In order to give me a better understanding of how to approach dog behavioural issues, I bit the bullet and read Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan. For all those unfamiliar with his methods, the basic gist is that a dog owner must look within to find the root causes of dog misbehaviour. Rather than a trainer taking a dog out of its environment and "fixing" it, Millan encourages owners to analyze what they are doing wrong in their daily interactions, or the energy that they are projecting while handling their dogs. For me, the biggest problem I deal with, is the fact that my dog will not come when I call her in the yard. When this occurs, I vacillate from being frantic to frustrated which only serves to make her more indifferent to my commands. In addition to this, she had a tendency to become overprotective of me in the yard, to the point where any passerby would encounter a barking Onyx who would run back and forth guarding her territory.
I must confess that Onyx still ignores me while we are in the yard, unless I happen to be holding a favourite toy. The territorial behaviour has gone by the wayside and I think that some of the techniques that I learned from Cesar Millan have helped quite a bit. He presents step by step instructions about how to approach everyday situations that dog owners face and gives easy to follow examples. Right away I changed my pre-walk ritual so that the walk is a calm time and I am in control of the leash. In the past, my dog used her strength to walk me, track prey and sniff constantly while walking in front of me the whole time. She will now walk behind or beside me throughout the walk and accepts corrections when she starts tracking animals, or stops too often to sniff. With these changes, which have not taken long to implement, my morning walk is now more of a zen experience and even my partner has noticed the difference in Onyx's behaviour.
For those even contemplating dog ownership, I think it is important to assess whether or not a constant commitment to self assessment and behaviour modification is for them. Some people are just not able to look at what energy they are projecting to their animals, but for everyone else, Millan's techniques are a good place to start.