Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
A Couple of Different Training Ideas
A question I get asked often is: “What do I do when my dog doesn’t listen to me?”
If your dog does not listen to your command, the dog is not properly motivated. Motivation has to do with consequences. It can be difficult training pet dogs sometimes because they can be hard to motivate. Think of the different ways to motivate a dog.
Food, toys and praise are the ways we motivate. If a dog has constant access to food, toys and the owner’s attention, the dog will be difficult to motivate. So if you are having a difficult time training your dog you have to think about deprivation.
Not big deprivation, just enough to get better results with your dog. Instead of leaving the food out all day, feed twice a day.
Take some or all of the toys away and teach your dog that playing is done with you. Start having your dog work for your attention. This does NOT have to be for the rest of the dog’s life, just when you are having a tough time getting your dog to listen to you. Something I rarely see dog trainers talk about.
It is the cornerstone of all your training. Get this right and many problems will go away. Get it wrong and your dog could become leery of you and others. Worst case scenario, your dog could develop an aggression problem.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about trust. The relationship between you and your dog has to be developed and maintained with trust.
But let me explain why this is so important and what you can do to improve your training.
You see, having a dog often becomes a game of “catch me if you can.” It then often becomes a relationship based on setting the dog up for failure which leads to corrections. When you first get a dog or puppy you need to be really good at managing your dog’s behavior. You have to make sure they don’t have the opportunity to get into trouble. Then when you start training you need to focus more on helping the dog get it right than correcting for getting it wrong.
One of the first steps I take is to teach what is called a Non -Reward Marker.
This is a word the dog learns that means a reward is not coming because the command was performed incorrectly. It communicates to your dog that they didn’t do it right but they are not going to get nailed for doing it wrong.
One of the first commands I teach is stay because the dog learns the words or Markers “Yes,” and “Wrong.” I put a treat on the ground and give the command, “Stay.” Most dogs will go for the food and this is when I quickly grab the treat before they do and say, “Wrong.” I repeat the process until the dog stops moving toward the treat. Once the dog freezes I say, “YES!” and the dog can now get the treat.
Giving a correction at this stage would break down trust. The dog would also be nervous about doing anything which leads to frustration on our part. Teaching a Non-Reward Marker can go a long way to developing trust.
Try these two ideas. I hope you’ll enjoy the results.
ART HESS—Anyone Can Train Their Dog
Raised and educated in Alberta and pursued a mixed career of business, livestock and real estate. Had a life-long passion for working with dogs and horses. Next came 12 years near Victoria on Vancouver Island where we had several more business’ and then the “Dear, let’s sell everything and move to Mexico phase.”
“Aging is easy. Follow your passion and remember that Attitude is Everything. Strive to live a balanced life in harmony with your environment. Practice compassion, walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins or sandals before passing judgement and remember that trust and respect are earned not mandated.”