The 3 Keys To Successfully Training Your Dog
I meet with several people each week to discuss their dog’s problems and needs. Most of them are trying very hard to help their dogs and end up standing in front of me because they are frustrated that they can’t make any progress with their dog’s issue – whatever they may be. As I said, in most cases it isn’t for a lack of trying or effort on their part and many have invested in previous training, read many books, and watched countless videos on the internet seeking help. So as they stand in front of me, often desperate and beginning to believe their dog is not trainable, I see the common theme once again. Communication.
Communication is the foundation that needs to be in place before anything can really take place. If the dog doesn’t understand the conversation with you, you will have little to no success. If you signed up for a course and the course outline and classes were in a foreign language, how would you do? You may be able to figure out a little bit of what is going on by being there but you wouldn’t be able to truly understand in any depth and it would be a very confusing and frustrating process. That is what most dogs are experiencing that I see. They have no clear expectations, the course outline, and they don’t understand what is being said, the course content.
So how do dog’s communicate? They communicate through their senses. You can use a dog’s scent to get attention and engagement in the conversation – especially when using food in the training. Dog’s primarily use body language (sight) to communicate. Their tale, ears, body, paws, mouth, eyes, and even their fur are used to send a message to whoever is watching. They use tones (sound) by letting out a growl, bark, or whine to whoever is listening. Lastly, they are very physical animals so touch often comes into the conversation in the form of affection or physical warnings or corrections. Of course, we can communicate to them using these very same senses to have a conversation with our dog that they understand. They are a different species and how they communicate is not the same as a human. Dogs learn through association and repetition so we have to take the time to teach and give meaning to our communication. Without clear communication the dog will have limited understanding in the process.
So let’s discuss the three keys to successfully training a dog now that you know it must first start with clear communication. The three keys are timing, consistency, and motivation.
- Timing: Dogs live in the moment and to effectively communicate with them you have to do so in that very moment. The window of opportunity is about one second long. That may sound like it would be difficult to achieve but it isn’t. With a little practice and a good communication system, you can learn to be timely with your dog and it will be make you more observant of your dog so that you can achieve this critical piece of the conversation. The analogy I always use to illustrate this is to get people to think about how movies used to be made up of a series of pictures. If each picture was one second apart then that is how your dog takes the world in – a snapshot one second at a time. You have to communicate inside the snapshot. If you get the snapshots before or after the appropriate one the time is off. When your timing is right, it is extremely effective.
- Consistency: You have to be consistent. Dogs don’t do well with grey area. The process of learning needs to be black and white and consistent. You always have to be in a position to teach and if you can’t be, the dog needs to be in an environment where they are not able to make decisions without your guidance. This needs to be the case until your teaching has produced a dog that consistently makes the desired decisions. At that point, they will not need your influence to make the correct one anymore.
- Motivation: A dog needs to be motivated to do or not do. You can motivate a dog to do more of something if there is something in it for them. That could be to acquire something they want or avoid something they don’t. You can motivate a dog to not do something by making it consequential. That could be an aversive consequence for a behaviour or the consequential removal of something they wish to have.
When you learn to effectively communicate with your dog in a clear, consistent manner and motivate them in the process you will have success. It never fails.
Contact me today to learn how and you will achieve your goals with your dog.
Guy Lapierre UPK9 Halifax
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