I’ll be honest: dog training is not that complicated. There is a limited number of tools that every dog owner can learn. The only difference between an experienced dog trainer and an owner is that the trainer is used to spotting opportunities and creative ways of applying the tools. Alright, we, dog trainers, also have experience and theoretical knowledge that allows us to apply our tools to different cases. However, I am convinced that any person can learn to apply the basic tools to their own dog. That is why I would like to share with you the three most important principles of dog training, on which the major part of dog training is based.
Too many dog behavioural issues are caused by inconsistency and spoiling. Often dogs just don’t know what is expected of them, because the rules constantly change. Today the dog is allowed on the sofa, while tomorrow he is not. No wonder he can snap at you, when you trying to move him off it. If you have a set of rules to which you stick with no exceptions, you will find that your dog feels more secure and behaves himself. Below is the set of rules that I recommend to follow. Print it and put it on your fridge or somewhere you’ll be able to see it often.
RULES for dogs and people
- “NO FREE LUNCH” policy. The dog must earn his treats, playtime, hugs & kisses.
- BE CONSISTENT! What’s not allowed is not allowed.
- THE DOG WANTS TO BE GOOD.If he does something wrong, help him by explaining what is right. Always show him an appropriate behaviour to replace the inappropriate.
- NO SHOUTING OR PHYSICAL FORCE.
- IGNORE BAD BEHAVIOUR, don’t reinforce it with attention.
- REPETITION = PERMANENT. Applies to both bad and good behaviour. If you can avoid bad behaviour, avoid it.
If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.
“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.
Treats used in dog training can have different value for dogs. Of course, if your dog is like Milo, he or she will greatly appreciate even the tiniest bit of a rice cracker. Some dogs just love food, whereas some are completely indifferent to it. For instance, my parents’ dog, a border collie named Daisy, can easily pass by a bag of groceries. Milo, on the other hand, works as a full-time vacuum cleaner in our house. To be honest, I am so used to him picking up crumbs that I never bother to pick up, when I drop something on the floor. Anyway, all kinds of dogs, “foodies,” “picky eaters” and every type in between, can distinguish treats of different values. Understanding value of treats adds another reinforcement instrument to our toolbox.
Do you know the pleasure of solving a riddle? Remember the joy of experiencing an “Aha!” moment? With a bit of help, your dog can have such moments too. I mentioned the discovery approach to dog training in my previous post about relaxation for dogs. I like it and use it a lot, because it has several advantages.