HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DOG EFFECTIVELY
Tips to ensure that when you train your dog, you get a long lasting result!
Are you struggling with a dog that knows the basic commands but seems to be going backwards or not listening to you at times?
I’ve met so many people who absolutely love their dogs, but have a stressful relationship with them because their dogs just don’t seem to understand what is wanted from them. This is where consistency becomes so important – dogs don’t speak English (yet!) and we don’t speak dog language, so it’s critical that we send consistent messages to our canine pals so that they know what’s the right way to behave. This makes for a much easier relationship, and dogs are happier when they know they’re doing the right thing too!
Here are some tips to keep in mind so that when you are training your dog, you are doing it consistently and therefore getting the best result.
Repeat Repeat Repeat
Remember that repetition helps your dog learn quickly. When you want a certain behaviour, repeat, repeat, repeat as often as you can until you’re getting a consistent result. When giving your dog food rewards for doing the right thing, it’s better to use very small pieces and repeat the command lots rather than one big food reward but not given so often. It’s even better to use a clicker as well to mark the correct behaviours accurately and help the dog learn faster. If you’re not familiar with clicker training, check out our blog on Clicker Training 101 here.
Know the rules
Make sure everyone in your family knows the rules. For example, if you don’t want your dog to whine or jump on people, make sure nobody in the house rewards him for whining or jumping up. And remember a reward doesn’t just have to be food – it can be as simple as using a friendly, high pitched tone or a pat. I see so many people who want their dog to stop whining, yet pat the dog every time it does because they feel like their dog is sad when it whines. I also see people who laugh and say “Patch, don’t do that!!” in a high and happy voice when the dog jumps on them – their words are saying one thing, but the tone of voice is saying another. Dogs are great at recognising patterns, and if they realise that every time they whine they get a pat, of course they will keep whining!
Being let out is also a reward, so if you let your dog out of the door when he is pushing past you, you are rewarding him for pushing past you. I suggest you always ask your dog to sit and wait, then walk out of the door ahead of them to reinforce that you are the leader.
You have to have the same rules in all situations. For example, if you don’t want your dog to sit on the couch when you have guests, then unfortunately it’s best not to allow your dog to sit on the couch even when you don’t have them. If you don’t want your dog to jump on strangers, then never let your dog jump on you, even if you find it fun and playful. If you don’t want your dog to beg for food while you’re eating, then never give your dog a piece of food from your plate or from the dinner table. It’s easy to fall into the habit of being relaxed with the rules, but it just creates greater frustration down the track. Even just rewarding your dog now and then accidentally easily maintains the behaviour – think about the one-armed bandit gambling machine, by rewarding you just intermittently it keeps you addicted and doing it!
Use the same commands
Always use the same command and/or hand signal to elicit the same behaviours. For example, if you want your dog to come to you, always use a “Come” command, rather than variations of it such as “Come here” or simply calling their name. Same goes for “Sit” vs “Sit Down” or “Wait” vs “Stay”. Pick one word and one hand gesture to use, then make sure everyone in the family uses the same ones.
Dogs are often blamed for their undesirable behaviours, when in fact they are being rewarded for those same behaviours in a different setting. This can be very confusing and frustrating for the dog (and for you as well, I’m sure!). Getting used to being consistent in all situations will help you and your dog be happy and relaxed in all situations.
I hope these tips will help you with your training!
If you want to teach your dog all the most important commands, if your dog has persistent behavioural issues, or if you simply want your dog to listen to you more, my interactive Dog Zen Virtual Dog School covers how to train your dog and solve common behavioural issues. You get to work along with me as I show you exactly what to do with easy to follow videos. Find out more here.