Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Keep it Easy, Simple and Fun
My records show that with a New Year comes an increase in people enrolling in dog classes. In addition to the usual sit, down, stay, come, and heel I’d like to share some personal observations to make your training efforts more successful.
Sit and Come are the two most important tasks to master. Sit is your “go to” command that locks the dog’s butt on the ground to eliminate jumping, chasing, and a myriad of other unwanted activities. Come is a no compromise. It can save your dog’s life. If you only master two things, these are numero uno.
Whenever you are training or just telling your dog what you want him to do, always set yourself and your dog up to succeed. Chose a familiar, comfortable environment free of all distractions. This means no other dogs, phones, kids, etc. Make the task as easy as possible and build on successes. Avoid failures.
There must ALWAYS be a reason for the student to perform a task. If the result produces a favorable consequence the student willingly wants to repeat the task. This is positive motivation. Obviously if the action produces an unwanted consequence the student is reluctant to repeat the task. This is negative motivation and can be used to teach the student to not do that which we don’t want.
Remember dogs, and people for that matter, like to play and have fun. If the action is fun we like to continue and repeat. If this be the case, then use it to your advantage and make training fun. Concentrate on having fun and you will have a much more willing and enthusiastic student.
Teach Good Behavior. This simply says that every environment has rules, regulations, and limitations that we all must follow and the same holds true for your dog. To teach good behavior you are required to be the “Leader” 24/7. That’s right, you can’t be leader some of the time and ignore your job the rest of the time because if you are not providing the guidance, you are letting the dog be the leader at that time in that situation. If the dog is allowed to be the leader why should he listen to you when you want him to come or sit or whatever?
Be consistent in your commands, hand signals and body language and above all in your expectations of performance. You can’t expect a clean come and sit, that results in your dog coming briskly to you and sitting in front and maintaining focus one time, and then saying “Oh well that’s good enough” if he comes part way and then trots off when you reach down to touch his collar. If you compromise you are telling the dog that there is another acceptable performance.
Train throughout the day. Training doesn’t have to be a formal session. If you are going for a walk remember to never try to put a leash on a dog that isn’t sitting. Sure it can be a little difficult at first but if you insist and persist then it will become the norm and your dog has added one more example to good manners. If the dog runs and barks at the front window or door when a car or kid goes by, your job is to get up, go to the dog, get his attention, redirect his attention and correct his actions. If the dog does something you don’t approve of, correct it and change it. This is your responsibility. Dogs, like kids, don’t become well mannered by accident.
Lastly, Dog Training is not rocket science. It’s about 20% technique and timing and 80% practice and repetition. This is why it is so difficult for many people because they don’t have the patience to repeat, repeat, and repeat once again. Dogs learn by repeated successes. Keep it easy, simple and fun and you’ll enjoy your results.
Column: 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.”