Often I write articles about training for titles. However, bear in mind that the word “obedience “can also describe understanding and then compliance with any activity the owner of a dog chooses. Of course, this should include how the dog acts around the house and his manners when around others. The Newfoundland obedient enough to be welcome in any home and respected for how he conducts himself in public is as good as tested. After all, a title is simply a certificate of accomplishment in a given area.
There are dozens of books and classes dealing with manners training. I have given seminars and classes in this area myself. However, nothing can take the place of what happens in the home during the training and after the classes are over. A key word in any discussion of the dog with good manners is consistency. Once your dog understands the concept of what you want from him, do you still get compliance with your commands months later? Why is it that a dog who has resided with one owner since he was a puppy can then have the outward appearance of no manners or perhaps the inability to get along with other dogs years later?
Assess Your Current Status
I have always thought of the first two years of a puppy’s life as the best opportunities to cement those manners I would like to see more of, and to be careful to mold her behavior in the best ways for activities we will be involved in as she gets older.
Ask yourself whether you are pleased with the ongoing progress of your Newfoundland, whether puppy or adult. If not, consider how you would honestly respond to the following:
1. Do you ask your dog to do something over and over again? Or will one command, given fairly quietly, be enough for compliance?
2. Do you have to resort to yelling or giving hard, physical corrections to get your dog to listen to you or to obey your commands?
3. Has your dog developed several bad habits that you are concerned about breaking? Is your dog forever in the wrong? Is your dog no longer a pleasure in your home? Do you wonder when he will be a good dog and when he will settle down?
Assessing Your Status
Training tips will help you and your Newf:
1. Don’t give a command you cannot enforce. For instance, this might mean not calling a dog to you unless you can be certain he will come.
In the beginning, call a puppy to you on a leash, or in the house when you have a treat or toy and can be pretty certain of a positive response. However, if your dog is now a little older and you have allowed your dog more freedom in the yard, but he now runs off when you call or simply ignores your request, you can be certain he will do the same when you are off your own property, and you will have even less compliance and less control. Whatever earlier controls you used should continue to be used until your dog again responds quickly to your commands. Control the response to your commands as often as possible in the formative training period. This is especially true whenever you go to a new place or introduce a new skill.
2. Try to give a command only once.
This is a hard one— something that may require someone to remind you when you are not being consistent. Your commands should be given once, in a positive and reasonable voice, and then enforced with the controls mentioned above. If you ask your Newf to sit, and he does not do so quickly, help him to sit, and then thank him for his compliance with your praise. If you ask him to come to you and he does not, bring him firmly in and then thank him with your praise.
3. Be generous with your praise.
Just as a child cannot be told often enough how good he is, how happy you are with him, what a fine fellow he is, so a dog may fairly blossom with your positive spirit and the many ways you can show him how much he is cared about.
4. Be in charge.
Keep as steady a routine as you can for your dog without being obsessive about it. Supervise his activities. Don’t give him too much time on his own to get into trouble. Keep him at things, including play that is positive. Try to prevent problems from cropping up by increasing your supervision.
5. Notice out loud when he does things that you want to see again.
This is another area that takes work on your part. Much about our world focuses on the negative. We don’t pay attention to things until they are problems. As an example, when your dog is reclining in a crate or in an exercise pen in the park when you are with your friends, do you take time to praise your dog for being “quiet,” or do you wait for him to bark and then correct him? Again, it is very hard to be consistent with your dog, but it pays off when you can make the effort to do so.
• Be happy with your Newfoundland.
• Find things he is doing right, and focus on them.
• Keep a steady routine for your dog.
• Supervise his activities to prevent him from getting into trouble.
• Give your command and then enforce the command, allowing you to praise him for being right, rather than having to correct him for being wrong.
• If you have a problem in one area, go back to controlling his response as you did when he was very young. Then, move forward very slowly.
• Praise him for being that wonderful dog you intend for him to be. Then, make sure he becomes that dog.
-- Cheryl Dondino, 2Q 1997 Newf Tide