Fundamentals of Training
The first step in any type of dog training is to develop a way of communicating. Using a way of communicating which promotes mutual understanding is essential. Only with clear concise communication can you achieve clarity and lack of confusion when asking the dog to perform.
The second step is to observe the dogs’ natural behaviors and responses to stimuli (sound, movement, reactions to your body language and your voice). No matter what his responses are, once you have learned what his reactions are to these things, you will have found the “key” to a way to communicate with him.
All dog training is based upon a dogs understanding of right and wrong. He learns this through your application of a clear concise training method with appropriate confirmation (praise, treat, toy) of correct behavior and appropriate confirmation (saying wrong or no, slight corrections, gruff voice, strong body language) for incorrect behaviors.
Remember Common Sense is a key element to clear concise communication and often produces better results than application of impersonal theory and technique. Housebreaking a puppy for instance – many people begin by paper training or pee-pad training a puppy. They then remove the paper or the pee-pad and the puppy relieves himself in the house. Why? If you think about it, essentially the puppy was taught to relieve himself in the house, so he will continue to go to those spots. It makes more sense to simply train the puppy to relieve himself outdoors from the get go. Most dogs are what we refer to as “clean dogs”, they have natural or innate desire to be clean and will not soil an area where they sleep or cannot get well away from. This is in response to their natural cleanliness. Many people with well trained pets have never read a book or an article, but simply exercise Common Sense….Never hesitate to use this when training your dog.
Timing is vital when training. Correction and praise are meaningless if we are not marking the correct behavior, therefore timing is critical. Careful observation, learning to anticipate that dog’s behavior, being prepared to make the most effective use of marking the correct behavior or correcting inappropriate behavior are all part of developing good timing. Learning characteristic behavior of dogs in general and your dog in particular will assist you in anticipating behavior and marking or correcting as it occurs, not after. Your dogs’ reactions may show in the position or motion of his tail, head, ears, hindquarters, back, eyes or any combination of these. Learn to read these signs and capitalize upon them in training. If you learn to recognize these signs, you can anticipate his actions and correct him at the most effective moment or reinforce a behavior at the most effective moment.
Really good trainer’s make training look easy and effortless because they have developed this skill and are able to apply it when working with any dog.
Consistency in any training is essential. The dog must always understand what you mean with your actions, tone of voice, etc. Inconsistency will result in confusion and a dog that offers alternate behaviors because it believes that it is in trouble, resulting in the opposite of the desired effect. For example: an owner has a dog that begins reacting to people in a shy or fearful manner – the typical owner attempts to calm them while reassuring the dog that the other person is okay. What did we just do? Essentially, we just reinforced the behavior that the dog gave so now they think that is what we want and will continue to offer it.
The use of communication in training should have the same purpose and achieve the same results as verbal instruction of another person. When you teach a person to do something, you explain or describe what he is to do. When he does it wrong, you tell him what his mistakes were and when he performs correctly you tell him he is right. The same should apply to training your dog. Be fair and consistent.
One of the most difficult things to teach is Praise. Obedience instructors have a very difficult time helping owners realize the importance of praise during training. Many individuals simply find it hard to praise unless or until perfection is attained…..a dog does not understand the ultimate aim of each step and therefore he should be praised for every step in the right direction. However, praise should not be overdone. This includes verbal as well as physical praise (petting, etc) as this could encourage the dog to lose the “self-control” that we have been teaching by raising his adrenalin and bringing him out of the “learning zone”. If we bring the dog out of the “learning zone”, they may forget what the praise was for.
There is a mystique in successful training and handling of a dog. People are often awed by someone who seems to have a “knack” or “gift” with animals. It is true that some people have a greater aptitude than others for working with animals, but this aptitude is born of greater interest, application of observation and common sense, making the effort to understand and learn from the dog, and willingness to temper the attitude of total human superiority. These individuals are natural and uninhibited in their relationships with dogs and they are rewarded with devotion and obedience. That is what communication is all about.