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Obedience for a soft dog

Obedience for a soft dog?
I have a two year old German Shorthair Pointer she is an excellent dog who is very intelligent. She has great intuition and picks up new ideas very well. In the field she always tries hard and I am carefull to keep everything easy and fun, I don't come down hard on her for honest mistakes. For basic everyday obedience around the house I can be very tough. I never hurt my dog but I have used some heavy dominance stuff which I regret (lift roughly off ground, roll over on back etc.). Now when I get mad at her she cowers in a kind of ugly way. I have a hard time correcting her disobedience around the house without getting this kind of response . If I command her to lay on her bed she does a very slow slink across the room which I hate to see. I would prefer a happy trot and flop. How can I mend my ways and my dog. I sometimes see hints of this in field work and that really bothers me because I would hate to ruin her naturally great style. Thanks Bill

Hello Bill,
Being a hard handler myself I know your situation. On top of that, one of my dogs is a rescue dog and, she has learned how to get by in life. I have to be ever particular to get what I want from her without her groveling. First you have to understand why the dog is doing what she does. then you have to understand why you do what you do. Dogs are like people. Many have every soft personalities that get offended by the simplest command. Just look at the message board here and you will see the different reactions to the written word. Some get very hurt, some get combative, some get angry, some just blow it off and move on.

Your dog has figured out by being submissive, a very common reaction to pack authority, she will be left alone. This is inherited and cannot be changed too much. You can, however, minimize it to some extent. When you tell the dog to go get in her bed and she slinks, ignore it. Turn away and pay no attention, if she rolls on her back or cowers, do the same thing. The dog is reading your body languge. The longer you face her in a dominant posture the more she will do it. Dogs are looking for a response to whatever they do. You just don't give them what they are looking for.

You have also made your point with this dog so stop beating a dead horse. Practice this method while you are around her in different situations. Use only your eyes to communicate with your dog. You will be amazed at the reponses you can get moving nothing but your eyes. This will show you how attentive the dog is to your body language. Experiment with it. Another thing you can do is KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, and just use hand signals to get what you want. There is also nothing wrong with going back to the leash, even when in the house. Let the dog drag it around and when you need to see that she does something use the leash to see that it is done. Leave your voice and body language out. Do this gently. Truth is YOU are gonna have to lighten up too.

I do not belive in jumping on a dog and holding it down or pinning it on its back, I know many recommend this but I have trained over 4,000 dogs successfully and never used that technique. This tells me it is not necessary. Many folks create their own problems because they took bad advice. Use what you need to get the response you want and NO MORE!

Bottom line is dogs are born the way they are. You cannot MAKE a dog submissive but if it is in their genes you can certainly make it worse. Dog training is different than handling. The first is teaching the dog to do something it doesn't know. The second is getting a dog to do what it already knows, in a handsome fashion. Some folks have one ability or the other. Only the best have learned to use both.

It will take time. Although I have trained for 30 years I still learn everyday. Pay attention to how you act and what you do and the dog will respond appropriately. In other words, don' use a hammer if you only need a stern look. try it. I think you and the dog will both be happier with the result!

Terry Germany
JC&T Shooting Sports

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