Anyone Can Train Their Dog – April 2015

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

The Other End of the Leash


dogtrainerFor the most part teaching basic obedience to the average dog is not difficult. We get their attention. Name, Focus. We use positive reward based training so we use a treat to lure the dog into position and reward the action. After this you repeat and reward. The problem exists with the other end of the leash. Many people have difficulty accepting the basics that make your training efforts easier and more successful. So here’s my list’

There must always be reason for the dog to perform a task. It’s called motivation. We use positive reward based motivation and we start with food because it’s the easiest.

Always set your dog up to succeed. This includes an environment that the student knows, no distractions, and making the task easy to perform.

Clearly identify that which you want to teach. Break it into the smallest teachable and learnable steps. Lure, Reward, Repeat.

Timing is everything. We mark the dog’s achievement with a specific word, like “yes” or “good” or if you are Clicker training this is when you would click. This marking must be at the exact time the dog successfully performs the task. If you are 5 or 10 seconds late the dog doesn’t relate the reward to a specific action and all you are doing is feeding the dog.

Never give a command until you have the dog’s attention. This is why we teach Name, Attention, Focus. If you don’t have the dog’s attention you are simply setting yourself and the dog up for failure. Old time trainers used to say “if your dog’s not looking at you his ears are facing away and you’re just yellin’ at his butt.”

Don’t  make changes in the environment, add distractions, or change the duration of the expected task, until you have completely mastered the task. Only then do you change places and add new steps.

Training success is a direct result of repetition. Five or ten smaller training sessions a day that include lots of successful repetitions will achieve much more than an hour every two days. The secret is to make the desired action automatic every time the student receives a verbal or physical signal. If, for example, you want the dog to stop and sit before you proceed through a door or down a few stairs, you train with lures and rewards and expect correct performance every time. Gradually the dog will automatically sit and the reward will phase down to a vocal, “Thank You” or “Good Dog” and a simple pat.

Avoid accidental punishment. I regularly see these two examples of accidental punishment. Many people will call their dog from a distance and then turn and start to walk to the car. The dog comes and is not acknowledged or recognized as having come when called and the first comment from the owner as he turns his back and walks away is “Hurry up and get in the car”. The second common case is when people let the dog play in the park and when they are ready to go they call the dog and as soon as he gets near, they snare him, snap on the leash, and hustle him off to the car. Both of these are cases of accidental punishment. Not intentional but they have neglected to praise or even acknowledge the dog for coming and they have ignored the fact that the dog was having fun and maybe wasn’t ready to leave.

Don’t reinforce improper or unwanted actions or performances. Remember, every time you ignore a dog who is doing what you don’t want him to do you are reinforcing whatever he is doing at that time as being a correct action. Your message is telling him that you accept what he is doing as another acceptable procedure.

“Loose leashes Happy Tails”



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