Anyone Can Train Their Dog
By Art Hess
Why Dog Classes Don’t Work
That’s right. For The most part Dog Classes don’t work very well. You see, the dog owners want the dog to stop doing things. You know, I want him to stop jumping up, to stop pulling on the leash, to stop barking, etc., etc. And the Dog Trainer/Teacher wants to teach the dog to do things. Come, Sit, Down, Stay, Heel. This is usually achieved with positive lure and reward based training methods.
And herein lies a problem. If the student (the dog) does things the person doesn’t want him to do or in a way different than the person wants done, then the person says “do it my way or I’ll show you (that translates I’ll force you) how to do it my way”, which usually means “force round pegs into square holes.”
People don’t plan to punish the dog but the basic mind set feels that the way to stop an action is to provide a negative consequence when the dog performs the unwanted action and the dog will stop doing the unwanted and automatically do the wanted. Does anybody see the problem here. The dog is not going to automatically do the wanted until he is taught what it is you want him to do.
If he defecates in the house it was because he felt the need to go and hadn’t been taught when not to go and where to go. Along comes the genius who rubs his nose in the stool and he feels the dog knows he did wrong. Sorry If that really worked, Mothers would have quit changing diapers years ago and simply rubbed little noses into dirty diapers.
And then there are those that pronounce that they came home and the dog chewed a shoe, stole food off the counter, etc., etc. and he knew he had done wrong. No, he hung his head and tried to sneak away because he knew you were angry and had seen you in action before. Dogs are immensely perceptive and can tell you are angry before you enter their environment. Think how often you have walked into a room and immediately knew you wife/husband was teed off and they never had to look at or speak to you. That’s how easy it was for your dog to judge your mood. The point is negative consequences don’t work unless they are administered properly and followed by a positive reward based alternative.
Example: You say to the dog “let’s go for a walk.” You grab the leash and head for the door and the spinning, jumping, excited yelping process starts. You become more stressed, your voice raises, you become more frustrated as the dog also gets more stressed and even more difficult to deal with until finally you smack the dog, give him a yank, snap on the leash and the two of you start off for a happy walk.
Here’s where negative motivation is used to your advantage. When the dog starts the whirling dervish routine you ignore him. That’s right, you ignore him. Turn around walk away and hang up the leash and sit down until he cools it. Now start again with a little less vocal enthusiasm on your part. Simply say “go to the door”, walk to the door and tell the dog to sit. When he sits calmly you attach the leash and calmly go for the walk. If he chooses to act up and not sit calmly and let you attach the leash you repeat step one. You walk away and ignore him until he learns to sit and let you leash him without a struggle. The first few times will take quite a few tries because he has been trained by you that the struggling, wrestling way is acceptable and it’s going to take some effort to change his understanding. When he does it correctly he is rewarded and you have changed a negative consequence to a positive reward based consequence. There are lots more examples. The biggest challenge is to get people to change their thinking.