As many of my readers already know, training dogs is a big part of my life. I enjoy interacting with my dogs, and I love to work out new, creative ways to teach my dogs something new. Now I know most people don’t share the same interest in dog training as I do. Most people want an obedient family pet and will be satisfied when the dog knows sit, lie down, stay and come when called. Some are unfortunate enough to have dogs that develop problematic behavior as they grow. No matter how much time you want to spend on training your dog and now matter why you want or need to train them, the most important thing to think about is to set your dog up for success!
Now what do I mean by setting the dog up for success? I mean that the owner (or dog parent as I like to say) should lower the expectations he or she has to the dog, and make it easier for the dog to succeed in what ever it is they are training on. Whether it is to sit on cue or to not react fearfully or with aggression towards other dogs. By setting the dog up for success, we focus on all the good things the dog does, instead of correcting (punishing) the «bad» behaviors. If your dog didn’t do as well as you hoped, you have to lower the expectations and make things easier for him. Just start over again!
What do you gain by training this way? A dog that trusts you and a dog that wants to learn more. A dog that is confident in himself and a dog that is happy. Every time a dog succeeds he’s getting more and more confident. Just think about yourself. Think about a situation where you worked hard and struggled with all your energy to get a task done correctly and when you finally did it! How did you feel? Happy? Confident? Proud? The dog does so, too! When focusing on all the good things your dog does, and ignoring the bad things, your dog will be highly motivated to work!
This also means no prong collar, no choke collars, no e-collars, no hitting, no «alpha-roll». No pain and no fear! Just happiness and motivation. Dogs will work for rewards. What is rewarding depends on the dog and the situation. I helped training a dog to not act aggressively towards my whippet. To be able to relax around my dog and to enjoy his company was enough of a reward in this situation. Training positively is not about sticking a treat in the dog’s mouth at all times. It’s about letting your dog succeed, not wanting to inflict pain or fear to your dog and to teach your dog something on his terms in a way he will understand. Remember that a dog will always do what is rewarding for them, no matter what. If they gain nothing from the behavior, the behavior will stop. And THAT is what positive training stands for!
I want my dogs to trust me, but if I physically punished my dogs or tried to intimidate them, that trust would be broken more and more for every time I did so. I am the one they should trust the most, and how can they trust me if I hurt them? I really struggle to understand how some people claim to love their dog and yet they use techniques that hurts or scares them, especially when they know that other training methods exists.. As a «crossover trainer» myself, I sought out other ways of training my dog than what was shown on TV and what the first dog people I got to know said. And now I have happy dogs that wants to do well, and aren’t afraid to try again if they «fail». Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. The worst thing that can happen is that you gain more knowledge.