Welcome to Tug Dogs. We’re so glad that you’re here, wanting to learn more about how you and your dog can live better together. Our expert team of trainers has 70+ years of combined experience that ranges from working with service dogs, therapy dogs, training dogs for TV & film, teaching students to become dog trainers, providing canine behavior testimony for court proceedings, partnering with animal shelters and rescue groups to rehabilitate dogs in need, and working with thousands of dog families just like yours. We are dedicated and skilled trainers who rely on scientifically backed training protocols that yield long term results and enhance the quality of your dog’s life.
This welcome article is designed to give you a basic understand of what you should expect during training, the key elements we’ll be using to help your dog learn positive, behavior habits, and what your role will be. We want you to be our next success story and that all starts here with educating you about the best practices moving forward. You can have a dog who listens, cooperates, stops engaging in problem behaviors, and starts being more fun to live and adventure with. Read on to learn how…
What is Dog Training?
Dog training is actually the wrong name for what we do. We really should be called dog and doggy parent coaches! After all, it’s you who decide where your dog lives, who they live with, where they go, how they meet others, what rules they must follow, how they are rewarded, how much exercise they get, what toys they have, when and what they eat, what access to healthcare they have, and almost every other major life decision. Just trying to change a dog’s behavior, when so many of their experiences are dictated by you, just isn’t very effective. That’s why our training team has devoted so much time learning not just how to train your dog but also how to support you using effective client coaching skills. Moving forward, our goal will be to help both you and your dog practice positive, new habits that will ensure you reach your training goals together.
Body vs. Mind
Ask anyone what dog training is and everyone is going to give you the same reply…it’s teaching dogs to follow commands like sit, down, stay, and come. Commands are a part of dog training but they are not the most important part. How your dog thinks, feels, and engages with the world around them dictates how they behave. That’s why Tug Dogs training doesn’t jump right to micromanaging your dog’s body with orders, but instead primarily focuses on the most important part of your dog’s body…their brain! When a nervous dog feels more confident, an aggressive dog knows to look to you for guidance, a rude dog understands good manners will get them what they want, and an over excited dog knows how to channel calm brain, then you don’t have to bark orders at them because your dog will be capable of making their own good decisions! And let’s face it, neither you or your dog enjoy you having to tell them what to do all the time. Once we have addressed your dog’s brain & behavior so that they are in the right mental state to succeed, we can then layer in obedience command training so that if your dog needs a little extra help, you’ll be able to give them instructions they can actually listen to.
Going too Fast
When I’m teaching students to become dog trainers, I ask them to predict where most dogs and their people will make mistakes. I can share with you that the #1 mistake every single client makes is simply going too fast. You are speaking foreign language to your dog and have a bigger, more effective brain to process information with. Expecting your dog to immediately understand what you want and agree to do it is just not realistic. The truth is that if you want training that works, you have to break training goals into steps so that your dog has the opportunity to properly learn. Here’s an example: when we teach a park it skill (go to your dog bed and stay there until I say you can get up) we spend a week working the dog through small but important steps such as:
- go to your bed and you get a treat!
- go to your bed, wait there a few seconds, collect a few treats, and I’ll tell you it’s time to get off
- go to your bed, wait there 30 secconds…treats, time to get off
- go to your bed, wait there, get treats, watch me take 1 step side to side, time to get off
- go to you bed, wait there, get treats, hear me make a funny sound, get treats, time to get off
You get the idea…these steps are quick and easy but they help the dog understand what we want and stay motivated to follow our guidance. If we just put a dog on the their bed, gave a treat, and walked away 0% of dogs would be successful (but a lot of dogs and their people would be frustrated!).
You don’t show up to your first piano class expecting to play Beethoven. You don’t pop on a French language podcast and believe you’ll be immediately fluent. And you certainly wouldn’t enroll your kindergartener in calculous because you want her to learn high level mathematics. When you start at the right level of learning you can build skills and habits that will last a life time. When you rush to the finish line, all you’ll do is make learning frustrating and unsuccessful. Fortunately, your Tug Dogs trainer knows exactly what steps your dog needs so all you have to do is trust in the process and not rush to the end.
Picking the Right Moments for Learning
Imagine a friend and I walking down the street when suddenly I see a 600 lb, aggressive Grizzly Bear 30 feet away. Would this be the right moment for my friend to teach me how to knit? Would my brain be receptive to learning new skills when there is a threat located nearby? The answer is obviously, no. Out of sheer, biological genius, mammal brains prioritize focusing on dangerous things around us so that we can stay alive. In fact, there an entire neurobiological process that prepares your dog’s body for fight/flight when something your dog sees as stressful/scary is present. The body shuts down long term projects like digesting food, supporting the immune system, learning new skills, and overseeing the preproduction system as the sole focus becomes dealing with a potential threat. You can understand why then, trying to teach your dog a new way to behave when their brain & body has already activated the threat sequence is next to impossible.
Even if your dog isn’t stressed but is instead excited, trying to learn in that mental state is also tough too. Imagine trying to teach a 3rd grade class of kids math if the class was taking place inside an arcade. You would be fighting an up hill battle to even get the kids’ attention let alone get them to focus on new skills. Even us grown ups would struggle if we were really excited…let’s say you just found out that you won the MEGAJACKPOT and your whole life is going to change. Is this the right moment in time for me to teach you how to file your taxes? Replace a car tire? Use a new computer program? Of course not.
It turns out that for both dogs who are struggling with fear/aggression/anxiety based behaviors and those who are just over excited, making sure that learning happens in the right spaces first, is really important. Once your dog understands what you want and gets some repetition in practicing, then you can start adding more challenges and working in the real environments where you want your dog to behave.
Pay Your Pup
Would you show up to work and do a good job day after day if there was no paycheck? Then why would your dog? I guarantee you that a bag of treats is a LOT cheaper than paying for more training with us. In fact, if you really want to invest in your dog’s education doing something cheap and easy, find a tasty treat your dog likes, load up your treat pouch and wear it all the time you’re home with your dog for a couple of weeks. Start noticing things your dog does that you like such as laying down calmly, coming to you when you say their name, not jumping up on you, dropping their ball when asked, etc and reward them for doing those things! You will be amazed at how just paying your dog for what you want them to do helps them understand your expectations and motivates them to comply.
Behavior is Language
If dogs could speak English, I’d happily be out of a job. But dogs can’t do that. They can, however, “speak” if you know how to listen to them. Of course your dog’s out of control behavior can be frustrating, embarrassing, confusing, scary, stressful etc…But how your dog behaves is one of the best ways that we can understand how they are experiencing the world around them. For example, a dog who is barking and lunging at other dogs is almost always struggling with fearful beliefs that another dog may hurt them. A dog who is whining, pacing, shaking off, and unable to settle may be struggling with anxiety or hyper-arousal issues (similar to ADHD). Knowing how your dog is feeling is ciritcal to putting a treatment plan into place to help them cope, grow, and gain positive habits.
The truth is, if there is one goal our team has for you and your dog during your training program with us, it’s to get you fluent in what your dog has to say. Because when you understand your dog, it yields the best training results (and those results last!) and it also deeply enhances the quality of life that you and your dog share together.
We Cannot do it For You
Nobody wishes more than I do that your dog’s training results depended solely on my skill and dedication as a trainer. If that was the case, every dog I work with would be trained to an Olympic level! But we all know that training a dog is not like fixing a car. A dog’s behavior is formed by a combination of their genetics, their early life experiences, the environment they live in (which includes you,) new experiences they have, and their health. Because our trainers have a tremendous amount of experience working with behaviorally challenged dogs from mild to severe, we know first hand that there is no magic wand we trainers wave that suddenly changes who your dog is and how they respond to world around them.
The good news is, we know what does work to make meaningful and long lasting changes. And that’s why all of our training programs emphasize educating you right alongside your dog (that’s why you’re reading this article!). Since you control the environment around your dog, how they get paid, who they are exposed to, what rules they have to follow etc…we want to make sure you know the little things you can do that yield big results for your dog. And we’ll be working along side you to support both you and your dog’s habit changes together.