Statistics show that most dogs end up in the shelter between the age of nine and eleven months of age. Any of us who have ever had a teenage dog might understand why.
Every month I teach an adolescent dis-obedience class. It is with a slight dread that I descend the stairs, put on my happy face and walk into the classroom. Dogs are flailing at the end of their leash, barking and acting as though they have never stepped foot into a classroom or the real world for that matter.
The humans are scowling and pleading with their teenage dogs in the hopes that they will somehow miraculously decide to behave themselves. Over and over I hear, sit, sit, sit.
My job is to quickly explain the teenage mind…the attitude that ensues and why our dog will not sit, sit, sit. BORING! How many of us remember being a teenager? Parents were dull and uninformed, demanding and not at all cool. I believe that our teenage dogs feel about the same about us. You can quickly make a teenager love you again by offering them the car keys, or a new cell phone. You can quickly gain the attention of your teenage dog by being fun. When we are nagging, threatening and coercing our teenage dog we get indifference and avoidance.
At this point in class I ask the adults to act like fools. I am adamant that my students become proficient in the art of jolly dog talk. You know; the voice that you use at home when nobody can hear you. It always amuses me that humans’ feel they need to act stern and serious in front of others, I guess it is to show that they have control of the dog…
Once the humans start acting the fool, the dog looks at that with a little more interest. Throw in a couple of extra yummy goodies and all of a sudden your dog is looking at you like now you are cool again.
Sit is overused in my opinion and I think that many dogs would concur. There are many things you can teach your dog that will keep him interested and compliant. Change your mind and you can change the behavior. Play chase with your dog and switch roles on and off see how quickly you will get a sit if you continue this type of fun training. I for one do not want a robotic dog that performs out of fear or submission. I want to see my dog with shining eyes, lolling tongue and a wagging body that is anticipating my next request with glee.
Let us try and understand the motivation behind behavior and leave the blame out of it. They are doing the best they can and our job is to continually teach them until we get it right.