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About foundation skills / Socialize your dog / Encourage your puppy's play drive / Early dog obedience training / Understand dog psychology
Introduce the three D's / Dog handling skills

Understand dog psychology

We continue to run into "dog handlers" who, despite the admitted undesirable behavior(s) their dog is exhibiting, don't like correcting their dog. Their "reasoning" includes: they don't want to hurt the dog, they think it is mean to correct the dog, or they want the dog to be able to "be free" to do what it wants. We have also received many calls asking us about the right amount of correction for a Karelian. Our tips on dog psychology are based on what we have learned by working with so many individual Karelians.

Please believe us when we say that, much like a child, a dog appreciates knowing what behaviors you expect and -- most importantly -- how to earn your affection. In return, your happy, safe dog will give you unqualified love and affection. Below, California Karelian's 10-week-old Mishka was successfully prodded to lay down while surrounded by a class full of older dogs in a beginning obedience class.

Imagine a small child who isn't scolded when he/she starts to walk across the street without looking both ways because you don't want to hurt his/her feelings. Would that be considered good parenting?

Imagine a youngster who is allowed to decide when or when not to go to school. Where is the opportunity for the youngster to learn new things? Or, imagine one who is never asked to do chores around the house but instead plays all day after school without adult supervision. Where is the oppportunity to encourage and praise that youngster? Would that youngster even feel a part of the family?

Imagine a teenager who goes through high school without any appreciation for the value of an education or any expectation for aspirations or goals in life. Is that child prepared for success?

Early dog obedience training is an important element to ensure a mutually satisfying relationship with your Karelian.

Basic principles of leash correction

There is an art to communicating with any dog. If you were to watch two highly proficient search and rescue handlers, for example, I would bet you would detect differences in the ways they communicate with their dogs. Yet, both of their dogs may handle beautifully because both handlers understand basic dog psychology.

The nature of the correction should vary with the age of the dog. You do not want your dog to cower at the sound of your voice because it fears receiving a correction. On the other hand, if your dog does not respond the first time you give a command, a stiffer correction is needed.

Stiff corrections that get your dog's attention are a necessary part of communicating with your dog. Your command should not be a request. Your voice should be confident and even-toned, not angry. If you find yourself repeating commands without success, you are "nagging" your dog; your dog has already learned that there is no consequence to ignoring your command.

Make sure the dog knows WHY it is being corrected. It is essential that you apply the correction IMMEDIATELY after the behavior you are trying to modify (break). Corrections applied even minutes after the behavior do not work. So, if you are physically not in a position to reinforce a command should your dog not immediately obey, don't give the command.

Example 1: You come home to find your favorite rose bush dug up. You call your dog, it comes to you, and you apply a correction. In the dog’s mind it is being corrected for coming to you.

Example 2: Because your dog is a protector, he barks when strangers approach the house. The UPS delivery man approaches the house when you are in the kitchen 200 feet away from the dog and the front door, so you yell "no bark" and turn off the stove and coffee pot. The dog continues to bark, you continue to yell "no bark" and your dog learns it need not pay attention to the "no bark" command.

There is no optimal amount of force to be used when applying a correction. Know your dog. Just as each breed of dog is different, dogs within each breed have individual personalities. As a result, different dogs will respond differently to the type of correction and the force used to deliver the correction. Your dog's body language will tell you as much as if it could speak. A correction should never be applied with the intention of causing pain, yet it is important to apply sufficient negative stimulus that the dog will choose to modify its behavior in the future. Being too permissive with your dog can be deadly for your dog. If you cannot consistently recall your dog by calling one time, it is not safe for your dog to be off its leash.

Motivating your dog

We use praise as the motivator for our dogs. We do not believe that shock collars, an angry voice, or even food rewards are necessary to any training routine. Training your dog with food as a reward is not always going to be convenient in the field. You might also enjoy our tips on how to encourage your puppy's play drive.


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San Diego, California