Many people believe that dog training is hard. Many also believe that some dogs are simply not trainable. Both of these views are wrong. The truth of the matter is this: all dogs are trainable, and training a dog doesn’t have to be hard work. Indeed, training a dog can be fun. It is of course true that some dog breeds are easier to train than others. What we disagree with, however, is the assertion that there are dogs which can’t be trained – because that is so untrue. What we venture to explore then, are some of the things you need to do, in order to get the training of your dog right.
Parameters for gauging success
You’ll be deemed to have gotten the training of your dog right if you manage to pass on the essential dog skills to your pooch within a reasonable amount of time.
You’ll further be deemed to have gotten the training of your dog right if you manage to the essential dog skills in an enduring way. This is to say, in other words, that you won’t be regarded as having been very successful in training your dog if the pooch forgets the skills taught within a day.
Thus, in a nutshell, the parameters through which success in dog training can be gauged include:
– The duration of time expended in passing on the essential skills to the dog.
– The skills inculcated in the dog.
– How long the skills are retained by the dog.
Of course, if you are taking too long to pass on certain skills to the dog, if you are finding it impossible to inculcate certain skills in the dog, or if the dog keeps on forgetting skills taught to him or her, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t doing things well. You have to keep it in mind that there are two variables at play here. The first of those is your skill, aptitude and dedication as a dog trainer. And the second of those is your dog’s natural ability – against a background where some dog breeds seem to ‘get’ things faster than others.
Early initiation as a key to success in the training dogs
Simply put, there are some skills that you can only teach to a dog when he or she is young. This means that the commonly held belief that puppies below six months of age shouldn’t be trained is altogether wrong. In fact, there are some skills you’ll find hard to teach to a dog that is older than six months. It is worth noting that unlike us humans, dogs are (in some ways) highly evolved animals – whose life skills learning process starts the moment they are born. That is why a puppy that loses his mother at three months of age may be able to survive in the wild, whereas it would be very hard for a human baby who lost his mother at the same age to survive on his or her own in a similar environment.
Now the best time to start training a dog would be when he or she is learning basic life skills, so that the skills you want to pass on to him or her are also adopted alongside those basic canine life skills. That way, the required behaviors would be part of the dog’s personality. They would be more deeply ingrained in him or her. This is not to say an older dog can’t be trained. It is just that you’d have a harder time (and less fun) training the older pooch.
It later emerges that some of the people who end up getting the impression that their dogs are not trainable tend to be folks who make an attempt at teaching their dogs certain skills too late in the dogs’ lives. When the dogs fail to pick such skills, they are labeled boneheads – whereas it is not really their fault that they are unable to pick the skills, but rather, the trainer’s fault for not having initiated training earlier.
The right use of rewards and corrections as a key to success in training dogs.
When we get to the nitty-gritty of dog training, it emerges that various skills and behaviors can only be transmitted and ingrained in dogs through the right use of rewards and corrections.
The biggest reward you can give to a dog is attention. And conversely, the biggest correction/punishment you can give to a dog is deprivation of attention.
Thus, if you want to get you dog to pick a certain behavior, you need to simulate (or rather illustrate) it to him or her, and then reward him or her (with attention) when he behaves accordingly, whist also punishing him or her (with deprivation of attention) when or she fails to behave accordingly. Just looking at the dog lovingly is a way of ‘rewarding’ him or her with attention. Petting him or her is another form of attention reward. Praising the pooch verbally is yet another way of rewarding him or her with attention. True, the dog may not understand the words, but he or she can sense the emotions behind them. Dog seem to have that ability.
Meanwhile, if your dog was enjoying your attention whilst doing something right and you deprive him or her of that attention the moment he or she starts doing something wrong, he instantly senses the reaction and makes the connection between his misbehavior and the deprivation of attention. He is inclined to correct the behavior, in order to regain your attention. These things work particularly well if the dog you are trying to train is still young.
What you mustn’t do, however, is to hit the dog as a form of punishment/correction: the simple reason being that the dog won’t understand that being hit is a form of ‘punishment.’ Rather, the hit pooch will assume that you are just being violent to him or her. If the dog keeps on doing things like running to the road or messing up neighbors stuff, you’d be better advised to find ways of restraining his movements, rather than hitting him.
Patience as a key to success in the training of dogs
You won’t be successful in dog training unless you are patient. You have to keep it in mind that it takes dogs some time to pick ideas that seem too simple to us as humans. There are people who have this misconception that you can only be successful in dog training if you are ‘tough.’ On the contrary, this is one of those endeavors where kindness and the ‘soft approach’ seem to work better than the tough Spartan approach to training.
Persistence as a key to success in the training of dogs
Closely related to patience (as a key to success in dog training) is persistence. You won’t be successful as a dog trainer if you give up too easily – that is, like where you illustrate a desired behavior to a dog, and then give up if the dog fails to pick it up immediately. The truth of the matter is that you have to illustrate a desire behavior to a dog several times, whilst using the necessary reinforcements, till the dog eventually comes to learn what is expected of him or her.
Consistency as a key to success in the training of dogs
This is a scheme where, for instance, having settled on a particular reinforcement (reward or punishment), you need to apply it consistently, so that the dog under training can understand what it actually means. One of the worst things you can do in the course of training a dog is to send mixed signals, because once a dog gets confused, it becomes very hard to train him or her.
Further keys to successful dog training
On top of these, you may need to undertake further research (online or in the library) before getting started.
And should your DIY efforts at training your dog fail, you should consider enlisting the help of a professional trainer before giving up on the dog altogether.