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19 April 2005: Home Schooling For Dogs

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19 April 2005: Home Schooling For Dogs

Lake Geneva Regional News
March 17, 2005
Written By: Lisa Seiser

After years of putting up with poorly behaving dogs, resident Joie Coleson was ready for a change.
For years, the Coleson’s two dogs have taken their toll on the family and managed to run the house.
That changed recently when Coleson summoned the help of Jackie Reuning, a home dog trainer.
About two hours of training both Coleson and the two dogs, Princess and Corky, the dogs no longer control the household.

  • “I really had no idea what to expect with her coming in here,” Coleson said. “I thought I would be humiliated saying that I had done such a bad job. My dogs don’t respect me and that is because I didn’t know how to handle them.”

Normally, Reuning said about 90 percent of dogs she comes in contact with can be trained pretty well within the first two to three hours. Reuning and her husband, Tim, spend their time working with dogs and owners on how to properly train the animals.

    “People just aren’t that educated about training dogs and they allow their pets into very dominant situations really early,” she said. “When I leave for the day, people are generally happy. In most situations, when we come out, we make a huge impact on our first visit.”

Reuning said the most important aspect to training a dog is to make sure it knows who is the boss and who is supposed to dominate.

  • “You need to be the most dominant,” Reuning said. “They have to respect you.”

To reach that point, Reuning said the owner must communicate with the dogs at a level they can understand.

  • “The first thing is you need to think and act canine,” Reuning said. “So often, we put our human emotions on dogs where they don’t belong. We think they need to be on our furniture, but that is actually more of our need.”

According to Reuning, just like children, dogs want structure and rules.

  • “That is what makes them feel safe,” Reuning said. “It is important for dogs to have structure in their lives.”

Coleson said many of the problems that she has had with her two dogs include jumping on guests at the house, not coming when called, laying and sitting on tables and the couches, and going to the bathroom in the house. Reuning said the main method to solve most of the problems is to recreate the hierarchy of the house.

  • “Dogs know quickly who is dominant,” she said. “All dogs have leadership tendencies, but are not meant to be leaders. When we put dogs in leadership positions, this is the type of behavior we get.”

It didn’t take long for Coleson to show her dogs who was boss. Reuning said there is active training and passive training. However, neither method involves physicality with the animals.

  • “We are not going to be physical with them in any way, shape or form,” Reuning said. “We are not going to be dragging on them, pushing them, but we are going to rock their world.”

The training process, rather, involves a bag stuffed with a chain and an ability to growl by the owner.

  • “When we growl, we want them to stop doing what they are doing and then get them to do what we want them to do,” Reuning said.

One of the most important aspects of training is body language and height.

  • “Height is very important in the dog world,” Reuning said. “When correcting them, we need to stand up and give them full height.”

The training bags are used for a similar reason usually earlier in the training process.

  • “We want to be able to work with the voice and not throw these bags around,” Reuning said. “The best thing to work with them is with your voice.”

Reuning said the use of the voice is important both while correcting and praising a dog.

  • “Catch them when they are thinking about doing something, because that is when you want to correct them,” Reuning said. “It is much more effective when they are thinking about it, then praise them the moment they respond. They also need to know what it is they have done right.”

Reuning said different voices are used for correcting and praising. Lighter tones are used when praising, and normal tones are used to command and the growl is used to correct a behavior.
Reuning also helped Coleson with information about nutrition for the dogs as well as other tips.
Reuning, who owns Bark Busters, was a social worker for 10 years before she eventually turned her attention to training dogs.
As a social worker in Waukesha County, Reuning performed in-home counseling of families and teenagers.
Reuning said it is not uncommon to save the relationship between the family and the dog.

  • “It is wonderful to help the people and the dog,” she said. “Sometimes you go out and the person is ready to give the dog up.”
  • Reuning said she recently saved a dog from its last trip to the pound.

  • “This dog they would have given it back,” Reuning said. “It would have been put down because it was its third family.”

While the Coleson family wasn’t ready to do that, Joie said she had enough of the two dogs acting the way they were. That is what prompted to the call to Reuning. But the training is not close to being over.

  • “It is going to be a whole new training,” Coleson said. “Right now, we are teaching them who is in charge and who is not.”

Reuning said the in-home training can be much more successful because the trainer and the dog are dealing with specific problems that occur in the house.

  • “We are able to set boundaries in the house,” Reuning said. “Without coming to the house, showing them and re-enacting, you can’t do that in the classroom.”


Reprinted with permission from Lake Geneva Regional News 04-19-05

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