Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
While dog training may not come naturally to us, the core foundation is patience. Our dogs need time and space to succeed and patience to allow for mistakes and challenges. It can be frustrating and time consuming to train your dog. If you don't have confidence in your training skills or your dog's ability, they will know. But, I assure, they know when you are trying and they know when you mean business by your follow through. The only REAL requirement to train your dog is patience - for your dog and yourself.
There are so many benefits to training your dog and it doesn't have to feel like a huge undertaking. Keep in mind, that every time you are with your dog is an opportunity to train them. If you look at it with a positive mindset and, make it fun and rewarding, it will feel much less like a task and more like a time to bond and learn with your dog. It's a partnership and just like any relationship, needs commitment and nurturing.
There are MANY methods people use to train dogs. I choose and (highly recommend) using positive reinforcement dog training for several reasons. Mainly, it is based on how dogs LEARN, not by forcing them to perform like a circus animal. I can teach a dog anything by simply rewarding them for doing what’s right and either ignoring or removing them if their behavior is undesirable Timing is crucial but all things are possible with this method of dog training. I rarely correct a dog's behavior, and if I do it’s with a simple “no”. It's much more powerful to teach them what to do instead, rather than simply demanding they stop doing something. I may interrupt a dog's barking so that I can help them learn it is undesirable but I don't punish them for doing something that is a natural for them.
I would never recommend using an e-collar (shock collar with a new name) because this gives the trainer more power than they deserve. It takes away from the learning process and starts a "I'm the boss and you need to do what I say" mentality. Dogs deserve better than being shocked and I have yet to work with a dog that did not respond to positive reinforcement training so I am rightfully set in my ways. I can't help but think "if you can train a dog without harm, why wouldn't you"?
I truly believe we should ALWAYS allow the dog a chance to learn, make mistakes and grow - without the use of pain or force. It is much better for the dog mentally and training the whole dog is the best way to ensure you keep their spirit and personality intact. We must build them up, not tear them down, and this is where patience comes in. We need patience to allow them time to learn and patience with ourselves to make mistakes too.
When training your dog be sure you are in a positive state of mind and have the time and patience for the task at hand. If you are rushed, worrying about other things or simply not in the mood - I urge you to choose another time. Your dog needs your with them, in the moment and happy, in order to succeed.
Positive reinforcement dog training involves using rewards which will motivate your dog to do what you ask. You will need to find what your dog likes best as a reward. This may mean using chicken to really get their attention, or even a new squeaky toy. Some dogs will work for physical affection. Only you know what motivates your dog best and have fun trying new things. Once misconception about using positive reinforcement dog training - you will need to have treats on you at all times. This is simply NOT true. You will need to have the reward your dog likes best on you while you are training. Once your dog is trained, you can taper the rewards out and replace them with verbal or physical praise if needed.
When training your dog speak kindly to them and try not to repeat commands. If they know "sit" and you say it, wait...give them a chance to succeed. I try to count to five in my head before reminding or helping a dog to follow through on a command. It's also important to be sure you have their attention before you ask them to do anything. Asking your dog to sit, stay or lay down while they are looking at a squirrel (or even a leaf for that matter), isn't fair. If your dog is not looking at you, they are probably not listening either!
Remember - learning takes TIME. Your dog is very capable and they need your patience during training. Dogs learn at different rates and in different ways so take your time to learn and see how your dog learns best.
We have a wonderful series of training videos available! Each one is packed with tricks, tips and advice to ensure your success.
Christine Durrant, CPDT-KA Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant