We all know dogs are smart, but to train a dog, you have to understand how they learn. Keeping these things in mind will help you get the most out of your pup.
Research shows that dogs take 1.3 seconds to make an association, and in that time frame, they will decide if it’s a positive or negative response. This means you have to literarily “catch them in the act” If you are teaching a dog to sit, stay or anything at all, and you reward them 5 seconds after they get up or move – what do you think you are rewarding? That’s right; you are rewarding the getting up or moving, not the sitting or staying. You have to be QUICK!
YES – this is the hardest, in my opinion. We have busy lives, we work hard, and we get tired, but without consistency than cannot reinforce the principal you are trying to achieve. For example, you have been trying to get your dog to stop jumping up on people. You came home from a night out with friends and had a great time, and you walk in happy to be home but tired. Your dog is so excited to see you he jumps up, you are in a great mood, so you pat your dog on the head and have a wonderful happy meeting. The next day you come home from the office tired and frustrated after a long day, and your dog jumps up, and you go through the commands to stop it jumping. Poor dog, he is so confused! Sometimes it’s ok other times it’s not? You must be clear in the intentions of what you want your dog to do, and you must be 100% consistent.
Let us change that to POSITIVE MOTIVATION!!! Let’s get this clear – Punishment is not an acceptable training method. Positive reinforcement makes a behaviour more likely – punishment makes it less likely. Yes, it can get frustrating when things aren’t going the way you want, but remember, your dog does not understand English, it understands positive motivation (food, toys, praise etc.) YOU have to learn how to communicate with your dog, not the other way around. The motivation must be meaningful enough for your dog to want to “jump through hoops” for it. I don’t just mean the treat they get when they go in the crate, come inside or before you go to bed. When training, give them the GOOD stuff, we call them high reward treats something they rarely get, something that will make them strive to do more, better, faster. Cook up some bacon, cheese, keep a favourite toy out just for training something they don’t get every day that makes their eyes pop J Of course if you have a lab you may just be able to use their every day treat because they just love food 😉
When I do this, this happens! Association is how dogs learn. Timing, consistency and motivation have to go hand in hand with the association. If your timing is off, if you are not consistent and if the motivation is not there, chances as the dog will not make the association. If timing is off, they may start associating the wrong action. If consistency is not … well…. consistent, then it confuses that poor puppy brain. If the motivation is not strong enough, then why bother.
PUNISHMENT? – NEVER
So what if the dog is not doing what you want? What if your pup jumps up when you don’t want him to? What if your dog won’t stay after trying for days? That’s easy – ignore, take a step back and start again. Yelling, hitting, kicking, or any negative punishment is not acceptable under any circumstance. Ignore, be a tree once they settle and are doing the exercise you want them to do “treat and good dog, your such a good dog, pet, hug, etc.:,. No dog that I have met like being ignored; they love companionship, attention, praise and to make you happy!
Have fun with it; the more work you put into your dog in the beginning, the happier, safer and healthier life for the whole family.
Morag is the owner and founder of York Regions most trusted premier in-home pet care and dog walking companies. In 2000 she saw a need for an alternative to kennels, catteries for family pets in the area and has always believed that pets are much happier and less stressed staying in their own familiar environment. Morag and her team are all certified in Pet 1st Aid and CPR, she also offers continuous training to her team members through online and hands on pet care and pet behaviour and care courses. Morag has earned her certificate in Professional Pet Sitting, Professional Dog Walking and Canine Attendant training. She has lived in the Newmarket/Aurora area since 1991 is a wife, a mother of 2 adult children and a grandmother of 2 delightful little balls of energy. She has also been owned by fish, birds, mice, rats, cats, dogs, gerbils and guinea pigs and is an advocate for all living creatures. In her spare time she likes to be involved in her community and events travelling, reading and cooking.