Steps to Successful Dog Training

Too often, a puppy is brought into the home and our methods of teaching consist of "screaming no" and "swatting with a newspaper". I know that’s how I did it before I learned about animal learning and behavior! How primitive.

Here are some quick-start guides for steps to success.

    Trainer Success
  • Successful trainers study animal learning and behavior.

  • Successful trainers have a training plan.

  • Successful trainers identify and outline the individual skills necessary for success.

  • Successful trainers introduce the animal to each skill in a setting that promotes success.

  • Successful trainers practice in many locations with various levels of distractions, adding one new piece of information during cycles of training.

    All Species Success
  • Meet your animal’s social, emotional and physical needs.

  • Kindly prevent your pet from practicing unwanted behaviors.

  • Learn a bit about animal behavior and learning.

  • Learn how to communicate to your animal.

  • Learn how to motivate your animal to want the same things as you.

  • Change your behaviors in order to change your animal’s behaviors.

    Canine Success
  • Crate train your puppy.

  • Housetrain your puppy.

  • Teach your puppy about play biting.

  • Socialize your puppy.

  • Form a global training plan.

  • Teach your dog coping skills.

  • Teach your dog basic commands.

  • Practice with your dog every day.

  • Practice with your dog in different locations.

  • Practice with your dog while increasing the level of distractions.

  • Practice with your dog on a short leash, and then on a long line.

Off Leash Obedience
Off leash obedience is an advanced skill. Until you and your dog have mastered all commands on a short leash, and then at a distance on a long line, don’t expect your dog to obey when he or she is not on a lead.

Too Excited to Listen
Many clients begin our conversations by exclaiming their dogs know Sit and Come. The next phrases during these discussions are "she won’t listen to me when visitors come into the house", or "she refuses to come inside when I call her."

My experiences have taught me that it’s rarely a stubborn refusal to sit or come. Training method flaws and lofty expectations are the root causes for these failures. In many cases the client doesn’t understand how to motivate their dogs to comply. In other cases, the client has never practiced in those situations and the dogs are not prepared to succeed. The dogs cannot match the owners’ expectations because the owners have not prepared the dogs for real life environments.

Many of us expect advanced performances from a dog that has only been practicing in kindergarten settings.

Our dogs need to practice in controlled environments before we can expect them to perform in exciting situations. For example, suppose your goal is teach your pup to ‘relax-when-people-visit’. Identify all the skills and behaviors that make up ‘relax-when-people-visit’ behavior. Teach and practice each skill with various levels of distractions. First you might teach the dog to sit, down, and relax inside your house when it is quiet. Next, you might practice when house members are sitting…. standing…. walking….. passing doorways……waving their arms, clapping, jumping, et cetera.

Once your dog can sit, down and relax inside the house with house members as the distractions, you start all over and practice with family members entering the house. Finally, you practice the same sequences with willing visitors.

You should hold these practice sessions when you have total control of the classroom environment. That is – when you can guide your dog into choosing the correct behaviors. Set up the environment so your dog has limited choices of which behaviors to perform. Once he masters the current level of distraction, introduce another, higher level distraction. During these well planned practice sessions, your dog has only a few choices. Because you have a leash attached, none of those choices include mug-the-people behaviors!

Happy Training!

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