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Brushing up on trail manners

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2001

Dogs don't think like people, and a lot of the training and disciplinary methods that work with people will only confuse (a dog), said Gaile Haynes, a dog trainer certified by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors. "For most people, (a training class) is the best way to learn the basics of dog training and for their dogs to learn good manners around other people and other dogs."

Haynes has spent the last 50 years training people to train their dogs, and she offered a few tips on how to meet the City and Borough of Juneau's requirement that unleashed dogs be under "competent voice control."

According to Haynes, dogs should reliably obey four commands before owners can consider them under voice control. Those commands - come, sit, wait and leave it - should be obeyed under any foreseeable circumstance.

"You don't know what you're going to meet on the trail," said Haynes. "You need to be able to get your dog out of a situation before something happens."

Introduce new commands by guiding the dog through what is expected of him.

"You physically show the dog what it is you want him to do ... while you are giving the command," said Haynes. "You train the dog by letting him succeed ... and then you praise him."

"Start the process on lead (leash) in a confined area," said Haynes. In the beginning, remove as many tempting distractions from the training area as possible. As Rover realizes what is expected of him, gradually increase the level of temptation, and if a training setback occurs, "back up until you feel secure" your command will be obeyed.

Trainers must understand that canine motivations differ from human ones. As Haynes said, "Dogs are not small people in fur coats."

Haynes has seen people train their dogs to run away when called because the owner did not understand canine thinking. When Haynes showed one person that her dog associated the command "come" with putting on a leash and going home from the beach, the cure for this behavioral (and legal) problem became obvious. "You have to call the dog (more often) than you go home with him," as Haynes said.

The next most common error for beginning trainers may be overtraining. The average dog has an attention span of approximately 15 minutes under ideal conditions. Continuing a session beyond a dog's ability to learn is counterproductive. Haynes has a simple cure for this predicament, as well.

"Train by the tail. When the dog's tail stops wagging, you stop training," she said.



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