The DOG’s Pov’s
20 Steps to Better Dog Training
Use the following 20 Steps to Better Dog training for times when you are specifically teaching your dog to respond to a cue word. In truth, training time is all the time, but that’s a whole other area to be covered in future articles. For the purposes of this article, these tips are for the times we spend actually focused on teaching our dog a new trick or behaviour response to a particular cue word.
- Always keep training sessions short.
- Puppies need only 5 minutes at a time
- Older dogs can do 10-15 minute sessions but will also benefit from lots of short 5 minute ones (Utilise those advert breaks!)
- It is better to do more short sessions than one long one
- Always train before meal times. Especially when using food as your reward in training sessions (so your pooch is actually hungry)
- Know what motivates your dog. It might be food treats, toys, praise or something else, but it is important that you recognise the value your dog places on his rewards, this will really help you get the most success from all of your training.
- Quality – The quality effects behaviour (Your dog will work harder for tastier/more exciting rewards)
- Variety – Use a variety of food / toys / praise rewards to keep training interesting and maintain motivation
- Low value rewards = normal dried food / pat on the head
- Medium value rewards = hot dogs / packet treats / vocal praise
- High value rewards (jackpots) – Chicken / Sausage / Liver Cake / favourite game or toy / big fuss / excited vocal praise
- Understand How To Build Reliability Into Your Training. When training new behaviours always begin in low distraction surroundings (ie: Your home, garden). Once the behaviour is established, by established I mean your dog will respond to your cue word reliably 99% of the time in this low distraction location, then change the location to a somewhere slightly more distracting (ie: the street outside or a quiet park area). Then continue to practise until your dogs behaviour is established at this level, then and only then start practising the behaviour in a maximum distraction area (ie: local playing field, dog park, busy high street) Continue to practise and build the behaviour in this kind of location until you are getting 99% reliable responses. This will ensure reliability of response in almost any circumstance.
- Always end your training sessions on a good note. If a session is not going well, go back to a behaviour the dog can do well and finish it there
- Always set up training sessions for success. Have the right treats/toys/training lines or equipment that you will need with you
- Reward the things you like… ignore the things you don’t like. Ignoring means No Speaking, No Eye Contact, No Physical Contact. For example, your dog jumps up, you tell him to get down and push him away, you have SPOKEN to him + you have TOUCHED him + you have probably LOOKED at him…. as far as he is concerned, the rewards for jumping up are MEGA! It doesn’t matter to him that you are telling him off, any attention is better than no attention. Think about what happens when he doesn’t jump up? Does he get any of your attention for his very good behaviour?
- Training should always be fun! We all learn better when we are having fun, can you remember when you were at school? The best lessons and the one’s you were best at were most likely the ones that had the most interesting and enjoyable teachers.
- Avoid training sessions if your dog/puppy is tired. None of us are at our best when we are tired wouldn’t you agree? If your dog/puppy has just spent 2 hours playing with your children or other pets, he is unlikely to be very focused for a training session, let him have a nap and come back to it later.
- Punishment or harsh training methods will result in stress. A stressed dog is unable to learn anything, think about it, if you were highly stressed, trying to understand someone speaking a different language and they slapped you every time you did the wrong thing, would you be able to work out what they wanted? If punishment worked all that well, you’d never have to punish your dog more than once. Punishment causes your dog to think he needs to protect himself from you, is that the kind of relationship you want?
- Always use short clear cue words. Be consistent, use exactly the same word each time (preferably one syllable words per behaviour) and make sure everyone who interacts with your dog uses the same words, otherwise your pooch could start getting confused.
- Consistency is paramount in dog training. Dogs can become easily confused if you keep moving the goal posts, and Confusion = Stress.
- Never embark upon a training session if you are in bad mood
- Persistence and Patience. Remember how it feels to learn/understand ESPECIALLY when you don’t speak the language.
- Use calm, authoritative tones when giving cue words. Shouting can stress and confuse dogs and is not necessary
- Issue cue words only once. If the dog does not respond ask yourself why? Don’t just keep repeating the command
- Your dog is always learning. If your dog/puppy is able to practise behaviours you don’t want him to do, these are the things he will learn, the more a behaviour is repeated, the stronger it will get. If you want him to behave a different way, you have to determine how to get him to want to do the things you want him to (more about this in future articles)
- To do is better than NOT to do. If you are trying to teach your dog NOT to do something, try to approach the behaviour in a different way by teaching him to DO something. It is easier and more successful to teach something than to un-teach it. For example, you want your dog NOT to jump up at you, teach him to sit instead, as a replacement behaviour.
- Speak the right language. Your dog’s main communication method is through body language, our main communication method is through speech. For every spoken cue word you teach your dog, communicate it with a particular body or hand signal, he will learn to associate the two and will most likely respond better to the non verbal communication. It also teaches him to pay closer attention to you, he has to be watching you to know what you are saying and this is a very powerful behaviour to have going on!
- Remember: Where animals are concerned, there is no such thing as 100% reliability
Do you have any dog training problems?
I would love to hear from you…