Top rules of dog training!
We all do what works for us.
Amazingly, all animals, including humans, learn in the exact same way!
From tigers, to gold fish, we all have one thing in common.
We are all pleasure seekers, including dogs.
We do what works and avoid what doesn’t.
When we find what works, we are more likely to do the same thing again.
Positive reinforcement is the best teacher!
If we study hard and get great exam results, we are more likely to study hard for the next exam.
When a child paints a picture and gets lots of praise from teachers and parents, they are more likely to paint again.
If you work in a restaurant and get great tips, you’re more likely to give great service!
It is the same principle for training dogs.
When dogs are rewarded for doing what is asked, they are more likely to repeat it.
So here are my top rules for training great tricks and behaviour.
1.Your dog will repeat any behaviour which results in a pleasurable experience.
As I said above. Dogs do what works for them. Teach them that a response to a word or action results in rewards, they are more likely to respond in future.
2. Great timing is critical!
The timing of you rewards is critical! The longer you wait between the action and the reward, the less likely your dog will associate the action with the reward.
Say your dog does the perfect recall, if you have to fiddle around in your bag for a treat, your dog may begin to wander and sniff. When he finally gets his reward, he is no longer being rewarded for his response to the recall, but for sniffing and wandering.
Get your treats ready!
3. Punishments create problems.
Dog training should ALWAYS be fun. If your not having fun, then your dog probably isn’t either, and its a good time to stop and do something else for the day.
If your dog is not doing what is asked, and you are considering punishing the dog, ask your self this – does the dog know what you are asking of her?
Sometimes dogs just haven’t learned the behaviour properly yet, and you may need to go back a step and practise some more.
This is a big problem in recall, often recall is learned at home, then in a very busy park with several dogs around. Realistically, we can not expect a dog to be able to recall at home and then in the middle of the biggest distractions without first travelling through other stages.
4. Payment is important.
I want you to learn the entire greek language for me, I will pay you £10. No? How about £100? Still no? One million pounds is my final offer! YES?!
I often advise people to use their dogs daily food allowance to do their training at home. Home training is a low distraction environment, where the dogs feels happy and, well, at home!
But when out and about, in new and highly distracting environments, most dogs will need more than dry biscuits to keep them interested and motivated.
Anything moist and smelly is super exciting for a dog. Try hotdogs, cheese, or chicken, and see them learn a new trick at top speed!
Alternatively, keep the squeaky tennis balls, or soft tuggy toys, for when you want to teach something new, or training in a distracting new environment.
5. How big?
I am a bit stingy in this regard! I like finger nail sized treats, or pea sized, for my Cocker spaniel and Labrador.
Small treats mean I can do more training!
Obviously if you have a small dog, large treats will fill them up fast and they could lose interest after that.
So treat size should be appropriate for the size of your dog.
6. How long?
How long a training session should be depends entirely on your dog.
For optimal training, I find 5 minutes, twice a day, produces great results.
If your dog is losing interest before that, then even shorter sessions, more times a day.
Sometimes training is not even in a ‘session’. You might just ask your dog to do one thing before they get their dinner, or before you throw a ball. It still counts as training!
Now that most of the world is in lockdown, or being restricted from leaving the house, you have no excuses not to train!
Remember, brain games, or teaching something new, is just as exhausting as a walk for them, and is an opportunity to fix some of their unwanted behaviours!