By Margie Scott
There are a certain number of basic principals that apply to all stock dog training. These principals can be categorized under the general titles of Discipline and Common Sense, Livestock Behavior and Canine Behavior. In two previous articles we looked at the principals of Common Sense & Discipline and Livestock Behavior. In this final article we will take a look at Canine Behavior.
Obedience instructors are quick to interject information about canine behavior in their training classes but few stock dog instructors do. This is probably because stock dog instructors instinctively understand canine behavior and may not realize other people don't. Dogs operate as pack animals. The successful trainer has to establish himself as the "alpha" or "top" dog of his pack early in the training relationship It's much easier to do this when the pup is young rather than to wait until the pup is a year or two old and then challenge his behavior.
If you will watch your dog's eyes you will be able to tell a lot about the impact you are making on him as you begin to establish yourself as the "top dog". Staring a dog into submission, as an alpha dog does, is a training secret that can be learned and applied by you in establishing yourself as the pack leader. Watch your dog's eyes and posture as you apply this principal. Does he continue to challenge you with his look? Does he drop his eyes and head and then gaze up at you to gauge your reaction? Your reaction at this point is very important in establishing your place as leader of the pack. If the pup has submitted and is showing you in his actions that he has accepted your leadership then relax the pressure of your stare.
Another training secret involves learning to use your voice properly. When your dog is not behaving correctly, say his name or some specific word you have chosen as your correction command or use a deep growl. Successful trainers will start out with a normal tone of voice and gradually work toward a deep growling command until the dog responds. Understanding canine behavior comes in here also. The top dog disciplines other members of the pack with deep throated growls. A submissive dog will emit high-pitched tones, lower its head or its eyes or even lie down and roll over onto its back as signs of submission.
Spend time observing your dog as it interacts with humans and with other animals. This is probably the very best way to learn about canine behavior. Try using some of the principals suggested in this article.