Hello everyone, my name is Les Castro and I am the founder of Faithful Friend.
I am most frequently asked, “How did you get your dog to do that?”
Let me ask you a question, “How do think I got a Master’s degree”? The answer is one lesson learned at a time. So it is with dogs that demonstrate uncanny ability. The first thing one must do with any dog, young or old, is to establish a bond of trust. If a dog doesn’t trust you it will not consistently follow your direction but simply do whatever it thinks of at the time.
Meeting a puppy’s basic needs is the beginning of developing a strong bond. All dogs eat and then of course must defecate. When I get a new dog or puppy, I feed and water it, and take it to an appropriate place to relieve itself. That seems simple enough, but how I do it seems to be different than many who have trouble with their dogs. If you follow these proven steps you may avoid a lot of mistakes. I didn’t say all mistakes because perfect is not possible. But you can avoid a lot of pitfalls with any dog if you commit to proper training early.
This example should help. When I first get a new puppy, I drive home with her in her kennel. If it is a drive over 15 minutes, I stop and begin training just as I would if I were home. I physically put the puppy on grass so she begins to learn exactly where to “go potty”. I say, “Hurry up” (because I can easily remember that command and it doesn’t sound like any other command I’ll teach her later).
I’ll gently repeat “hurry up” as the puppy wanders around and eventually relieves herself. As soon as she begins her business, I put a tiny tasty treat right under her nose. Even while she is still going about what she needs to do, she begins to associate my voice command with something wonderful… the treat! For young puppies I repeat the opportunity to go out on grass every two hours until bedtime. I also repeat this right after feeding time because whenever something goes in one end, it fairly quickly comes out the other.
By repeating day in and day out the dog gets a rhythm to her behavior. I will feed mine consistently at certain times of the day and then expect defecation outside. My dog will learn I will provide food and water for her along with a proper place for her to do what will naturally follow. Providing water is equally important as well as encouraging contact. Leaving food and water down on the floor all day for easy access won’t encourage the pup to learn where the byproducts of such must be deposited in a designated area. As babies, we humans must be potty trained, so we shouldn’t expect our dogs to get it right without lessons and training.
However, by taking clear control of the basic needs of feeding and watering, your dog will bond with you and want to please you. She may even come when you call her, expecting more treats, water, or trips outside to play. Once you’ve established these basics, you can build upon this relationship by teaching her your command for sit, down, heel, and so on.
Remember this: “What gets rewarded gets repeated”.
I keep a bag of snacks by the door to my back yard. Treats are part of the reward system. Quickly my dog learned when she needs to go out, she stands at the door making it clear to me what she needs. As soon as I get her signal, I open the door for her, repeat my “hurry up” command, and immediately reward her behavior for doing what she needed to do where I wanted her to do it. In the wintertime I can even just close the door, and when my dog wants back in, she will bark. I immediately give her a treat and lots of praise. Then when it is cold or rainy, I don’t have to stand out in the elements, but simply reward and praise the behavior I appreciate and have trained her to do. She loves treats and praise, so she’s happy to repeat the actions because she knows she’ll get rewarded.
I have found that God bonds with us in a similar way. Scripture says in Deuteronomy 4:29 “…if you seek Him (the Lord), you will find Him if you seek with all your heart and with all your soul.” God says He will make himself known to you. As we seek Him out, read about Him in His Word, and talk to Him, He encourages us. I didn’t know much about Him at first and in fact I am still learning, but the reward in bonding to God is amazing, life changing, and miraculous. Does it mean I never make mistakes? Certainly not. But in 1 John 1:9, Scripture promises to clean us of all unrighteousness if we confess our wrongdoing to Him, He is faithful to forgive us. The more we get to know Him, the more we bond with Him, the more clearly we will hear our Master’s voice. Then we have at least the opportunity to follow His requests and find He really does know what is best for us. Like my dog, I know who my Master is, that He wants the best for me, and He will help me to learn to act according to His desire.