When working with your dog, training mistakes are common, but easy to avoid if you know what you are doing.
1. DON’T PUNISH – Physical punishment significantly hinders the learning process. Stay calm, don’t yell or get frustrated if your dog doesn’t do the command immediately! User your reward and negative markers to shape your dog’s behavior into what you want! This will ensure that your dog is complying because he wants to, not because he is afraid of you!
2. BE REALISTIC – It may sound silly, but dogs don’t understand English! Most training problems are a result of the trainer (YOU!) asking the dog to do something it doesn’t understand. Keep your verbal commands short.
3. REWARD! – If the trainer is not rewarding the efforts of the learner, then you are going to receive inconsistent results from your dog. Just like if your boss decided not to pay you regularly for your work, you probably would not work as hard or as quickly.
4. BE CONSISTENT – This is very important. If you are not consistent with the way you interact with your dog, then your dog will not understand what you expect. For example, your dog can’t understand why it can jump on your friends during the week, but not when they are wearing their Sunday best! Ignoring a behavior on day and scolding for it another day is just not fair to your dog!
5. BE CLEAR THE FIRST TIME – The worst thing you can do is repeat a command if your dog is not complying. Most of the time dog’s don’t comply because they simply don’t understand the command in the current context. Repeating the command just turns it into a word the dog hears when it is standing around!
6. GO BACK TO BASICS – If your dog is having a hard time learning a command or complying with a command that you thought they knew, just go back to basics (kindegarten)! Remember, to learn a command solidly, your dog needs to constantly practice it in many different environments. Just because he knows the command in one place or situation doesn’t mean he knows it in another!
7. MAKE IT SHORT & SWEET – Definitely try to train your dog every day, but make the training sessions short. For instance 3 5 minute training sessions a day will be much more effective than one 30 minute training sessions. Keep sessions fun to avoid either of you becoming frustrated!
8. END ON A GOOD NOTE – If your dog is having a difficult time with a specific exercise, end your session with an exercise that he is good at!
9. MIND YOUR DISTRACTIONS – When you are working on a new command, ensure there are little distractions present. As your dog masters the command, then you can start adding distractions or move to an environment that has more distractions. Remember to practice the command EVERYWHERE. Don’t just do your training in the same old room.
10) BE INTERESTING –You have to be more interesting and exciting than the competition! If you are working in the living room, your dog might work for a piece of kibble. But if you are working outside around other dogs and people, that kibble may not be enough to keep him focused on what you want him to work on. Make sure you use high value treats and toys while training when there are lots of distractions present!
11. VARY THE REWARDS – Think about your favorite food. Now think about eating it over and over and over again, with no variety… You can see it will soon loose its power over you. It is the same for dogs. Bring a couple different types of his favorite treats and toys to enable your dog to stay interested in the exercises!
12. LEARNING HAPPENS AT HOME; PROOFING HAPPENS IN CLASS – Group classes are a tough place for dogs to learn because there are so many great sights and smells and distractions galore! Don’t stress if it seems like your dog is not performing well in class. Go home and practice what you learned and your dog will do much better the next week!
If you implement these training guidelines, your dog will be a successfully trained dog with good dog manners!