Saturday, October 1, 2011

General Training Tips

“Anything a dog can learn on his own is more effective and better understood than what humans can force on the dog.” – Randy Hare

A dog does a certain behavior because it gets him something. It doesn't really matter what that something is. If you supporess a behavior instead of figuring out what the reinforcers are and removing them, the dog will eventually find another behavior that will get him those reinforcers. Change the environment and you change the behavior. Change the behavior and it's likely to be replaced by some other behavior which could be equally as annoying or dangerous.

Probably the most common training mistake is being inconsistent. Inconsistency exists in the mechanicals and in your emotion. Emotionally, you, the trainer, become overly excited, frustrated, and/or stressed, and your dog doesn’t even know who you are anymore. Maybe your voice gets really high, loud, commanding or shrill. Maybe you start to beg, or plead with your dog to do what you're asking. When you get like this, your dog starts searching for some way to get away from you. Who can blame her?

Many people embrace the concept that there are no bad dogs, that there are only humans who aren't handling the dog correctly. Despite this, I still see too much that puts the dog in the hot seat, teaches the dog to behave, suppresses the dog's natural energy and instincts. I'd rather see people replace "training" with "playing" and teaching a dog how to be a dog and how to live in the human world. The days when trainers concentrated mainly on showing dogs, competing with their dogs, hunting or working with their dogs is largely a thing of the past. I'd say that 90% of all dogs are pets and companions. Why continue to follow a model that doesn't fit the paradigm?

When training your dog, or just with life in general, cultivate your ability to observe - to see what is actually hapening uncolored by emotion or past failure. Look for things are aren't there as well as things that are there. If you do this often enough and long enough, you will start to see patterns in your dog, in your life, in nature and in society, and you will be able to put those patterns and observation to good use.

Seeing what is happening around us, what is there and not there, is something we unconsciously do all the time. Make a decision to consciously do this. You can learn a lot about people -- and dogs -- very quickly.

"He should just do it because I have asked". I have often heard this despondent remark from the humans during class and at private training lessons. Regardless of the difficulties at that time (anxiety, confusion, fear, or lack of solid previous training). In my view, not only is this statement a little dictatorial, but it also lacks realism.

I have heard there are trainers that say they can train a dog with only this motivation "because I asked". I've never seen a mention,however, of how they will get a distracted, unfocused, could care less about the human at the other end of the leash, dog to "do as one asks".

So, when faced with this plea, I can only ask one question: ‘How’s that working out for you?’. ‘That’ being the often unsuccessful demand that the dog should simply obey - the plea for me to do it all, for the magic wand to come out of the closet.

Learn to view the leash as only an accessory required by law. The leash should be almost non-existent as far as the dog is concerned. To train a truly loose-leash walk means the leash "invisible" in its impact on the dog - the leash is not used to control where the dog is walking or how the dog responds to stimuli except in an emergency. Even in an emergency, to continue to promote the loose leash... philosophy, don't jerk or tug the leash, just turn around swiftly and run away from the danger. Your dog may reach the end of the leash a few times in practicing this and get jerked just because it's the end of the leash, but the energy, emotion and frustration from you is not there. The dog learns to stay WITH you instead of learning to "respect" the leash. You learn that your dog can make the choice to be with you and not be constantly in a battle with you.

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