"People forget that dog training is about nature," she says. "You're given this chance to connect to a higher self. How your dog behaves is a barometer for how in tune with nature you are. People who aren't resourceful use power and force. They don't realize it's about working in harmony to meet their needs and the dog's needs."
To modify a dog's behavior, Geller says an owner must rethink her relationship with her dog. "Whenever you're in a relationship and someone is doing something you don't like, you work together to find a solution and resolve conflict," she says. "With dogs, it's no different. You have to work together to meet each other's needs."
Geller suggests that dog owners use the following techniques when training their dogs:
- Use a calm, friendly tone. "You want to sound like you're celebrating," she says.
- Use specifics to let the dog know you're pleased or displeased with his behavior. Geller discourages people from using "good boy" or "good girl" as a reward for doing something like sitting. Instead, respond with "Good sit!" or saying "sit" in a cheerful tone.
- Choose three different levels or qualities of treats—bronze, silver and gold—to reward your dog. By doing this, you reinforce behavior with a treat that is compensatory to what the dog has accomplished. "No one does anything for nothing, even dogs," Geller says. "People who say it's not fair to reward with treats, I tell them, 'You get paid for your work, don't you?'"
- Be consistent and patient. "You don't get a plant, water it for three weeks and think you're done," Geller says. "When you're inconsistent and you lose interest because it's hard, you've lost your gratitude for the gift you have in your dog."
"You don't have to get a puppy," she says. "[Older dogs] are always willing. You wouldn't give up on someone just because they're 50, would you? No! When you're training an older dog, you're finding new ways to have fun with them."
Watch Geller use her step-by-step approach on Oprah's golden retrievers!