Trying To Teach Your Dog A New Trick Or Behaviour? Follow These 6 Tips To Improve Your Dog Training Results!
We all want to have a balanced, happy and well behaved dog, don’t we? We can take different routes to achieve that, using different techniques, but these 6 dog training tips will help you make your training so much more successful. Read on for these simple adjustments that will enable you to improve your dog training and have more fun at the same time!
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MARK GOOD RESULTS PROPERLY
Set your dog up for success (and you too!) by correctly marking your dog when she does something you want. Some people use a clicker. I don’t personally. I find the word ‘YES!’ works perfectly well and doesn’t depend on me remembering to have a clicker on me at all times.
Each time your dog gives you the behaviour you want, say ‘YES!’ happily, and reward her. For instance, let’s suppose you’re trying to train your dog not to jump up when you come home. As soon as you see a behaviour you want – for instance, she sits or stands or settles, but doesn’t jump – say ‘YES!” in your cheeriest voice and give her a reward.
This one word – YES – will quickly become music to your dog’s ears, as she knows she’s about to get a treat. She will quickly learn that any behaviour she offers that gets her a YES! and a treat, is worth repeating.
Different dogs are motivated by different rewards. In the example above, your dog is pleased to see you, and is probably looking for some love. You could reward her with a treat, or, give her a hug once she is calmer and not jumping up.
By marking good behaviour with the same marker (a clicker, or a work like YES), you are more likely to get your dog repeating the good behaviour. What we don’t want to do is punish her, or say ‘NO!’ if she doesn’t do the behaviour you’re looking for.
STOP SAYING NO!
This is a hard habit to break! Most of us are so accustomed to saying NO to our dogs. However, training is much more enjoyable for us and our dogs if we focus on the behaviour we DO want, NOT the behaviour we DON’T want.
Many of us pet parents think that dog training is for the dog. In fact, it’s for us too! We need to learn how to be better at communicating with our dogs, and how to stop sending confusing signals to them.
Instead of marking the bad behaviour that you don’t want to see by saying ‘NO!’, try to focus on positive reinforcement by marking and rewarding the good behaviour that you DO want, with a happy ‘YES!’.
Not only will your dog be happier and less stressed, you will too!
HIGH VALUE TREATS
For behaviour change to occur, we need something that our dogs will find super rewarding. For most dogs this will be high value food.
This varies from dog to dog; some go nuts for cheese, others adore chicken.
What does your dog really love? Use that for training sessions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new, or something challenging and difficult. If your dog is already doing well with an aspect of training, you can use ‘normal’ treats for that.
For instance, my girl is reactive to other dogs. When we’re out on a walk, I will often do little training sessions with her such as recall, loose leash walking, and various tricks. These are things she can manage pretty well, so I use normal, medium value treats.
However, when another dog comes into view, I switch to high value treats.
You can get through lots of treats when training. If you feed your dog kibble, you can just use the kibble as the treats. You will probably need something more enticing as a high value treat though. Try to keep the high value treats just for training.
Here are some homemade dog treat recipes that my girl loves, and she is a very picky eater. Each dog is different so try different treats to see what your dog goes nuts for!
MANAGE THE ENVIRONMENT BETTER
We can manage our surroundings to help us with our dogs’ behaviour.
Let’s say one problem you are trying to resolve is poor recall. If your dog runs off each time you take him on a walk, just don’t let him off the lead!
Get a long line so that he can still have a degree of freedom but it won’t end in you running round the park after him, screaming and shouting. Apart from anything else, chasing your dog like this is super fun for your dog and will simply make him want to do it all the more!
There are so many things we can do to make our lives easier and manage our dog’s environment better.
Your dog eats your shoes? Put them in a cupboard! Your dog barks at people he sees walking by? Put a screen or curtain over the window so he can’t see out.
These management changes don’t have to be permanent; they are useful at helping reduce the problem while we work on the behaviourial side with appropriate training.
For instance, my dog runs to the gate and barks at other dogs walking by. To manage this, I put a tarp up over the gate, so she can no longer see out to the road. This stopped her barking.
At the same time, we are working on her reactivity to stop her barking at other dogs. If she barks, she gets worked up (as do I), and none of us learn well when we are worked up and stressed. Covering the gate is a great management technique to support my end goal of her no longer barking at passing dogs.
How can you change your environment so that your dog’s unwelcome behaviour is less likely to occur?
PRACTISE IN DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS
Whatever you are trying to teach your dog, it is of course best to begin the training in a place where there are few distractions and your dog is most comfortable – remember, we learn best when we are relaxed and happy.
Once your dog can perform the desired behaviour that you are teaching, and he can do it consistently, it’s time to practise it in different places.
Start with a place that has a few more distractions, but not too many – you don’t want to throw your dog in the deep end and ruin all your good work!
The idea is to make the training a little more challenging each time until your dog can do the desired behaviour in a range of settings.
Once your dog has learned the desired behaviour well, don’t forget to practise it from time to time in the future. Just like learning a new language, we lose what we don’t use.
KEEP TRAINING SESSIONS SHORT
If training is fun, it will be more effective. if your dog gets bored, stop training and continue at another time. By keeping the sessions short, you will progress faster and it will be more enjoyable.
What’s more, quick 2 to 3 minute training sessions can be easily slotted in to your daily life – for instance, while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, do some quick training!
Sometimes, we need outside assistance. As well as our dogs learning new things, we need help learning too.
For those tricky situations or difficulties that you feel you’re not able to resolve, get some professional help. I know this almost always means spending money, but isn’t your dog worth it?
I highly recommend Grisha Stewart’s Dog Training School. I think it represents the best value for money, good quality training on the market. With hundreds of hours of training videos and live classes, it’s an absolute gem for training your dog.
Grisha Stewart’s Dog Training And Behaviour School
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Dog training can be challenging at times. These 6 dog training tips can be applied to teaching any new behaviour and result in more success in your dog training.