How to Train Your Dog
What to expect
When we start to train a dog at SDT, the very first thing we do is go back to the basics. And for us that means checking that there’s nothing getting in the way of you and your pet’s learning.
We’ve done the same in this book. You’ll see we start in chapter 2 with checking if your dog is in optimum health and if a trip to the vet could help with some of the problems you may be experiencing. It’s not uncommon for pain or medical issues to be affecting how a dog behaves.
Then in chapter 3 we move on to explaining SDT’s three-point formula for success, covering diet, exercise, and teaching the dog an off-switch, which will ensure that your dog is at their very best. In chapter 4, we explore your readiness for training too, because what you do and feel on the other end of the leash is just as important to getting where you want to be. Here we also discuss how to use journaling to track the progress you and your dog make, and at the back of the book you’ll find that we’ve included some sample pages so you can take this habit forward.
With this great foundation in place, we’ll move on to cover the basics of our training methods in chapter 5, such as the art of attention and common commands.
From there the book begins to delve much deeper into solving specific behavioral problems you’re working with, dedicating chapters to issues such as problems inside the house. In parts II and III of the book, we cover everything from separation anxiety, multi-dog households, leash walking, socialization, reactivity, and, everyone’s favorite, recall! These later chapters will explain what’s going wrong and how to fix it.
As you read the book, look out for the QR codes along the way. You can scan these with your smartphone and use the password “SDTBook” to be taken directly to a relevant training video on our website. This will help you to see the theory we discuss put into practice. You can return to these videos when you want to refresh your learning.
Working through the book in this way will help you reach your training goals in no time.
A quick word about rescue dogs
First up, though, I want to talk about something that’s massively important and something that is dear to my heart. That’s right—rescue dogs.
If you don’t already have a dog, you might be on the fence about getting an older dog from a rescue center. You might be thinking about adopting one that could perhaps come with some behavioral baggage but that you feel you can help using the guidelines in this book. Maybe you are an experienced dog owner reading this and are looking to hone your craft and gain more knowledge. If you want to take on a more difficult dog that perhaps has had a traumatic past, keep reading, we’ve got you.
Let me tell you right now, at the time of writing this book, there are approximately 3.1 million dogs entering US animal shelters every year, and most of them are there through no fault of their own.
Most dogs are surrendered to rescue centers because of human selfishness. Perhaps it was because they didn’t do proper research into the breed or because of a dodgy breeder churning out puppies that go on to have problems. Maybe the previous owner couldn’t be bothered to put the work in and train the dog when it was a puppy, and now that the dog is bigger they can’t be arsed and it’s a problem. Some dogs are sent to a rescue center because they aren’t fast enough for racing or because they are surplus to the breeder’s requirements. And it’s hard to believe, but some are just discarded because they get old and gray.
But whatever the reason they ended up there, you will find some absolute gems of a dog in these centers. And having worked with thousands of rescues from across the globe and having had my own rescue dogs, I’m telling you now, there is nothing more rewarding than adopting a dog.
Take my little terrier Roxy. She came from a rescue place and had been in a family where there was another dog but no rules. Because she was babied by her owners and not given any direction, she began to get into fights with the other dog in the house. When the fighting got serious, Roxy was the one that had to go. Again, it was human incompetence that meant the dog, in this case my Roxy, suffered. Of course, it’s not unusual to have problems with multi-dog households, and it’s something we’ll cover in more detail later in the book. These issues can be worked on.
But in the meantime, back to Roxy and why, because of her, I love a rescue.
Poor Roxy was a mess when I met her. Everything scared her: traffic, bikes, loud bangs. And when I say she was terrified, I mean it literally. Things that she was frightened of made her sh*t herself. I would have to wipe her arse down if a bang went off.
Along with her fear, she had no idea how to walk on a leash and was reactive to bigger dogs, which was problematic as she came to live here with two bigger dogs that are sadly no longer with us (f*ck you, cancer!).
The techniques I used to help this little darling are the techniques I talk about in this book. And those techniques that I used on Roxy have given me a small dog that has gone on to help countless other dogs find trust, a dog that loves my children and is always by their side. And this book will help you learn and use these techniques too.
Now Roxy is a confident, entertaining, and mischievous pet, and although she’s getting on in years, she’s the perfect example to me of what a small dog should be. But remember, she didn’t come like that; it took a lot of hard work, patience, and consistency. Regardless of the issues, Roxy shows that you can always help a dog if it’s fit and healthy.
So how do you find a rescue that suits you?
Well, first things first, you must be realistic. As rewarding as it is taking on a dog that’s a mess, like Roxy was, and turning them around, it takes a lot of skill and time, and isn’t for the fainthearted. If you’ve never had a dog before, I would suggest looking for a more laid-back dog with next-to-no issues instead. Remember, there are lots of different dogs in rescue centers, so ask questions and meet the dog, or as many dogs as necessary, to find the right fit for both you and your potential pooch. Some dogs in rescue centers may be there as a result of their owner’s death or illness or a divorce, and their behavior will be far less challenging.
The beauty of a rescue is that they would have been recently seen by a vet to rule out any serious conditions. They will also have been wormed, treated for fleas, and helped with any immediate physical problems, such as skin infections like mange, where necessary. A rescue dog may even have had some formal training from an expert via the organization looking after it while it waited for a new home. The temperament of a dog up for adoption will also have been fully assessed, and in some cases a history will have been recorded too. This will all help when it comes to finding a perfect match for both you and the dog.
But, of course, a rescue won’t suit everyone. You might not be a suitable home for an adopted doggo for several reasons, including if you already own a dog that has issues and needs extra time and help (and if you do, this training guide can help you with that first). Instead, consider regularly donating to your local rescue center to assist them in helping more dogs or offer to volunteer your time. You can still help rescue dogs without taking one home.
If you are considering adopting a dog with behavioral issues, and one that you’re happy to work on, be honest with yourself because the very worst thing in the world you can do is let that dog down again by returning it. It’s about being realistic about your training abilities.
So, let’s get cracking. . . .