Adorable black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel behaving well and paying attention during a training session outdoors.

When a dog trainer comes to your home to work with your dog, it is almost immediately obvious that the dog respects the trainer. Dogs sometimes do not exhibit the bad habits the owner has called the trainer in for. Why is that?

Most trainers have an innate sense of self and leadership powers the dog can see, smell, hear and otherwise sense. Owners are amazed at the change in their attitudes.

So how do we get the dog to respond that way to their owner? As the trainer works with the dog to teach or change skills and behavior, they also work with the owner.

For example, owners of small dogs, when their dogs are outside and are barking at other dogs or vice versa, what do they do? Often, they pick them up.

This teaches the dog to be insecure and not develop self-confidence. Or it can actually make them protective about the owners and make them even worse. In reality, it is mostly smaller dogs that tend to develop issues of insecurity and owners propagate it.

The best thing for the dog is to be taught to Sit and Stay by the owner’s side. No running behind and hiding or going between their legs, or charging and barking as people or dogs come near. If the dog is sitting and the owner is calm and relaxed the dog will become the same way.

Correcting the bark must be done immediately. A Quiet or Hush command is useful and, after 3 seconds, verbally praising the dog or giving them attention. In a worst case scenario, the owner might try a water spray to deter the barking – but be quick to praise when the dog becomes silent.

It is important that the owner does not become overprotective of the dog. If their dog is in danger, then get out of there. If not, that little dog needs to learn how to act properly. It is so important to not look at them as if they are powerless and need coddling.

Don’t encourage unwanted behavior by telling the dog it is OK when they are acting inappropriately. That only gives them solace in being insecure.     

Having the dog Sit and Stay should also be the rule when greeting people on the street. Once again, owners of small dogs often let their dog jump up on people because they are small.

The damage is to the dog! Good manners are important no matter what the size of the pet. A well-behaved dog sits quietly by the owner’s side while the owner engages in conversation.

If the person then wants to pet the dog, a well-behaved pet remains sitting for the attention, teaching them that loving only comes when their feet are on the ground. In other words, don’t say “It’s OK.” Pet the dog only when the dog is sitting quietly, and withdraw your attention if not doing so. 

If your dog is well behaved, it reflects on you and if they are ill-behaved it still reflects on you. If people comment on your dog’s good behavior, it reflects on all the work you did to make it so.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy.