Let's face it- owning a dog takes lots and lots of time and time is a very precious commodity in this day and age. Luckily, if you have a well-trained, calm, happy, Zen dog, the time that you spend with your dog should be the most relaxing and enjoyable out of your 24 hour day. The problem occurs when people are just too busy to give their dog the attention that they need, deserve and require, which results in "bad behavior". There's no such thing as a bad dog. DogZenergy truly believes this and we also don't believe in bad owners. Dogs are a constant source of love, but also a constant source of guilt. Most of us are really busy. I'm a dog trainer and I find myself feeling very guilty all the time about not giving my dogs enough off-leash time and/or not playing enough training games with them. I am the first to admit it- it's tough to be the perfect dog owner. It's also important to realize that trying to be perfect in any way creates a lot of stress and anxiety that your dog will pick up on. However, always trying your best and not being afraid to ask for help is a must. Ask a neighbor or a friend who doesn't have a dog, but loves them, to borrow your dog for a jog or a trip to the coffee shop. They'll be happy, your dog will be happy and you'll be happy too! Or you can hire a professional dog walker (insert shameless DogZenergy plug here ; ) or sign your dog up for weekly dog park visits. Just by being out and about all day with doggy pals, your dog will be better behaved and more mellow by the time you get home from work. Plus, dog walkers spend all day with dogs so they're very well trained in dealing with doggy problems and if they're good dog walkers, they'll happily help you with any behavioral problems that you've been dealing with. Because I spend all of my time with dogs or with my own dogs, I don't have a ton of time to read, but when I do get around to reading, it's usually about dogs. The last book that I read is called The Tao of Puppies: How to Raise a Good Dog Without Really Trying by Krista Cantrell, and I absolutely loved it. Cantrell's training style closely aligns with the DogZenergy Method in that all training should be an effortless mindfulness all throughout the day. Cantrell emphasizes that people need to relax a little (or a lot) and go with the flow of puppyhood. It's not easy having a puppy, but patience and awareness of puppy behavior will make the process much easier and more fun. Being consistent, but not too rigid is key. Some puppies have different personalities, which she describes as being Ying or Yang. Yang puppies are more active, brave and assertive, while Ying puppies are more submissive, shy and quiet. Both need different approaches to training. She also talks about how every command has a pair. For instance, sit/down, take it/leave it, up/off etc. It makes perfect sense to pair the commands for a puppy's optimum understanding and performance. It also controls the puppy's behavior and their endless energy. Energy has to go somewhere and to deny outlets for it results in resistance. Cantrell offers a very clear, successful approach to puppy training and I would advise everyone to pick up her book, The Tao of Puppies before bringing home their new pup.
To train your dog with little time, it's important to be mindful of your everyday interactions and habits with your dog. That being said, understand that your dog is constantly understanding you through the process of operant conditioning- the law of cause and effect. If your dog does something and you give attention to it or not, your dog will learn based on the observation and experience of that moment. You may be busy, but taking a second out of your day to quickly reward your dog for good behavior will make the world of difference. For example, if your dog comes up to you and automatically sits patiently without nudging, jumping or whining, reach down and give your dog a pet and a "good girl". I promise it will only take a second. If your dog is quietly laying on her bed instead of the couch or in your guests lap, walk over and give another "good girl". Capture the good moments with positive reinforcement and praise and you will quickly and easily shape your puppy into a good dog.
Weaving in good dog owner habits throughout your day will also shape up your dog and encourage good behavior. For example, simply asking your dog to sit and "leave it" before putting his food bowl down will foster your dog's self control and calmness. Your dog will learn to follow your wishes instead of charging or lunging for anything that he wants. Same goes with the front door, back gate, the car, or any access to fun and exiting things. By teaching your dog to sit and wait for things that he wants, you are actively training your dog throughout the day to ask permission for all things good. Does your dog want a belly rub? Ask for a down/stay first. Does your dog want to jump up onto the couch? Teach him to wait for permission only and invite him with the "up" command. Does your dog want to go for a walk? Ask for a down before putting on the leash. Does your dog want sniff and smell on a walk? Ask him to heel for fifty feet and then reward the behavior with "Ok, go ahead". You should be the gatekeeper to all things good in his life and your dog should be rewarded with these things if he follows your clear, consistent and benevolent leadership all throughout the day. All of these things require mindfulness of your dog's daily interactions with you, but it only requires a few minutes here and there to shape up your dog's behavior. So go get busy! Just kidding!