Training your Dog - Do's and Don'ts

Obedient Dogs Spell Freedom for the Owner

I never thought I would be a full-fledged "dog person," but I have recently found myself owning three dogs that I never asked for! I know some of our readers own more than three, but you most likely chose them. I didn't get to choose my dogs. I inherited them. All three of them.

I own a Miniature Pinscher named Trixie, a Siberian Husky named Kodah, and a Terrier/Yorkie mix named Mandy. Trixie was my daughter's dog, left to us when she got married ten years ago. Eight years ago, my husband chose and brought home Kodah on Christmas Eve, and a couple of years ago, we inherited Mandy from my mother-in-law, who went to live in an assisted living facility.

So, due to my kind heart, I have officially rescued three dogs from unknown futures. What came next was learning, the hard way, how to care for these dogs. Luckily, my three children are grown, or I wouldn't have the time or the energy to care for these pets.

The smaller dogs are easy to care for on a daily basis. It is the Husky that has brought the need for training and obedience to my attention.

I recently met Lynda Smith, the owner of Happy & Behaved Dog in Conroe, known for being this area's female dog whisperer.

"Too many people think that the dog is the problem," Smith said. "When truly it is the dog owner who needs the training of how to handle their own dog. A pack leader is everything, caretaker, and corrector. As pack leader, you have to lead the dogs to participation, and if one dog in a pack turns its cheek to the participation in the pack, a pack member will correct."

Smith teaches people how to be the Pack Leader. Their posture, position, tone, and timing are essential to care for and correct the dog properly. Her other priority is to teach people how to satisfy the dog's nature.

"The purpose of and meaning of how their brains think, their lives should be lived, and the importance of how to allow the dog to utilize their senses with their nose, eyes, and ears," Smith said.

By using these methods, Smith can correct household behaviors and manners, how to walk the dog and socialize your pet with other animals.

Aaron Tolman, the Sit Means Sit Dog Training owner, is located in Conroe. He began his dog training business five years ago after being in the restaurant industry.

"I knew next to nothing about dog training," Tolman said. "I had used some other trainers to train my dogs in the past with unsatisfying results. After another disappointing experience with a trainer, I was trying to do it myself by watching YouTube videos."

As he was looking for another business to start, he came upon Sit Means Sit dog training. "I fell in love with their training and jumped in feet first and have loved every minute since," Tolman said.

Since he began training pet owners and their dogs five years ago, Tolman says that "trained dogs have a much better quality of life and are significantly happier than dogs without training. Obedience equals freedom. The better behaved your dog is, the greater freedom it enjoys."

Both Smith and Tolman love what they do, and they get to be part of the transformation of each dog. Smith helped me transform my Husky in just four hours. I still have to work with him daily, but he is a better dog, and I am a better Pack Leader because of her training.

"I love training dogs with aggression and reactivity issues," Tolman said. "You get to see and be part of the transformation of a fearful and mean dog that learns to relax and turns into a cuddle bug typically. Seeing the client and dog's life improve for the better is the most rewarding part of the day."

Both Smith and Tolman agree that all bad behavior from dogs circles back to a lack of leadership, aka "The Pack Leader."

When I first spoke to Smith, she said, "I'm not going to train your dog. I am going to train YOU! I am going to train you to become the Pack Leader." I was floored. But it made sense. I was not being a very good Pack Leader by allowing Kodah to pull me all over my neighborhood after a long day at the office. From the time I arrived at Happy and Behaved Dog, Smith taught me how to approach Kodah and speak, handle, and walk him. He began making behavioral changes within the first 30 minutes.

"When we don't provide the leadership the dog needs, we leave the decision-making up to our dog," Tolman said. "Being in charge and making every decision is stressful for our dogs. They are pack animals, and they want to follow someone else's lead. The stress of being in charge leads to anxiety, aggression, or both."

Tolman took on a German Shepard that had bit several people and wouldn't allow anyone to touch her. "She now snuggles and loves affection from people. It's the greatest thing to get to see those dogs change like that," he said.

Tips from the experts:

Structure, boundaries, and rules are your dog's best friend.

· Provide guidelines on correct behavior. Don't tell your dog what behavior you want when training your dog.  

· If your dog jumps on people, don't tell it no, off, or down. 

· Teach your dog to sit. 

"Unfortunately, we all know what we don't want our dogs to do, but we need to take it one step farther and teach it the correct behavior," Tolman said.

Smith has had successful stories of transformation, as well.

Because I learned how to be a better Pack Leader, I now know how to handle my Husky, which gives him the freedom to be a dog and not be aggressive during our walks. It gives me the freedom not to worry about him attacking another dog because I am the one in charge. I AM the Pack Leader.

To learn more about these two dog trainers, visit or Happy & Behaved Dog on Facebook.

Before purchasing a new dog, consider adopting a dog in need from the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Many of the dogs and cats are in urgent need of placement based on the length of time at the shelter. Space is limited at the shelter, and sometimes they must make difficult decisions. The MCAS now offers wellness services by appointment on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm. Volunteers are always needed to walk dogs.

Ever since Aaron Toman, owner of Sit Means Sit Dog Training, began training pet owners and their dogs five years ago, Tolman said that "trained dogs have a much better quality of life and are significantly happier than dogs without training. Obedience equals freedom. The better behaved your dog is, the greater freedom it enjoys."

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