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(This article, written by Anne Katona, was first published in the AKC Gazette breed column in February 2004. We are grateful to the author and to the AKC for their permission to publish all the Kerry Blue Terrier Breed Columns on the USKBTC website.)

AKC Gazette Breed Column
February 2004

Training Tidbits

Does your Kerry Blue come when called? Sit and stay when told to do so? If not, is it the dog’s fault or the owner/trainer’s fault? According to Alon Geva, a professional dog trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in dog aggression and behavior modification, one of the things needed to be a good trainer is knowing that an individuals personality will influence their style of training. Owners who do not understand this put undue blame on their dogs. As a result, some owners consider their dogs untrainable or stupid. Kerry Blues are not stupid or untrainable but instead they probably lack in proper training. To be successful in training a Kerry, one needs to understand how individual personalities affect the dogs learning process.

The natural tendency of the dog is to go as far as possible within the social order of the pack. One of the keys to successful dog rearing is for the owner to establish himself as a pack leader and maintain that position throughout the dog’s life.

There are many different types of owner characteristics and sometimes one owner may display more than one personality type at different times. Two of the main personality types that adversely affect any dog are the domineering owner and the over indulgent owner.

The domineering personality type owner can either be physically or vocally domineering and at times both. The physically domineering owner tends to use physical force or punishment in trying to correct their dog’s misbehavior. Besides disciplining harshly, these domineering owners play roughly with their dogs in games like tug-of-war and wrestling. The vocally domineering owner uses his voice forcefully. He will yell at the dog, often using the dog’s name in the process. The following illustrates how specific behavior affects the dog.

Physical punishment:
Owners might use newspapers (or any other handy object) to hit the dog. This will trigger in some dogs the sight/bite reflex toward any fast moving object.

Pushing the dog’s nose in their excrement in order to housebreak: This method is ineffective; dogs simply do not understand what is wanted of them.

Playing roughly:
Unknowingly this game teaches the dog to challenge the owner. From the dog’s point of view you are allowing him to dominate. Then, when you do not want him to be rough he is confused. You are sending him conflicting messages.

Shouting and using the dog’s name: When you shout the dog feels intimidated and by using his name in the process it makes the dog associate his name with punishment.

All of the concepts mentioned will cause the dog to be a poor performer. For a domineering owner to be successful in training he needs an attitude change toward the dog. He must train through whispers and praise. A person who is indeed in charge will never have to yell or use force.

The next column will deal with the over-indulgent owner. Other training tips can be found by logging on to the USKBTC website,


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