When it comes to talking to a new client I have to start with some basics. First of all, introducing any training program or method is new to the dog. But it’s also new to the owner. There are always assumptions and old fashioned training ideas that most people are familiar with. There is a lot of new science in the field and well worth getting advice from a modern trainer when you get a new puppy even if the owner has other animals. A new puppy is a great opportunity to learn new concepts that could lead to a more fulfilling relationship between humans and their four-legged friends. So I’m going to go over a few ideas.
First up is ‘no-no’s’. I’ll admit it’s really hard to talk about this without sounding like a hypocrite! Just think about how many times a day you use ‘no‘, ‘not‘, and ‘don’t‘ statements. Especially if you’re a parent! But speaking mathematically you’ll get better results using additive language. State what you want. ‘This is where I want you to potty’ or ‘that’s a chew toy’ rather than just scolding. Dogs don’t understand subtraction. They want something from you such as food, attention, or something to chew on to ease the teething pain.
Next is security. Building a positive relationship is only possible in a safe environment. Set your dog up for success by making it as easy as possible to learn. The scientific explanation gets complicated and involves the amygdala but the short version is that the ‘flight-or-flight’ circuit has another function: the ‘seek’ circuit. It’s what drives your dog to sniff so much. Stress turns seek mode off and turns on fear and/or aggression. (Another useful tidbit for parents as it works in humans too!) Your dog seeking his next meal (or a mating opportunity) causes a cascade of pleasure chemicals otherwise he would starve (without the next generation to carry on your genes).
So the first steps toward bonding with your pet is safety and positive language. And safety means anything from ‘I know where my next meal is coming from’ to ‘I’m confident my human will communicate clearly with me’. So begins our trek into canine behavior science.