Dog Training Tips For Success
If there was one thing I would suggest that all my clients read through before our initial consultation together, it would be this blog post. It is simple and straight to the point.
Regardless of whether you are a puppy owner or looking to teach your older dog new tricks, the 10 tips below will help you on your journey with your dog. These tips are in no particular order, each one is important. Use each tip to help build a better relationship and strong training foundation with your dog.
Tip #1: Be Your Dog’s Guide
Think of being your dog’s guide as being a tour guide, while your dog is a world traveler. We want to use clear communication to guide, teach, and train our dog’s necessary skills, rules, and boundaries. This allows them to become successful in their home and in public. Being a good guide will help you learn about your dog while setting him or her up for success. It also allows you to start developing a stronger relationship through training and teaching.
Tip #2: Be Consistent
Keep all the rules the same. Whether you have friends or family over, or maybe you are somewhere in public, be consistent and keep the rules the same. You always want to keep your training consistent as it will be the easiest way to communicate with your dog. Being consistent will help teach your dog, especially in new or more difficult circumstances.
Tip #3: Be On The Dog’s Program
Go at your dog’s pace (not your own) and be on your dog’s program when training. Each and every dog learns and processes things differently. We must be aware of our dog’s learning style, his drives/motivations, and his sensitives. This is what being on the dog’s program is all about. Being on the dog’s program means that we are being the most effective teacher for our dog. One of the biggest mistakes we all make is picturing our dog doing something right away with only the end result in mind. BUT ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY! Taking the proper steps and going at the dog’s pace is paramount. Keep your sessions fun, short and don’t rush.
Tip #4: Understand The Emotional Side Of Your Dog
Just like with people, every dog is different. Some are confident and outgoing, some are soft and shy and some can be nervous or even fearful. Understanding the emotional side of your dog can help in setting realistic goals while implementing more effective teaching and training strategies. This is especially important for behavior modification programs.
One way to learn more about the emotional side of your dog is learning canine body language and communication signals. In my blog post on canine body language, I have included credible websites of information on canine body language. It is worth looking at.
The other way you can learn more about your dog’s emotional side is by hiring a qualified positive reinforcement trainer or behavior professional.
Tip #5: Dogs Are Body Language Communicators
Dogs naturally use their bodies to communicate. They also look at our bodies to understand what we are communicating back to them. Typically, dogs are looking at our bodies before they listen to the verbal cues we give them. This is why some dogs learn hand signals quicker than verbal cues. The way in which we present our bodies can affect how our dogs perceive us and react towards us.
For example, I suggest standing straight rather than constantly bending over your dog as this can cause a dog to feel uncomfortable. We should also have a calm body posture. This is far better than having a very stiff, forward, threatening and forceful looking body posture as dogs can find this very threatening and uncomfortable. When a dog feels uncomfortable or threatened, this can cause some dogs to displays fearful and even aggressive behavior. This is also when some dogs may choose not to respond to cues such as sit, stay, come, etc. Understanding how our body language can affect our dog’s behavior and reactions is very important. Take a look at my blog on dog body language.
Tip #6: The Environment & Your Dog
The environment can affect a dog’s behavior, for better or for worse. Environment can affect the way dogs act, respond, and focus. Some environments can cause dogs to be relaxed, distracted, overstimulated, and even afraid.
In order to set a dog up to succeed in different environments, we need to teach them. Each environment affects each dog differently. My point is, just because your dog knows how to come when he is called inside your house, does not mean he will understand how to come when called while running around with dog friends at a park. He may not understand if you have never trained him in that situation and environment.
Typically, you want to train new behaviors to your dog in a calm environment with little to no distractions. First, make sure your dog truly understands those behaviors. Once doing these becomes a piece of cake, then you can start making things more difficult and eventually start practicing in different environments.
Tip #7: Use Motivating Reinforcement
All living creatures, including us humans, repeat behaviors that are reinforcing. Determine your dog’s drive and what reinforcers motivate him. By “reinforcement” I mean what your own dog finds reinforcing and motivating to him. Reinforcement can come in many forms. It can be treats, toys, and even praise or affection. My dog, for example, loves food and toys as reinforcement.
I use reinforcers on a value system. The higher the value of the reinforcer, the more motivated the dog will be to work with you. Would you rather work for a five-dollar bill or a fifty-dollar bill? I am guessing you would rather work for a fifty-dollar bill. Well, the same is true for our dogs. They would rather have the more motivating reinforcement. So… a boring dog biscuit or boiled chicken breast?
Another important note: DO NOT give treats away for free. Use every opportunity as a chance to train! That means every interaction with your dog is a training session.
Tip #8: Teach Your Dog What To Do
Dogs do not speak human. They can not be taught what not to do. However, dogs can be taught what to do. If you do not want your dog doing something, think about what you want your dog doing instead and teach it to them. For example, if you catch your dog doing something good like sitting and being polite, rather than jumping up at the kitchen counters, reinforce your dog’s good behavior. To learn more about this topic, read my blog post called Why Say No, When You Can Say Yes.
Tip #9: Enrichment
Tip #10: Have Fun!!!
Living with and training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for both of you. Owning a dog should bring joy to your life and enhance it. Keep your training sessions fun. If you find yourself getting annoyed, impatient, or even angry, end your session and take a breather. The more enjoyable things are for you and your dog, the easier things will become moving forward.
You should also find out what you and your dog enjoy doing together. It could be training tricks, shaping new behaviors, taking a fun class together (in-person or online), going for a walk or a long hike, playing fetch, etc. Doing things that both of you can enjoy together will strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.
With my new puppy Journey, I have found we both enjoy going off-leash hiking together, playing tug-of-war, and taking agility classes. It has definitely brought joy and happiness to our lives and enhanced the relationship between us. In the end, all of this helps training your dog as they will become more responsive to you!
About Anthony De Marinis, CDBC
Anthony De Marinis provides private in-home training and behavior modification solutions using humane positive reinforcement methods. He also provides video consultations remotely as he has many clients across the United States. Anthony has 6 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey.