This post is sponsored by PawCulture™ and the BlogPaws® Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated to help share PawCulture but I only share information I feel is relevant to my readers. PawCulture is not responsible for the content of this article.
I have a confession to make. My Pharaoh Hound Freya- a breed that is supposed to be “easy to train” and “eager to please”- is proving to be, well, kind of untrainable. Seriously. I am feeling like a complete and utter pet parent failure here. I’ve read all the books, watched all the TV shows with celebrity trainers. I’ve made the “tsh, tsh” noise when she misbehaves, used a firm voice and attempted (and failed) to exert myself as the all-powerful “alpha.” Something just isn’t clicking, and I don’t think it’s Freya’s fault.
Well, it’s not entirely her fault, anyway. I do think that some dogs, like people, are just very strong-willed. Kind of like how my son’s doctor told me when he was just a few months old that he was what they call a “high-spirited” child. Which, FYI, is code for “will try your patience until you curl up in a little ball in your bathroom rocking back and forth.” Freya is absolutely a high-spirited” dog. But back to how it’s not entirely her fault. After all, like they say, there are no bad dogs, only bad trainers.
Training a High-Spirited Dog: How PawCulture Changed My Approach
PawCulture™ is pretty much the ultimate “pet lifestyle” site filled with tips, tricks and entertaining pics about life with a pet. While I found so many pieces there that resonated with me, one in particular made so many things click in my head and validated every feeling I’ve had about what I may be doing wrong when it comes to training Freya. The article talks about outdated dog training techniques, and boy is it an eye opener.
Flashback episode time! Way back in 2001, before dog training shows became popular, we had two relatively well-behaved pooches. Sure, Tasha and Maia did their fair share of stealing from the counter or orchestrating incredible escapes from our backyard, but for the most part, they were really good dogs. They listened, the went potty outside and they kind of, sort of settled down when they were told to do so. I’m not saying they were perfect examples of training in action, but hey, they were probably more civilized than most people I know!
We didn’t crate train because both Tasha and Maia screamed so loud at night, I was afraid the neighbors would call the cops in fear that we were being attacked by hyenas. We didn’t assert ourselves as Alphas, Betas, Deltas or Omegas. We just did what people have been doing for thousands of years with domesticated dogs: we used repetition and rewards to teach them what was expected of them, and accepted that they had minds of their own when it came to the rest. Basically, we winged it.
Fast-forward to a few months ago, to the day we brought Freya home. Pharaoh Hounds have been domesticated for so long, it appears in hieroglyphs on the pyramids, so you’d think they have this whole “act like a civilized pooch” down pretty well by now. Every bit of research I did before picking her up indicated that she would be a cinch to train. After just around three months together, I still spend more than half of my day (and my mom spends the other half) following her around, saying “Freya, no!” in my best Alpha-Dog voice.
What am I doing wrong???
So what did I learn from PawCulture’s article that changed everything? Well, for one thing, it’s time to drop the “alpha dog” thing. This one tip alone made me rethink everything I thought I knew about dog training. The article explains that the alpha concept is based on outdated and flawed research from way back in the 1940s. Maybe it does work on some dogs, but it’s just not working on Freya. Case in point: when she’s outside barking her head off at something that she sees way off in the distance (she is a sighthound, after all), the only way to get her inside is to use my “I have something even better that you want” voice, rather than the “your Alpha is calling you, you’d better come back to the pack now” voice.
The article goes on to talk about how treat-based training really is more beneficial than withholding treats. Freya knows one command very well: down. You know how she learned it? With treats. Everything that I’ve taught her using a treat-based reward system has worked infinitely better than any attempts to train her to obey just for the sake of listening to her “alpha.” In fact, when I’ve made it exciting and fun for her to learn, she does learn pretty quickly, a method that PawCulture reiterates several times.
Other tips include avoiding training methods that I’ve never used and never would: pain and punishment. Like the author of the article, I do not believe in hurting a dog to get a point across. With Pharaoh Hounds, avoiding these methods is even more important. They’re somewhat timid dogs and negative training methods will cause them to shut down. Pharaoh Hounds just can’t be trained with intimidation methods. They ONLY respond to positive training.
Ultimately, the article helped me rethink how we’re going about training Freya. We still have a long way to go with Freya when it comes to establishing good habits and reinforcing the skills she’s already learned. I finally feel like I have a better understanding of what will work to build on in future training sessions. My biggest takeaway from this article: pet parenting is a lot like child parenting. Every dog is different, and we have to be flexible with our training methods. One expert’s advice may work flawlessly, but if it doesn’t, we can’t be afraid to switch things up and let go of our preconceived ideas of “the right way” to train a dog.
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Was your dog easy to train? What method did you use? Share any tips you have for training a challenging pup below!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of PawCulture. The opinions and text are all mine.