Training is hard work. As humans, it is not such a fun thing to think about, but it is a fact of life and something I have to remind my clients of on a regular basis. In the fast paced, fast consumption society we live in nowadays, its important to remember that there are no short cuts to teaching reliable dog behavior, but in this article I want to give you a few keys to success that will make learning for your dog quick, clear and concise.
The first key is consistency. Being consistent in how you communicate with your dog and reinforce behaviors is critical. For example, owners ask me how to keep their dog off a particular piece of furniture. One of the most important aspects of ensuring the dog fully understands the behavior you expect is to be consistent. It cannot be okay to allow the dog to “sometimes” hang out on that particular chair or sofa and then other times it NOT be okay. A lack of consistency can leave your dog feeling terribly confused and lead to inconsistent behavior.
The second key is follow through. One of the behaviors that dog owners ask of their dogs that they tend to not follow through on is the recall, or the “Come” command. They call their dog to come, the dog might turn around and look but then they go right back to whatever they were doing and completely ignore the owner! If the owner does not follow through and show the dog (either by incentivizing or by running in the opposite direction to get the dog to chase them) that they really mean what they say, then the dog has learned they do not have to respond.
Our last key to training success is generalization. Dogs may have the most beautiful and quick respond to “Sit” while at home with little distractions, but they then must generalize this behavior in different environments with different distractions. So train EVERYWHERE! Every moment out and about with your dog has the potential to be a training moment. Work your dog’s brain by asking them to do Sits and Downs in lots of different locations….while you wait in your veterinarian’s office lobby, before you go into the dog park and while you sit and have coffee outside of Starbucks. Also, always remember to reward good behavior and keep training fun!