Shahbazin Anatolian Shepherds Who Needs It, and Why

All dogs, to be pleasant and effective companions or workers, need obedience training. Obedience training is not just 'fancy' show training - it is a means of communication between you and your dog, a way of developing good manners, good habits, and boundaries of what are and are not acceptable behaviors in your household or farm. One of the greatest causes of mortality in dogs is entirely preventable - dogs turned in to animal shelters because of behavioral problems - caused by lack of training!

The farm dog who guards or herds the stock, the companion dog in your home, the competition dog at a show (and these may all be the same dog!) are all products of obedience training. Training is a means of translation, a means of teaching a 'shared code' of meanings between you and your dog, so when you say "sit" or "come", your mental image of what you expect and your dog's mental image of what action he is expected to take, are the same. It is your job to be consistent and fair in what you are asking your dog to do; this will result in a dog who understands what you are asking and trusts in your judgment that it is the right action to take.

The fact that so much communication has been possible between the species, just through trial-and-error and sheer guesswork, is remarkable. When some form of training is never instituted, or when it fails through a gap in communication or trust, is when behavioral problems appear, and the human/animal bond fails to develop.

There are several important concepts to remember in training your dog:

Be consistent - Don't use three different commands for the same desired action; "off", "down", and "get down off of there" are not mutually comprehensible to a dog. Pick one command, teach your dog what it means to you, and stick with it (this includes other members of your family, who need to use the same commands also).

Be prepared - Don't ask your dog to do something when you have no way of enforcing - correcting or rewarding - the results. Many dogs have learned that "come" means "come to me if you feel like it - I know you're having a good time out there, and I'm not going to give you any real reward when you get here (I might even scold you for being slow)". When this command is taught, always have a light line or a leash on the dog, and give him a treat, plus lots of praise, when he gets to you. If a dog is off leash, tell him to "come" when he is fed, or when he is coming to you already; always praise him when he comes - never call your dog to scold him or do something to him that he doesn't like (such as a bath!).

Be positive - Don't nag your dog by repeating commands; "sit" is much easier to understand than "sitsitsit". Speak your command in a positive tone - too loud and harsh, and your dog will wonder why you sound angry at him - too soft and pleading, and he'll think that you don't really mean it. Be enthusiastic and animated when you are training your dog; if you don't seem to be having any fun, your dog won't be eager to learn from a grouchy teacher. When your dog understands an exercise or an action, do it right once in a lesson, praise, and move on to learning something else; most dogs are easily bored by doing the same thing over and over.

Praise effectively - You don't work for free - why should your dog? Dogs do not work for the thrill of pleasing you, although some dogs get quite a bit of satisfaction out of knowing that they've done a good job - most dogs expect some sort of immediate and tangible reward. Verbal praise, physical praise, food, and playing games with a toy are high up on the list of what most dogs enjoy. Find out what works best for your dog, not just what works for someone else's dog. The other side of the coin from praise is correction, which may vary from a verbal "no," a jerk on the collar, or having your dog repeat an exercise without praise - it depends on your dog's temperament, and on his level of understanding of what you want him to do. When training, NEVER correct a dog who is confused and who doesn't yet understand what you are asking him to do; try to re-explain the concept in a way that he does understand.

Timing is important - Don't set your dogs up for misbehavior. It's easier to supervise at the beginning, than it is to re-train. Puppies or new dogs should always be closely supervised until they learn what is expected of them. If your puppy starts to chew on something inappropriate, tell him "no," take it out of his mouth and give him one of his own toys. Then, praise him for chewing on the object that is his. Teach your dog that your laying hens or cats are off limits - but that his ball or a squirrel are fair game. Don't leave your dog to muddle things out by himself; you are his leader - teach him how to develop good habits.

Patience, persistence, and consistency are the keys to developing a good relationship with your dog. A dog can be a neighborhood nuisance and a liability - or he can be your friend and partner. It's up to you to teach him how to be the latter.

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