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What does it mean when your dog stares at you like you're completely crazy?
It might seem as though the day you take a puppy home is the day that you are about to experience the happiest days of your life. You are about to raise an amazing family. You are about to have an adventure. You are going to bring a little furball into your home and give it all you have to make sure it's one happy canine. But, I'm sorry to say, it may not be quite like that.
For most of us who adopt puppies and dogs, it's the worst day of our lives when we find out we are also going to experience the worst day of our puppy's/dog's life as well.
Why is that?
It's important to remember that your dog doesn't have any idea who he is or who you are or who the rest of the world is, but he does have an amazing sense of purpose and focus. It's that same sense of purpose and focus that causes him to stare at you with these curious expressions on his face as though you're completely crazy.
"I was very lucky, I had a very good foster home, and my family took me in as their own for the next five years," says Susan. "They gave me the care and attention that my parents couldn't, so I didn't worry about anything. This was a very rare case of a healthy puppy in a home where people were really interested in training him."
Susan had been a professional dog trainer, and she was confident she could teach this dog who looked so much like her on the outside that she would be able to show him that he was a good dog. She could even be the mother figure in his life.
So it's no surprise that she was able to get him housebroken, train him to go outside, show him what good manners were, train him to be obedient, and put him on a diet.
She even knew all the tricks that would teach him to sit, stay, heel, stay in one place, and walk nicely on a leash.
When she brought the new puppy home and introduced him to her family, it was love at first sight. But he had a lot to learn. "We got the usual mix of training issues—not knowing what he was supposed to do and being bossed around by family members. That was one of the hardest parts, and the one I got the most phone calls for. He was constantly begging to go out and he never listened to any commands, so I tried different training methods, tried to figure out what would work with him. My dad even tried everything from pulling and yelling to pulling and spanking, and he had terrible tantrums."
Finally, Susan says, "My dad decided he would start a training program, and he got the idea that we should try positive reinforcement. So I went with it, and I have to say I have never been as proud of my dog as I have been since that first week."
"Positive reinforcement" means rewarding your dog every time he does what you want, regardless of whether he actually listened to you, stayed in one place, sat, walked politely, stopped barking—in other words, _the same things you already told him to do_ , and doing them well. The method is just a new twist on teaching your dog, but it works! "It's the technique used to train dogs with autism and other psychiatric issues, and I think it's excellent for him, too. But you have to be very patient and consistent," Susan explains.
Now, Susan says, she and her family use a collar with a pressure control built in and use the button to tell the dog when he is going too far— _or off the leash_.
"This way, I can make the corrections if he comes in off the leash—and he has to stand there until I say 'Okay' or it will get worse."
She also uses the leash to give herself a "moment" before the correction. "I tell him, 'Good boy,' and then I say 'Okay,' and if he doesn't comply, I get a little stern with him. If he is really far off, I will use the leash to nudge him with a tap, and then give him another 'Okay' before I snap the leash. After several times of doing this, I will take the leash off and praise him for not coming into the house and give him a 'Good boy.'"
While this training technique is the newest technique in helping Satchi achieve control over her own situation and behavior, she is certainly not the first autistic person to find out that training can work. "There are many others out there, including two from my own family—my mom and my brother-in-law—who have done the same thing with their dogs," Satchi explained. "They learned from watching me how to use the leash correctly to train a dog. I love this system because it works, and it is very simple and easy to learn. The leash-training works best for me because the training is in my hands, not the dog's, and I can correct myself if I make a mistake."
Although a collar is often helpful for training a dog to obey, and some people have actually found that it is easier to get a dog to respond to a voice, Satchi has found that she prefers the leash, especially the training technique with the use of the pressure-sensitive button.
As for making the correction—as Satchi says, "I only have to ask a couple of times. It is easy to know when you have succeeded or failed. It is very similar to the way my mom trained me. She would look at me and tell me what she wanted me to do. I had to repeat it back to her in order to make sure I understood."
## A Dog's Behavior:
### How to Know If a Dog Is Being Aggressive or Not
While the training is an important part of successful training, many trainers claim that the dog's behavior is the most important aspect in determining if he is ready for training. This includes Satchi. "If the dog is overly aggressive or if he's not interested in training at all, I don't do it," Satchi said. "I can tell at a glance if a dog is behaving aggressively or if he's just being a pain in the butt."
In the last two chapters, Satchi explained in more detail her methodology for training her dogs. She has a number of methods she uses when training each dog, such as giving a verbal cue, or the use of a clicker—which many of Satchi's friends use—and the method of using a whistle, and using her leg. And Satchi would be one of the first to tell you that she is a visual trainer, or she prefers to use her eyes to evaluate how her dogs are behaving.
When training her dogs, Satchi would usually sit and watch them for a while first. "I want to watch how they're moving," she said. "If a dog is going to be difficult, I won't get too close to him. He might be a little jumpy around you or get excited and pushy. If I am close to him, I'm not going to get as far with him."
But Satchi would also be watching her dog's body language, to see what the dog is doing, and how he is responding to her. If she sees that a dog is getting excited around her and not listening to what she says, she will stop training that dog. "I have to make sure that I train each dog differently. He might be a