Structured training is, of course, still an essential part of dog training, and the form of involuntary training that I’ve just spelled out does not in any way replace the need for such structure. Here are what we regard to be the key concepts to successful training, and a short description of each:
Perhaps the most important aspect of building a successful relationship with your dog will be your rapport with him. If you make your dog into a close friend by doing such things as talking to him, playing with him, and taking him for long walks, he will be much more responsive and attentive when you are training him. Spending QUALITY TIME with your dog is the key.
Delivering consistent messages to your dog will help him to view his world as black and white rather than various shades of grey. By consistent messages, I mean the commands that you decide to use to train, praise, and reprimand your dog should always be the same. It is important that all members of the family are aware of this and use the same commands themselves, as you would not want to undermine the hard work that you have put in to training the dog by having other people confusing him.
By timing I mean the amount of time that passes between your dog’s action (or inaction) and corresponding praise (or reprimand). This time should be no more than two to three seconds. If the time is any longer, the chances are your dog will not associate your words with his actions. Do not fall into the trap of calling your dog to you to reprimand him. As mentioned above, by the time he gets to you he has long forgotten what he has done wrong and now thinks that you are telling him off for coming to you! Always praise your dog when he comes to you.
Dogs are creatures of habit and learn by repetition. It will take several repetitive training sessions for your dog to get the response you require implanted into his brain and for the action to become automatic. Dogs require refresher sessions throughout their lives so that the conditioned response that you want is not lost. Remember prevention is far better than having to correct the action at a later stage.
Keep formal sessions short and enjoyable so that your dog maintains concentration throughout. Quality not quantity is the golden rule. Always finish a training session on a positive note.
Be reasonable in your expectation of what your dog can achieve. It will take time to get results. You should ensure that you have the dog’s full attention and that you are giving your best when performing a training session. You may wish to settle yourself or the dog down by taking a long walk before the session commences.
Use praise whenever your dog has completed an exercise correctly. Praise should also be delivered to your dog as soon as the desired act has been done (remember the timing thing). When delivering praise look directly into the dog’s eyes so that he understands the connection between your voice or touch and his action. Deliver praise verbally or with the hand by either patting or stroking. Try not to over praise your dog as excessive chatter will only serve to confuse him and may disrupt his concentration for the rest of the training session. Generally speaking, try not to rely too heavily on food as your only reward or bribe. However, alternating treats with displays of affection can be a useful way of overcoming problems that your dog may have in learning some of the exercises.
Using eye contact can be more effective than using the spoken word more so if there is a close bond between dog and owner. If a dog wishes to communicate with you, he will look directly into your eyes trying to read your intent. It is well known that dogs that do not make good eye contact can be difficult to train.
Using a specific hand motion while you give a vocal command can be an effective way of training a dog to respond to different stimuli. And it is useful for getting your dog to respond at long distances. Eventually you can wean your dog off the vocal command so that he responds to the hand signal alone. Give hand signals in front of and above the dog’s head as that is their best field of vision.
Use one command for one action and pronounce that command with the same tone and inflection. Don’t get carried away with the number of vocal commands you create. You should gain your dog’s attention by saying his name before stating a command.
The importance of the trainer being seen as the pack leader in the dog’s eyes is imperative. In a pack situation if a dog steps out of line it is chastised and made aware of its transgression immediately by superior dogs in the pecking order.
Giving Corrections is a big topic with a lot of methods to consider. There are three failsafe options with our top recommendation outlined in more detail in the complete Secrets to Dog Training book. By Daniel Stevens
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