Attention First Time Dog Owners

Newbie dog owners are those who have never been the primary caregiver for a dog, or those who have a vague recollection of puppy experience.  Learning to observe and understand your dog’s way of communicating is essential.   Training practice develops handling skills to increase effectiveness.  What are reasonable expectations for all phases of your dog’s maturity?  Progressive work in these areas, among others, makes a significant difference in the quality of life with the dog and your relationship with your furry friend.

Clear Communications

As much we love our dogs, they are creatures of a different species.  Lots of talking can be overly stimulating rather than helpful.  Visual cues facilitate learning, and all desirable behaviors must be reinforced in order to stick.  First time dog owners can be notoriously stingy with reinforcements that are meaningful to the dog.  Early on, be generous with the use of food to reinforce behaviors. 

While all family members can be involved in teaching (training) the dog, only one person at a time should be providing directives.  Imagine three people asking something of you simultaneously.  This is frustrating and annoying for us humans. 

Handling Skills

Dog handling is a skill.  It’s like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport.  It requires a bit of instruction and coaching, and lots of practice.  The use of body postures to elicit or discourage behaviors, timing of verbal cues and reinforcements, and the vocabulary we choose to teach our dogs all matter in the end results.

Leash walking skills happen at both ends.  The handler must maintain the dog’s mental connection with the relationship that exists between them.  Otherwise, leash walking is managed, not trained, with the use of equipment or 10 pounds of chicken. 


Unrealistic expectations produce lots of frustration for us humans and our dogs.  Memories of a previous dog are rarely predictors for the pets in our current lives.  Dogs are individuals, too.

Dogs are social creatures, and we count them in as family members; however, it’s important to remind oneself that there is no moral compass driving behaviors.  Because they are dogs, learning is a longer process than that of humans.  Dogs do not live to please us:  they offer appeasement behaviors when they read us as tense or angry.  And make no mistake:  they read us better than we will ever read them.  Life is harmonious for all when the humans are relaxed and happy.

Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel   CPDT-KA, 2019 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC