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8 Reasons your dog training doesn’t work

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leash pulling

Dog Training – What not to do

Dog training can be extremely stressful, frustrating and leave you wondering why your dog just won’t do as he is told.  There can be many, many different reasons for this.  I feel it’s super important to recognize why your training may not be as effective as you would like.  In order to adjust to become more effective and achieve results.  Here are the top 8 points to consider:

1. Your flooding him

How do you get over a fear of spiders? Sit in a bath with 1,000 of the hairy blighters crawling all over you. No? It sounds terrifying doesn’t it.

But If you have a dog who is scared of other dogs, and tries to show this to you by barking and lunging at any innocent dog passing by, continued exposure to the scary thing is not going to help your dog at all.

In fact, you could be making it worse!

Flooding is forcing  a dog in any situation that a dog doesn’t like, and cannot escape from.  If your dog suffers separation anxiety when alone, he will not get over it by increasing how long he is left alone to ‘just deal with it’.

Fight or Flight

Flooding tries to work by taking away the dogs choices with continued forced exposure to the stimulus.  Fight or flight is a natural response in harmful situations.  By taking away the option to remove himself from the situation, the dog has only two other options, fight or shut down.

If your dog does not like kids, putting him in a room full of children is just the same as teaching someone to swim by pushing them into the middle of the ocean and expecting them to deal with it.

You’re taking away a dogs choice and forcing him to fight or shut down.  Most dogs will chose to fight.  Or at least bark and lunge until the scary dog or person goes away.  Even if the other dog approached to play, barking and lunging will almost always causes another dog on the lead to turn away (This is called negative reinforcement).

2. You’re actually punishing him.

People often ask ‘why won’t my dog come back?’  And There’s often a simple reason for this, they’re punishing the dog without even realising it.

If they recall their dog, and the dog doesn’t respond, when he does eventually come back, they put him back on the lead and leave. Voila! You successfully punished your dog for returning to you, making the dog less likely to return to you in future.

3.  You’re inconsistent

Consistency is key in dog training.  Pick a  rule and stick to it. If your dog is not allowed on the sofa, never allow him on the sofa, even if he rolls over and looks cute.

When the rules become unpredictable, one minute he is punished, the next he is allowed, the dog becomes confused.

4.  You’re too boring

I’m sure you are the life of the any party, but maybe not to your dog.  Any training session you do needs to be fun, exciting and most of all rewarding for your dog.

It is essential to keep your dogs attention when training.  It doesn’t matter if your training session last 2 minutes or 30 minutes.  Boring sessions are unlikely to be rewarding or remembered by the dog, therefore learning doesn’t take place and training is wasted.

Try rewarding his recall with a game of tug, or a sit and wait the throw of a tennis ball.

Keep it interesting.  Any play that occurs after training sessions serves to help the dog remember what he learned.

5.  Timing is everything

Timing is the biggest factor in dog training.  If your dog is jumping up at the kitchen counters and steals a yummy chicken, there’s not much point in shouting at him, he’s already been richly rewarded.  Redirecting your dog before he jumps and before his paws hit the counter is far more effective.

Looking for clues that your dog is about to do something, makes it easier to redirect the behaviour before it happens.  The more you can recognize and redirect before it occurs, the less likely it is to occur in the future.

6.  You talk too much

We love to talk to our dogs, it’s a huge part of how us humans communicate. I chit chat with my dog all the time, he’s the only one that listens to me sometimes, flopping his head from side to side and wagging his tail like he understands.  He doesn’t, but he still gives a big sloppy kiss at the right time.

There’s nothing wrong with talking to your dog, but when it comes to effective dog training, there’s a time and place.  Think of dog training as this sequence:

command – action – reward

One word needs to be used as a command and it should only be used once.

‘Bella… Bella… come… COME!… come here darling… over here… come here now!’  is NOT the way to recall your dog.  Your dog may recognize two words, and both become meaningless when used repeatedly with no reward.

7.  You expect too much too soon

Dog training doesn’t happen in a day.  It takes time and persistence, sometimes over a few weeks, months or even years depending on what your teaching.

Just because your dog has perfect recall in the sitting room, it does not mean he will in your neighbours kitchen, and definitely not in an open field.  Training needs to be applied in as many different areas with as many different distractions as possible to gain perfect recall anywhere and everywhere.

8.  Correct the training not the dog

If you’re not doing all of the above and your dog is still not behaviour well, consider your training techniques.  Dogs are as individual as people.  Some love food like my hungry Labrador George, whilst others prefer toy rewards, namely Spaniels and Collies.

I can’t train George with toys, he gets too distracted and sloppy when there’s a rabbit tug in sight.  But he works perfectly for food rewards like cheese or chicken.

Consider how long your training lasts.  Boredom, frustration and misunderstanding can set in if sessions are too long or slow.  Training after mealtimes is futile, as the dog is no longer ready to work for food and possibly not interested in play on a full stomach.

Learning cannot take place whilst under stress, so consider the environment in which you’re training as well as the distractions present.