Every dog owner must make a choice: Do you want a fearful and submissive pet, or do you want a happy, joyful, and well-mannered member of the family?
Tamar Geller's mission in life is to teach her cruelty-free method of “life coaching” for dogs and their people. Her revolutionary play-training uses mutual understanding and respect—and puts an end to outdated methods that rely on physical exhaustion, choke chains, prong collars, dominance rollovers, or stressful aggression of any kind.
A former Israeli intelligence officer who witnessed the horrors of military dog training methods, Tamar went on to observe wolves in the wild. She discovered that wolves educate and socialize their cubs with games, bonding, and body language, not dominance or punishment. As a result, she developed teaching systems that address a dog's authentic nature, part wolflike and part toddlerlike. Learning can be a positive experience that dogs enjoy and look forward to, and we can actually make it fun for our dogs to listen to us and behave as we want them to.
Tamar's insights have brought dog training into the twenty-first century, and her groundbreaking techniques have won the approval of the Humane Society of the United States, for which she is a longtime advisor. Her celebrity clients include Oprah Winfrey, Ben Affleck, Courteney Cox-Arquette, Owen Wilson, and the Osbournes, and she has appeared as an expert on the Today show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Animal Planet, and more.
In The Loved Dog, Tamar gives you all the instruction, insights, and tips you need to teach your dog good manners, as well as to troubleshoot specific problems and unwanted behaviors. She helps you and your dog learn a common language, resulting in a loving, respectful relationship that will bring you years of joy and companionship. Tamar's play-training approach is so gentle, even children can get involved.
Whether you use Tamar's methods to raise a puppy or teach an old dog new tricks, you'll love The Loved Dog.
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About the Author
Andrea Cagan has collaborated on seven bestselling books, four of which were number one.
Read an Excerpt
THE POWER OF SIT
I consider "sit" the foundation of my work. It's the trunk of the tree, and all other behaviors are like branches growing outward from there. Many trainers think the first training step is to put a leash or choke chain around your dog's neck, take him outside, and teach him to heel. But if he doesn't even know how to sit, how will you get his attention in the midst of a million smells, sounds, and motions all distracting him, making you the least interesting influence in his environment? You must establish a connection with your dog, and the first step is teaching him how to sit. When your dog feels secure with you as his leader, he'll be happy to stay close and follow your lead as you introduce new challenges. Teaching your dog to sit without force or a leash is easy since it is something that he does naturally.
I recently worked with a two-month-old white Doberman puppy named Flash. I guess his owner, Eddie, was expecting a burly male trainer with a bag of torture devices and a rough demeanor. What he got instead was a petite woman with a bag of treats and a penchant for "making a party" every time his dog did something right.
"Does he know how to sit?" I asked, ignoring Eddie's obvious disappointment in meeting me.
Eddie sniffed. "Of course. There's no need to start there. Flash sits in every corner of the house all day long. I need him to learn to heel! When I take him for a walk, he pulls me down the street. How can I stop him?"
Since Eddie and his wife had three children, I crouched on the floor at the height of the youngest child and asked the dog to sit. He looked at me like he'd never heard the word before, since he thought that "sit" only happened when someone stood to face him. It took him twenty minutes, but when he finally got it, I went to town "making a party," feeding him a luscious jackpot and using my voice as if it were confetti.
"Flash didn't really know how to sit, did he?" asked Eddie sheepishly.
"No, he didn't," I said. "Do you see why I didn't want to take him outside to heel first? He needs the foundation of 'sit.' Then we can teach him anything."
I'm sure you can appreciate how amusing and satisfying it was to see Eddie, a grown man in a suit and tie, lying on the kitchen floor beside me, "making a party" for Flash!
I remember when I first picked up Duke from the vet and took him to Covenant House. Although he was excited to perform a variety of exercises, when we asked him to sit, he ignored us. I realized that his previously broken legs made sitting on request uncomfortable, so I showed the teens in the program how to do what I call "passive training." It requires no effort only awareness and treats.
Each time Duke sat on his own accord, we praised him with a treat and enthusiastically sang out the word "sit!" as if he had just climbed Mt. Everest. Kids are wonderfully open about using their voices melodically, and so after a few "singing lessons" with these talented young adults, with no force or pressure, Duke learned to sit when he was asked. What's more, sitting became his favorite thing to do, because he loved the big fuss they made.
Many years ago I went to observe a class that was held at a local pet store. One of the dogs, a German shepherd, refused to sit. While each owner was practicing with his own dog in the class area, the trainer decided to help the shepherd get over his "stubbornness." But no amount of choking, jerking his neck, or verbally commanding and shaming would convince the dog to sit. The trainer did every abusive thing she could think of, including poking and pushing with all her weight on the dog's rump. He still refused to sit, and after a stressful and violent session, he ended up biting the trainer on her hand. Fearing for the dog's life, I got his owner's number and called a few days later.
"How is your dog doing?" I asked.
"He's with the vet," said the owner.
"Why? Are you going to give him up?" I asked.
"No," the owner informed me. "He had an abscess on his rear end and he's getting treatment for it." The poor dog was suffering with a painful abscess, but he had no way to tell anyone. When he just couldn't take it anymore, he finally reverted to biting as self-preservation.
I've seen so many people turn the other way when their dog is giving them a clear message that something is wrong. I once watched a terribly disturbing segment on CNN that profiled a woman who sat by while a so-called dog trainer beat her seven-month-old German shepherd puppy to death because he was too rambunctious to obey. The owner said that the trainer gave her the following heads-up: "Your puppy may cry, try to escape, or pee when I'm training him, but that's all normal."
Give me a break! There is nothing normal about those behaviors. If you are doing everything right and your dog refuses to do something, don't beat him up. If he refuses to do something and there is no apparent reason why, I recommend taking your dog to the vet for a checkup. If he gets a clean bill of health, then take him home and start the training all over again. But you should never revert to pushing, shoving, or pressing on your dog to get him to sit. When you force your dog into a position, the stress involved will inhibit his ability to learn and figure it out for himself, not to mention the mental and physical abuse you are inflicting upon him.
The easiest way to teach a dog to sit is a method I call "the magnet." Hold a treat in your hand, covering it with your fingers. Make sure that nothing sticks out, so the dog can't steal it, and move it back over the dog's head, toward his tail. The dog will follow it with his head back as if your hand is a magnet. Because of the way a dog is built, lifting the treat from his nose up slightly toward the top of his head will get him to sit. In this kind and gentle way, I can instantly move 99.9 percent of dogs into the sit position without a word or a touch.
Holding the treat too high is a common mistake. One pointer's owner kept holding his hand so high above his dog's head that the dog had to jump to get to the treat. I found out pretty quickly that he was afraid that his dog would nip at him. As a result, every time the dog reached for the treat with his mouth, the owner jerked his hand back. The dog must have been thinking, This jumping business is fun! It's so easy to snatch that treat from you. As you can imagine, his jumping skills improved while his sitting skills all but disappeared. I needed to stop the work and focus on helping the owner get rid of his fears of being nipped. Then we had to change the hand signal for sit, since the dog thought that meant to jump on his owner. It took only one day to resolve this issue, and the pointer was well on his way to becoming a well-mannered dog. Remember that if you're doing the magnet and your dog is jumping to get the treat, you're probably holding your hand too high. If he's backing away instead of sitting, practice the sit against a wall, so he has nowhere to go.
Be encouraging, patient, and sweet throughout the learning process, and remember to keep your fingers securely wrapped around the treat. If even a corner is showing and available to your dog, he will try reaching up and grabbing it from underneath. Never underestimate his intelligence to figure out how to get what he wants. As soon as your dog sits, give him the treat and introduce him to the word "sit" in a happy singsong voice, repeating the word over and over: "Sit, sit, sit."
Like the example above, first I teach the pattern, and only afterward do I give it a name. Let your voice show your dog that you approve and are impressed with his genius behavior. Soon you'll see your dog thinking, Boy, am I a good people trainer! Each time I sit, I get a goody, so I'll do it as much as I can! Now your dog is asking you to train him! Kids as young as two or three can practice this. It will teach them to be calm around the dog, and it can help kids who are afraid of dogs to overcome their fears.
THE THREE LEVELS OF SIT
The lesson is not over once your dog has learned that "sit" means "putting his tush on the ground." As Eddie discovered with his Doberman, Flash, many dogs only respond to "sit" when their owner is standing up. Years ago, at a seminar for dog trainers, the instructor asked the participants to stand up and ask their dog to sit. The trainers scoffed at how ridiculous and elementary that request was. The feeling around the room was "Come on, we're professional dog trainers!"
Undeterred the instructor then asked everybody to lie down on the floor and tell their dog to sit. Can I tell you how many confused dogs were running around, trying to figure out what their owner was asking of them? The dogs thought that "sit" meant that when the person in front of them stood, they would drop their tushes to the ground. But if the owners didn't give them the usual physical cue, the dogs were confused. Even the most savvy of professional trainers can fall into the trap of thinking that he is teaching the dog one thing when in fact he is teaching him something else. This is why I advise you to generalize each exercise as much as possible. Your dog will learn to recognize the signal that you are giving him rather than just the context in which you usually give it.
If you wonder why on Earth you should teach your dog to sit while you're lying down, think about different scenarios in which you might be on the floor playing with your children, practicing your yoga routine, or hanging out on the lawn with friends. Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy what you're doing and know that you still have control as the leader? You'll never have to worry that your dog will climb all over you.
TEACH SIT FROM A STANDING POSITION
Since we need to train the dog to sit from all levels, let's start with the easiest the standing position. I always start with the easiest first, so the dog's success will bolster his confidence for the tougher challenges to come. Begin teaching sit by using a hand signal, which is easier for the dog to understand than your voice. Only later will you teach the verbal cue. Utilizing the magnet, raise your hand above the dog's head with a treat. Practice this until your dog starts to sit correctly on a regular basis. Then repeat just using a hand signal the exact same motion, open palm facing up, but without a treat. To teach the verbal cue, say the name of the exercise, sit, but only after the dog shows you the behavior, and then offer praise.
Once both cues are learned, common sense will indicate when to use a hand signal and when to use your voice. If your dog is running away from you, and you want her to stop, how will she see you giving her a hand signal? She needs to hear you.
TEACH SIT FROM A SITTING OR CROUCHING POSITION
The second level of sit is when the owner is sitting and I don't mean on the couch! I worked with Honey, Erin's Goldendoodle, on learing how to sit, and when I crouched to the floor at sitting level (the level of a standing child), she immediately jumped on me. She was happy to see me lowering my body because in her wolf language that meant "Let's play!" I kept turning away while not looking at her, ignoring the behavior I didn't like. I did the magnet with her until Honey began to get the point. She learned quickly to sit when we were at the second level, but at the third level, when I lay down on the rug, it was back to square one.
TEACH SIT FROM A LYING DOWN POSITION
With Honey I immediately reverted back to the magnet, right from my position lying down on the floor, raising my arm, holding a yummy treat as high as I could, an inch above her nose. Honey immediately recognized the pattern that she had learned when I was standing and crouching. She followed my hand and in no time, she had learned to sit while I was lying down without me having to ask her. Now that's what I call manners!
Think about how many times you're sitting or lying on the floor, and your dog begins to climb all over you. I got a call a while back from singer/songwriter Olivia Newton-John to help her with her beautiful Irish setter, Jack. She liked to practice her yoga exercises on the floor, and Jack saw this as his opportunity to climb all over her, loving and kissing her. That may sound cute, but, in fact, it became annoying and even potentially dangerous.
I taught Olivia how to do the magnet with Jack when she was lying down, and instead of jumping on top of her, he sat. When she reinforced the word, "sit," Jack started to get the picture, especially since Olivia kept turning her back on him when he didn't. When she was finally able to say "Good sit!" and give him a treat, he got it and sat every time. Now he can be with her when she's exercising instead of being exiled to another room. When your dog has manners, he can share more of your life with you.
I worked with a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix named Moby, whose owners, Matt and Abby, had won him in a game show on Animal Planet called Who Gets the Dog? in which I was the behaviorist judge. After a two-week honeymoon period, they discovered that Moby was a handful! This is not unusual. It's easy to get along with anyone (including a new dog) at first, when they're trying to make a good impression. Matt and Abby had no idea that Moby was gathering data about his new family that would help him manipulate his people and his surroundings. (Did I mention CIA agent when I listed self-appointed jobs for your dog?)
Soon after Moby moved in, Matt, an army journalist, was deployed to Iraq, leaving Abby all alone with this supersmart and superenergetic dog. When I met with them two years later, Abby was close to giving birth to their first child, and it was urgent that Moby learn how to behave gently and politely. We used the blanket on which they intended to put the baby when she was on the floor. Since Moby was so hyper and unruly, it started out as a big challenge. But using my magnet method and positive reinforcement, Moby happily learned to sit when Abby was lying down. Because he thought it was a game, he loved doing it as quickly as he could. I still remember his silly grins of pride when he sat down the very second Abby got on the floor.
MOVING FROM LEVEL TO LEVEL
Since every dog is different, there is no way to predict when he'll catch on. Remember Flash, who took twenty minutes to learn to sit at the second level, when we were sitting on the floor? We had to hang in there with him, without making him feel stressed or like a failure, and eventually he got it. After that it was smooth sailing, and he has proven himself to be a brilliant dog. Since he loves learning, and his owners love coaching him, I've taught him many more exercises than the average dog knows.
I've known other dogs that learned to sit in two minutes, but it really doesn't make a difference. Coaching your dog is not a competitive sport; it's a relationship in which you build trust and encourage your dog to become a well-mannered member of society. I knew a woman who thought she had successfully potty trained her son. Then, for two days in a row, he had accidents. She was devastated, fearing that her child would never learn to use the toilet. Her friend's child was much younger, and he'd been potty trained for quite some time. I told her to relax. He would get it sooner or later. "After all," I asked her, "have you ever seen a teenager wearing a diaper?"
Before your dog can learn new behaviors, you just may have to go back to square one, which means returning to sit. If I want my dog to back off, he has to sit first. If I teach him to lie down, he has to sit first, just like he does before I give him his food. Any time he isn't sure what I want, I take him back to his basic foundation, the power of sit. If he does it on his own, that is his way of saying, I want to understand you, but I need your help. I'm sitting politely, so can you please make it easier for me?
When you're teaching your dog a familiar behavior, such as sit, in a new place, he may need guidance. If you only train him in one specific room of the house or at the same time of day, he may not be able to figure out that he should repeat that behavior anywhere else or at any other time. Dogs are not good at generalizing, so vary the times and places where you teach your dog to sit, as well as constantly shifting the different levels.
Practice sit many times a day, and include it in your relevance training by making him sit for everything he wants, as if he is saying "please." Don't forget to focus on areas like near the front door, in front of his food bowl, or in the backyard where your dog is most likely to be excitable and out of control. Comedian and actress Lily Tomlin said, "The road to success is always under construction." I don't believe you can teach a dog any skill just by training for fifteen minutes in the morning and in the evening, so practice as much as you can, using any free minute you have. Each time you find ways to make your dog feel successful, you are getting closer to having that unbelievable dog you always imagined by your side.
SUMMARY OF THE POWER OF SIT:
The Magnet: Use your hand like a magnet and move from his nose to his tail, to get him to sit.
Three levels: Teach him to sit when you are:
2. Sitting or crouching on the floor
3. Lying down on the floor
Generalize sit: Teach sit in different contexts.
Relevance training: Teaching your dog to sit is the equivalent of teaching your child to say "please."
Copyright © 2007 by Tamar Geller
Table of Contents
Part One Stranger in a Strange Land
Chapter One A Living Dream
Chapter Two The Loved Dog
Chapter Three From Abuse to Advocacy
Chapter Four My Two "Sons"
Chapter Five Pain and Pleasure
Chapter Six The Seven Basic Needs
Part Two Play-Training
Chapter Seven A Common Language
Chapter Eight Using Treats
Chapter Nine Socialization
Chapter Ten The Power of Sit
Chapter Eleven Jumping
Chapter Twelve The Best Wolf Game
Chapter Thirteen The Power of Toys
Chapter Fourteen Come
Chapter Fifteen Backing Off
Chapter Sixteen Chilling Down
Chapter Seventeen The Secret of Stay
Chapter Eighteen Housebreaking
Chapter Nineteen Walking
Chapter Twenty Barking
Chapter Twenty-One Celebrate!
Appendix Puppy Mills