Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Tips and Ideas
Wikipedia says this about dog training: Dog training is the application of behavior analysis which uses the environmental events of antecedents and consequences to modify the behavior of a dog, either for it to assist in specific activities or undertake particular tasks, or for it to participate effectively in contemporary domestic life.
My definition is somewhat simpler. Dog training is teaching the dog to do what we want, how we want, when and where we want, and additionally to teach the dog to not do the things we don’t want him to do. That being said here’s some tips and ideas that I hope will prove useful.
Always set your dog up to succeed. We all know about choosing a familiar and comfortable environment with no distractions but also make the task simple, small, and easy. Build on many small successes. Avoid failures. Practice many times a day with short two and three minute sessions. Get attention, maintain focus. Make training sessions fun and happy.
Remember there must ALWAYS be a reason for the student to perform the task. When teaching the student what you want him to do, a positive action results in a positive consequence. Initially we use food because it is a strong motivator and a strong positive motivator results in the student willingly wanting to repeat the task. When teaching the dog what we don’t want him to do his negative action produces a negative or unwanted consequence thereby discouraging him from repeating the offense.
Decide exactly what it is you wish to teach. Break it into the smallest teachable and learnable components. With a treat in hand lure the dog into position or through the desired action. Some training books will refer to this as “shaping” the action.” When the dog is successful, “mark” the success. This is done with a vocal response such as “yes” or a clicker. This is your way of telling the dog he has done what you want him to do. Now offer the treat and reward the action. Repeat this simple process and always reward.
Use the 80% rule. When your dog performs the task successfully 4 out of 5 times, then and only then do you change the criteria. That is you change the environment, lengthen a distance or duration, or introduce some distractions. Never change more than one part of the criteria at a time. Make small changes, build on successes, avoid failures, practice often and always reward.
Never let the dog repeatedly do what you don’t want him to do such as ignoring a recall or repeatedly pulling on the leash. If you do not correct and change this action you are simply reinforcing this action and telling the dog that this is another acceptable way to perform this task. Set, follow, and enforce, Rules, Regulations, and Limitations. Remember, Discipline is not Punishment. All members of a family have to follow acceptable practices and this must always include the dog. Violations are not “cute” or “just something that little dogs do”. Good manners make for loving pets.
Now a few ideas: If the puppy persists on nipping your hands, simply keep your hands away from the dog. If he can’t reach them he can’t nip them. Save the petting until he calms down. When you have a problem, remove the dog from the problem or the problem from the dog, i.e. if the dog chews your slippers or socks close the bedroom door as in remove the dog from the problem, or pick up your damn socks. This is also when we use crates and gates to train youngsters.
When you leave the dog alone for a length of time give him something to do. Forget the pricey dog toys. Go to the butcher and get large hard beef bones. The end of the femur is ideal. Give it to the dog raw. It will keep him occupied for hours plus it’s a great way to keep his teeth clean.
If the dog digs in the lawn when you can’t correct him, simply put dog stool (yep that’s pieces of poop) in the hole and slightly cover with the dirt from around the hole. Dogs don’t like getting dog poop under their toe nails
If the dog gets into the garbage put Vicks or vanilla on the lid. Dogs don’t like the smell. Vicks is a great cure all for those nicks and cuts or little bites. Also works well on itchy insect bites (people too). If the dog persists in getting into the plant in the pot just take the lid off the Vicks and set it in the pot beside the plant.
If the dog digs in plants or around trees put crumpled up chicken wire around the area or I don’t like the look of chicken wire so I use 8 to 10 inch pieces of that long thorny shrub found on the road side or near the lake. These have very long, strong, and sharp spines; the farmers use them in their fences to control livestock. They are large enough that dogs won’t try to ingest them, they avoid them, and being natural looking they aren’t unsightly in the yard.
Avoid the old rule of “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If the dog pulls on the leash, don’t keeping pulling because you are encouraging him to pull. Don’t try to force your dog into a down by pushing on his shoulders because you are simply encouraging him to resist and push back.
The best and last idea for today is make training fun and enjoy your dog.
Loose Leashes, Happy Tails!
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.”