they can be very dominant too. Never let this sort of dog initiate contact. When you get home if the dog bounds up to you, ignore it. This sounds cruel, but just wait a few seconds till it is away from you then call it back. Then pat and cuddle it. Never let a dog train you to respond. If you do, the dog is in command and you will not have control of it. The dog is desperate for attention and even a few harsh words will reward the dog. Ignore it and make sure that there is no eye contact. As soon as the dog stops barking, as soon as it stops jumping up, wait a few seconds then give it attention. Soon the dog learns that if it comes up and sits quietly beside you, it will get a pat. You will have a perfect dog. Most dogs do bad things because their owners ignore them when they are being good. Reward people-lover dogs with your time and affection.

2. The ADHD Dog (Ralph): These animals have inherited attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They can’t concentrate for very long and are over-active. Examples are pugs, some small terriers and some toy breeds.

Training: These dogs are scatter-brains. They almost never focus on one thing at a time. Training should be fun and brief. Don’t expect one of these dogs to sit on command and to hold it for 10 minutes. Bum down and bum straight up again. You could try teaching them several commands at one time. Try “sit” and then “come here” in the same session. Harsh discipline is out with these dogs. They would be devastated.

3. The Clutz (Penny): Some dogs lack sensitivity and are devoid of social graces. They are accident prone and go where angels fear to tread. Examples are: bulldogs, bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and mastiffs.

Training: These dogs were bred for fighting and killing. Part of the breeding of these dogs was to breed out normal reticence and reserve as well as breeding in a high tolerance of pain. These dogs love people and do respond very well to love and attention. They are intelligent but socially inept, so the odd slap on the rump or a good shaking focuses their attention very well. They don’t mind punishment and are almost never cowed. Never use physical punishment unnecessarily. Nor should you use it frequently. A quick shake or slap and they look at you as if to say “Oh – were you talking to me?”

4. The Cringer (Veronica): These timid little dogs are afraid of everything. They need constant reassurance and lots of love. Examples are some chihuahuas, some poodles, some Tenterfield Terriers, many toy breeds, some whippets and Italian greyhounds and most Maltese.

Training: These dogs must never be hit and really should never be yelled at. One tap on the bottom and they may sulk for days. All commands should be gentle and you must be patient. If the dog is a slow learner and if you get annoyed or frustrated – walk away and train it another day. Training is the same as for people lovers.

5. The Guts (Betty): Some dogs, especially those developed in colder climates will do anything for food. Examples here are labradors, golden retrievers, Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, beagles, bulldogs.

Training: These dogs will do anything for food and so are easy to train. A pocket or packet full of small treats will guarantee you his or her attention. Cut up small pieces of chicken or use something like Vet’s Best Rewards (available from vets). Reward the dog only if it does what it is told.

6. The Chaser (red setter): These dogs love to retrieve items. Examples of chaser breeds are: kelpies, cattle dogs, setters, retrievers, border collies.

Training: Use the tennis ball or stick as a reward for good behaviour. “Sit for me and I’ll throw the ball” is the basic idea. So say “sit” and if it does, then throw the ball and say “fetch” (or whatever). Never throw the ball if the dog initiates the game. That is, if you walk outside and the dog spontaneously finds the ball and brings it to your feet – ignore the dog and the ball. Walk away three metres and tell the dog “get your ball”. When the dog obeys – then throw the ball. If the dog trains you to play the game, then you have a nuisance dog. Hold the ball in your hand and you control the dog’s behaviour.

Further information

For more details on the key to a dog’s mind and other personality types see the article by Don Burke in the February edition of the Burke’s Backyard magazine.