Anyone Can Train Their Dog – November 2013

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

Going Training? Check your TARP


dogtrainerOne of the more difficult things for trainers to grasp and master is TIMING. When we give a directive the student needs to be told that he has done what we expect. Because the dog doesn’t understand English we can’t explain our approval so we have to use a “marker” word or a clicker. He has to hear these markers/clickers at precisely the time he performed the task or assumed the position so he is able to relate his approval to a specific event or task. If we direct the dog to sit and he does as asked and we then fumble around and get the reward out and mumble some kind of acknowledgement about the time the dog has wandered over and sniffed and marked a tire, he obviously doesn’t relate our approval actions to his performance or at least he doesn’t know which task produced the reward.

Similarly with corrections, if we are slow, late to correct the dog at a completely inappropriate time, the dog relates the correction to whatever he was doing immediately preceding the correction. Check your timing and if necessary improve your skills. Proper timing will greatly enhance your success.

ATTITUDE is everything. If you can’t visualize your dog performing the task you are teaching it is most unlikely that you will succeed. Imagine setting out to ride a bicycle, having never seen nor ridden one and having no concept of what is involved in riding a bike. Your chances of succeeding are right up there with winning the lottery.

If you’re not completely confident that your dog can learn, perform, and master the task you are teaching you are facing an uphill battle. Also if you are having a “bad hair day,” put your leash away and go out in the yard and play with your dog. You will both benefit from it.

REPETITION  is the key to any successful training effort. Anyone can do a better than average job of training if they will just give it enough time and repeat all of the training efforts enough times. There’s no magic formula. Show the student what you want. Set him up to succeed. Make the task easy and practice in an environment with no distractions. When he masters the task and performs correctly 10 out of 10 times, then and only then do you gradually change the environment, slowly introduce distractions, and increase the difficulty level. If he does it correctly 100 times do it 100 more times so the task is etched into his mind and muscle memory so the performance is on cruise control like an Olympic diver or a concert pianist. These results only come with REPETITION.

More good dogs have been screwed up by people losing their PATIENCE than any other training error. One short outrage can back your training up by days and your best solution is to hang up your leash and start another day. Your best bet is to go back to where you find a task that you and the dog do well and gradually work forward. Hopefully your dog will progress without carrying too much baggage but it’s not uncommon for the dog to have a memory scar that will take a lot of positive experiences before it goes away. Much easier to control that temper.


“If You Can Master Your Mind … You Can Do Anything You Want.”


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