Are you the proud owner of a German Shepherd, Great Dane or maybe a Mastiff? While these dogs are a joy to be around and devoted companions, training them can be a bit more tricky than training smaller dogs. Here are 5 life-hacks you need in order to succeed.
Down Only On Soft Ground
You have probably taught your dog to lie down already, and might have found that he seems to refuse to go down onto hard ground such as tile floor, concrete or asphalt. Large dog breeds tend to have very sensitive elbows which hurt easily if we ask them to lie down on hard surfaces. Over time this can lead to the dog refusing to lie down altogether. To avoid this, only ask your dog to lie down on soft ground such as grass or carpet. If you are planning to take your dog along to a restaurant patio or coffee shop, take a soft mat with you that your dog can lie down on and relax.
You might think that big dogs need big treats for training. This is not true! Large breeds need to be watched especially close so that they do not put on too much weight. Every extra pound is problematic on their joints and overweight large dogs are prone to developing arthritis.
The good news is that even big dogs can work for small treats! Since most dogs practically inhale their training treats anyway, they won’t even notice if the cookie they get is the size of a cherry or the size of a pea. By breaking up your treats into smaller pieces or buying small training treats, you can not only manage your dog’s weight, but also save some money and get more out of your training sessions!
Large dogs have long backs. The size of some big breeds such as the Great Dane makes it very difficult to walk them on a regular 4-to-6 foot long leash. The dog will automatically be pulling when he is walking in front of you just because of the length of his back. Luckily there are leashes of all lengths on the market. 8 foot leashes work much better for large breeds, and will be more comfortable for both you and the dog. Finding the right leash is going to vastly improve training walks for the two of you.
Body Awareness Training
Many large dogs are unaware of their size. They might crash into people while playing, knock over vases with their wagging tail, or even push over smaller dogs just while walking around the house. Their lack of body awareness can however be improved with the right training approach. Dogs can be taught to know and pay attention to where their body is and how to move it carefully. You can start by setting up a little obstacle course for your dog in your living room: Pool noodles to walk over, cardboard boxes to step in, and cushions to balance on. Over time, your dog’s skills will grow and he will be a lot more mindful of his body.
Big Does Not Mean Bold
Large breeds often are quite fearful. The size of their body does not always go along with bravery. Make sure that your dog does not get scared or intimidated by other dogs at the dog park, other people that want to pet her, or loud noises. Fears and phobias can best be avoided by carefully monitoring the dog’s emotional state and always giving him the option to leave a situation when she is uncomfortable. Let your dog choose what she feels happy with and what not. A large dog that has deeply ingrained reactivity can be very difficult to manage, so make sure that your dog does not learn it in the first place.
Have fun training your large breed dog!