In this blog yesterday I talked about my thoughts about dog training and how to choose a trainer. Today I will explain my Five Basic Elements of training. Following the guidelines below I have been able to develop happy and well-behaved dogs for more than 38 years. If you follow these guidelines, your training sessions will be relatively stress free and a they will be a positive experience for both you and your dog.
- Build Trust and Respect Between You and the Dog
- Determine Which Training Strategy to Use
- Incorporating Your Training Strategy
- Set Up a Training Schedule and Set Goals For Each Session
- Reinforce Training with Daily Refresher Sessions
Build Trust and Respect Between You and the Dog
Mutual trust and mutual respect is the foundation of solid training. Every successful dog trainer will tell you that a positive relationship between the trainer and the dog must begin with trust and respect. Both must exist previous to the beginning of any training in order to maximize the efforts of that training. That’s not to say that a dog will not learn the behaviors if you don’t build a trusting, respectful relationship first. It can still be done, it will just make training that much harder and it will also take much longer.
Trust and respect will ONLY come with time and effort! When you spend a large amount of time with someone, or in this case the new dog, trust and respect will come much quicker. I have always advised that when someone brings a new dog in to their home, that they do so ONLY when they can spend at least 36 hours in direct contact with that dog. Yes, this means in the same room, or at least within the same line of sight. And this means NON-STOP, with no breaks. Personally, I go to the extreme of actually putting a sleeping bag down on the floor and I live at the dog’s eye-level for the first 18-24 hours.
With an adult dog, the first 1-2 hours consists of an on-leash stroll. When I say stroll, I mean stroll. We move at the dog’s pace and I let him do ALL of the sniffing and peeing he wants to. This stroll begins around the yard, and then around the block, and finally around the neighborhood. Then we move into the house and do the same. Remember to leave the leach on. That way you can keep him off the furniture our out of areas in the house without having to correct him. In the case of a new puppy, the above holds true as well. I suggest that the owner stay in constant close physical contact for these first few hours. This includes sitting or laying in front of the puppy and playing with toys, hand feeding and allowing the puppy to sleep right next to them … and yes, even napping in their lap.
Determine Which Training Strategy to Use
In my experience I have found that dogs basically have five different personalities. They are: Hyper, Outgoing, Calm, Shy or Fearful. In addition to these five personalities, they each have their own sets of personal likes and dislikes to consider.
This means as the trainer, you must have at least 5 basic training strategies. After all, you couldn’t expect to use the same training strategies on a hyper dog as you do with a scared dog. And your method also has to change a little when working with a calm dog compared to an outgoing dog.
My point is that you must take the time to learn what your dog’s personality is before you can hope to come up with the proper training strategy. It has also been my experience that this takes at least a few days and as many as four weeks for a dog to get comfortable in its new surroundings! “Getting Comfortable” is what I refer to as the period of “initial trust”. (This isn’t as true with young puppies. They are inherently more trusting).
Once your dog is “comfortable” you will know what group your new dogs personality falls into. You will also know what activities, kind of toys and kinds of treats it likes. This knowledge will allow you to plan the correct training strategy. By using this knowledge (and consistent training techniques) the dog’s likes and dislikes can be used as a reward for correct behavior.
Incorporating Your Training Strategy
With your dog’s likes and dislikes in mind, remember that fearful dogs will need confident but gentle leadership. Because fearful dogs usually lack self-confidence you will need to be nurturing and reassuring. When your fearful dog does a behavior correctly, offer plenty of treats, tactile rewards and lavish praise in a happy and excited voice.
Shy dogs will also require gentle leadership. They will still have some self-esteem issues so you will need to build their confidence with treats, tactile rewards and lavish praise just like the fearful dog.
Calm dogs are the easiest to train because they are confident and usually indifferent to outside stimulation. They except leadership without question because they just want to please you. When your calm dog does a behavior correctly, you can offer treats, tactile rewards or praise and the dog will except them and just move on knowing that you are happy with him.
With an outgoing dog, movement, high-pitched voices and/or any kind of excitement can over-stimulate them causing even more excitement. When training, avoid lavish excessive praise. Instead, a calm word of praise and a gentle pat on the head is usually enough to get your point across. Outgoing dogs have a lot of confidence so strong leadership is often necessary. The more excited the dog is, the stronger your leadership will need to be. When you begin training, you will want to have the dog on a leash in order for you to have better control. There should also be very little or no distractions present.
As with the outgoing dog, a hyper dog keys on movement, high-pitched voices and any kind of excitement. Over-stimulation can cause this personality to become uncontrollable at times. When training, a calm, firm, but compassionate tone is required. Tactile rewards and calming praise can be the reward used. Treats should be used sparingly and ONLY when the dog is calm and quiet. Hyper dogs have an over abundance of confidence, so strong leadership is always necessary. This does NOT mean physical control, leash popping or hitting. Trying to use this kind of control, can and will often get you bit. During training or while in public you will most likely need to have this dog on a leash in order for you to have proper control.
Set Up a Training Schedule and Set Goals For Each Session
A Training Schedule should be set up so that you train your dog daily. Skipping days or even skipping a single session can serve to set training back. It can also make it harder to train your dog.
I’ve seen many people start out training for a week or so, then begin to put off sessions because they are just too busy to take the time or they just haven’t got the time in the morning or evening. They keep saying they will begin again tomorrow, but tomorrow never seems to come. Then a month or so later they wonder why their dog is out of control, chewing up the house, jumping the fence, chasing the mailman or killing the neighbor’s cat.
Training sessions don’t have to take ½ hour or even 15 minutes in length. They only need to be 3 to 5 minutes in length and held 2 to 4 times per day.
When setting goals for training, make them easy to attain. When teaching a behavior, break the behavior down into its segments. When the first segment is attained, end the session and reward the dog. When the dog becomes good at that segment, move on to the next segment, and so on. As with all training, be sure to reward the dog and always end the session on a positive note. Also take the time to play with the dog. This way the dog will be more likely to perform in a positive manor. If it knows that “fun time” comes at the end of the training it will look forward to training.
Reinforce Training with Daily Refresher Sessions
Training is not a one-time thing. It is important to practice the training on a day-to-day basis. Just like football or baseball players “practice” every day, your dog needs to practice every day as well. Reinforcement of training only requires a minute or two per day. And you can actually do it while watching TV or surfing the Internet.
In summary, training should begin after you get to know your dog and should be fun for you and your dog. Sessions should be adjusted to your dog’s personality and training sessions can last just a few minutes as long as you repeat it several times a day.
Tomorrow: We’ll talk about Choosing the Right Trainer when you need Help