How to Teach Your Min Pin Almost Anything
Min Pin Obedience in 3 Steps
This lens is about training your dog, min pins in particular, but the same strategy can be applied to almost anything with a pulse, e.g., your spouse, children, extended family, friends, or people in general. Three basic principles are key when training a dog: consistency, reinforcement (positive or negative), and repetition. Used correctly, these three principles can get your willful canine under control. On this page you will also find combat-tested training tips and strategies.
Step 1: Consistency
Laying the groundwork
Being consistent teaches your dog what it is that you want it to do. If you're like most dog owners, you want your dog to act appropriately in the house (chewing on only its toys and refraining from pottying in the house, e.g.). You probably also want your dog to interact well with people by not jumping on or barking at visitors. Your dog does not know these things until you teach it how to act.
Dogs are good at putting together (e.g, cause and effect). If you are trying to teach it to not jump on visitors, you might command it to "down" and "stay" every time the doorbell rings. When it does, you give it a treat, as discussed below in reinforcement. Soon, the dog will understand what it is you want it to do. Because min pins are very intelligent, the dog learning what you want it to do happens quickly. In fact, this can occur in as few as 2-3 times. Getting the dog to do the behavior every time just because you command it, however, can be a slower process. That is where the next two sections, reinforcement and repetition, apply.
Miniature Pinscher books - Research is the key
To find a dog that suits your family and lifestyle, you must research the temperament of the dog breed you have in mind. Because min pins can be a high maintenance breed, you'll want to learn as much as possible before you adopt.
Dogs are Great
Do you have a favorite activity to do with your dog? Does your dog have a favorite activity to do with you? What is fun and great about your dog?
What is your favorite activity to do with your dog?
Step 2: Reinforcement
Reinforcement teaches your dog what will happen if it does or does not do what you are asking it to do. Reward or punishment is the strongest tool you have to train your dog. The key here is to identify your dog's favorite and least favorite things. Food is an obvious favorite for most dogs. Choosing a food that you can keep close at hand is important. For example, I simply use 2-3 kernels of kibble. It doesn't need to be refrigerated, and thus can be taken on trips, and is always on hand at our house. For some reason, if it comes out of the "treat bowl" instead of out of their feed sack, it is absolutely wonderful. I think it's hilarious to watch them do tricks and go wild for just a piece or two of kibble right after they have eaten a whole bowl of it.
Teach Tricks wth Treats! - Get to your min pin's heart through its tummy.
Dogs need lots of positive reinforcement. Treats, when planned in their daily food allowance, are great rewards.
Tip: Teaching "No"
Min pins can be big pretenders when it comes to something they don't want to do. If your dog doesn't "understand" your command after you've worked on it quite awhile, try negative reinforcement to get to the truth.
They're Smarter Than You Think.
Negative reinforcement is sometimes necessary
I must admit that I have been outsmarted by my miniature pinschers. More than once. Here is one story. When I brought Zeus home, he was so little that I thought he was too young to learn commands. I had been trying for months to teach him, "no," but he didn't understand. Since he didn't understand that, I thought there was no use trying to teach him other commands. Then I thought of using a water gun for reinforcement. It only took once, and I found out that he had likely known what "no" meant for quite some time.
Here is one way we have implemented negative reinforcement. Our dogs, like most, would like to bark at other dogs. One of my neighbors has had hunting dogs for years, but my dogs and theirs never paid any attention to each other. However, for some reason unbeknown to me, my dogs started barking at the neighbor's dogsrepeatedly. Every time I let our dogs out, it sounded as if a vicious dog fight had ensued. (The barking was from my two dogs; the neighbor dogs were silent.) I knew it was time to purchase the supersoaker. Now, we can get them to stop barking on command. In fact, they have learned the phrase, "Don't make me get the water gun."
To Punish or Not?
Shredding TP--A most fun game
You should only punish your dog if it knows why it is being punished. The goal of reinforcement (positive or negative) is to change future behavior. If the dog has no idea why it's being punished, it can't change its behavior. The decision of whether or not to punish can be a fine line, though. Don't under-estimate your dog's memory.
A perfect example of this was when we were having trouble with Zeus shredding toilet paper. We had read that if you don't catch your dog doing wrong within 5 minutes of it committing the crime, you shouldn't punish it because it won't remember what it did. So, we didn't punish him unless we knew the shredding was recent. One day, I came home, let Zeus out of his crate, and walked down the hall by the bathroom. Zeus was following. As we approached the bathroom door, he screeched to a halt. I peeked around the corner and sure enough, the floor was littered with shredded toilet paper. By the time I turned around to look at him, he was hiding out in his crate. Zeus had out-smarted me again.
I believe that punishment worked in this case because Zeus already knew that he was not supposed to shred TP. Thus, taking him back to the scene of the crime was the reminder that he had done something wrong. If, however, he hadn't known that shredding TP was wrong, I think he would have had no idea why he was being punished.
To Punish or Not, Continued
The case of our Houdini dog
Here is an example of when not to punish. Athena is our Houdini dog. I think she can escape from most anywhere. Fortunately for us, she chooses not to run away. One instance of this is when we were taking them to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near our home in Oklahoma. I needed to go in the visitor's center to get a trail map, but it was a nice day and so I thought I could leave the dogs in the car with the windows rolled down since they were tucked safely in their car carriers. However, as I found out later, Athena proved that the car carriers were not inescapable. When I came back, she was sitting in the front seat (my seat) happily waiting for my return. She had unzipped her carrier from the inside! I didn't punish her for getting out of her carrier because she would not have connected the scolding with her mischief. She wouldn't have understood why I was mad when she was so happy to see me. As you can see from these two examples, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether or not to punish. Many times it is a judgment call. There is one thing to keep in mind: if what you are doing is not working, you might want to try something else.
Leave It! - Delayed gratification: reaching a milestone
The "leave it" command can be very useful. I am most grateful for it when my dogs find disgusting things on their walks.
Step 3: Repetition
The home stretch
Repetition solidifies a command and demonstrates your authority over the dog. Any dog can learn any trick given enough repetition--if it is physically capable and the trick does not hurt the dog. Min pins, as a rule, have dominant temperaments. At obedience school, Zeus seemed excessively dominant. In fact, the dog trainer said that she had never seen a more stubborn dog. When we asked how to teach a dog to play dead, she told us that Zeus was too stubborn, and it couldn't be done. Then she showed the rest of the class how to teach it. But, we were determined to teach this trick, and we worked on it 5 minutes a day every day. A year later, he would finally do it! I think the trainer was correct in one way--Zeus was very stubborn; however, we just had to be more stubborn than Zeus was.
We did not know how thankful we would be for having taught him this trick. This is because we later learned that Zeus doesn't have dominance issues, but he does have aggression issues, and the "dead dog" trick has been a miracle in dealing with Zeus. It seems that it is impossible for Zeus to be aggressive when he is lying on his back. So, if he is growling, we use the "dead dog" command, and the growling immediately stops as he rolls on his back.
Keep your dog safe
Proper training is essential to your pet's safety, and repetition may make the difference between obedience and injury to your min pin. Once, one of our back yard gates had been left open. Zeus was between me and the open gate. I called him, and he started to come, but then, he realized that he had a choice. He looked at me then the gate. He repeated this once or twice. Then he started to trot to the gate. After I muttered a few choice words to myself, I repeated the command firmly, and (thank goodness) he came back. We immediately started remedial sessions on the "come" command. Like the "dead dog" trick, we worked on "come" 5 minutes a day, and after several months of training, he now reacts to it without thinking. I would like to mention that most dogs (even most min pins) are not as stubborn as Zeus, and so it will probably take less repetition (weeks or months instead of months or years) to engrain a desired command. With the core commands, come, sit, stay, heel, and the release command, e.g., whatever length of time it takes to solidify those commands is worth the effort. It will make the difference between having an enjoyable pet or an uncontrollable animal.
Tip: Alpha Roll - Assert your dominance
Min pins have typically dominant temperaments. One way to show your authority is with the alpha roll-demonstrated by Zeus, below. Simply roll your dog over and place your hand on its chest. Look it directly in the eye. It will look away when you have gotten your point across.
Control Your Canine - Keeping dominance under wraps
As I mentioned earlier, min pins tend to have dominant temperaments. This means that you will need to put extra work into asserting yourself as the leader of the pack. A head collar is a gentle way to get your willful canine under control. Unlike pinch and choke collars, which can cause collapsing trachea, the head collar does not put undue pressure on the neck. Be sure to read the instructions to get a proper fit.
Tip: Catching an Escaped Dog
If your min pin ever slips out of its harness, don't panic. Running after it may start a game of "chase."
Min Pin on the Loose!
A dog owner's nightmare
One of my min pins, Athena, is an escape artist. I have learned how to recapture her; however, I learned this through a dangerous route. I hope I can spare you the potential grief.
We were coming home from our walk one day, and I tugged on Athena to "come along." To my surprise, I found myself tugging on an empty harness. I panicked, and started chasing after her. She thought this game of "chase" was the most fun game she had ever played. I tried to keep her off the busy residential street on which we live by standing between her and the street, but she figured this out. She started darting by me and running into the street. I, of course, darted out into traffic right after her (not recommended, by the way). After about an hour of trampling through several neighbors' front and back yards, making many vehicles come to a screeching halt, and my heart stopping at least a dozen times, a friend and some neighbors stopped, and they had treats. We finally caught her and took her to safety.
The lesson in this case: be smarter than the dog. Now, if she escapes, which she occasionally does despite my best efforts, I simply turn my back on her, and she comes back to get me-to play our game of chase, of course. I can then scoop her up and return her to captivity.
Other Discipline Techniques
Redirection and Removal
Redirection is a powerful tool. It teaches your dog what to do, as well as what not to do. The best example of when to use redirection is when your dog is chewing on something inappropriate. Your dog, especially a puppy, will chew. It is a fact of life. Thus, teaching it what to chew is important. In a gruff voice you say "no." Then, in a high-pitched, sweet voice, say "chew this" and give your dog a toy or other appropriate chew. Tone of voice is as important as the words you speak.
Sometimes, it is best to remove the temptation. When we moved to a new house, Zeus started pooping in the spare bedroom. I was bewildered because he hadn't messed in the house in years. When I caught him in the act, I said gruffly, "no." Then I carried him outside and told him to do his business. He watched me suspiciously the entire time. I suspect that he thought I was going to scold him. Then I gave him a treat after he did his business outside, and he was totally bewildered. From his actions, I'm guessing that he didn't see the spare bedroom as part of the house because we rarely went in there. He just thought it was a nice, warm place to do his business. Since he was so bewildered, we just started keeping the door shut.
Amazing Animals - Do they live, laugh, and love, too?
These books reinforce what common sense and observation have told us about animals: they are complex creatures with a wide range of emotions. The Emotional Lives of Animals gives a very scientific view of emotions in a wide range of species whereas A Dog's Purpose is a fictional, but no less plausible, account of canine emotions. One thing is certain: after reading these books, you'll understand your dog better, be better equipped to train it, and get more enjoyment out of your time with it.
In the 11 years I've had with Zeus, I'm not sure who has learned more--Zeus or me, but somehow we have learned to live together happily and enjoy each other. In your dog training journey, you will find that there are libraries full of books containing advice about how to train your dog. I hope in your visit here you've learned some common sense approaches to dog training and have gained some insight into doggie psychology. But, also remember one other thing: if you're not enjoying your dog, you're doing something wrong. New content will be added regularly so check back often. Thanks for reading.
Zeus and Jana
All about miniature pinschers - More About Zeus, the Miniature Pinscher
Be sure to check out Zeus's other lenses! You'll find tips, suggestions, and information about miniature pinschers. Also included are personal stories, with which min pin owners might identify.
- Zeus's Diaries: Life of a Miniature Pinscher
This lens contains information about topics such as the history of Min Pins, origins of dogs, canine emotions, and human-canine interactions wrapped in examples from the lives of my Min Pins, Zeus and Athena. Min Pins are a very entertaining breed, a
- How to Outfit Your Min Pin in Style
Items you need before you bring your Min Pin or small dog home and why you need them.
- Zeus's favorite things: Items no min pin owner needs (but they all want)
Did you know that Min Pin underwear is available for sale? Find that and loads of other fun Min Pin stuff.
- Zeus's Doghouse
This link will take you away from Squidoo to Zeus's official web site. Once there, find features such as forums, a photo gallery, history of Min Pins, just to name a few. Most of all, it is devoted to the camaraderie of Miniature Pinschers everywhere
- I Love Miniature Pinschers
This is a lens for those whose hearts have been stolen by Min Pins. It includes miniature pinscher history, personality, and why min pins make such great pets.
- Great Books for Dog Lovers
This page is about some of the great books I have read--both fiction and non-fiction. Several of the books are about Miniature Pinschers, but many are about dogs in general. There is even a book for young readers--The Other Dog by Madeleine L'Engle.
- The Ultimate Dog Owner's Guide
The Ultimate Dog Owner's Guide is a collection of pages encompassing what I have learned as a dog owner throughout the years from trainers, veterinarians, books, and experience.
- Top 10 Foods Harmful to Dogs
Most people know that you should not feed your dog chocolate, but did you know that grapes and raisins can be toxic, too? Read about these two foods as well as eight others that you shouldn't give your dog.
Min Pin Mania - Miniature Pinscher breed info and other useful links
Below, you will find links to a blog by Alpha Chic, as well as the Miniature Pinscher Club of America, American Kennel Club, and other sites with useful information about the Miniature Pinscher breed, and dogs in general.
- Min Pin Mania
A blog by Alpha Chic. Includes dog training, dog health, places to submit pet memorials and your favorite Min Pin pics.
- Miniature Pinscher Club of America
The MPCA is dedicated to protecting and advancing the interests of the Miniature Pinscher.
- AKC MEET THE BREEDSÂ®: Miniature Pinscher
Includes history and breed standard.
- Discuss Pets @ PetLovers.Com
Forums for owners of all types of pets.
Out of the Dog House - My lenses on topics other than dogs
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Have you ever rung English handbells? Have you ever heard of them? Visit this lens to see how to ring and watch amazing handbell performances.
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Many people make good margaritas, but how do you make them great? Visit this lens and see!
- Best Science Jokes of All Time
Science is a funny profession. Don't believe me? Check it out here.
Here is a place for all min pin owners, dog owners, wanna-be dog owners, and anyone who drops by to tell us your stories about training a dog, or just leave a note.