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Helpful hints for training your dog
by TeenHelp January 6th 2016, 05:49 PM

Helpful hints for training your dog
By Chess (Static Wolfie.)

Whether you want to go into obedience trials, are looking to have a better-behaved furry member of the household, or just want to do something fun, training your dog can be a very rewarding experience. With all of the information out there, some of which can be difficult to understand or even contradictory to other advice, it can be hard to know where to start. This article will discuss a few things to keep in mind when training your dog, so that you and your furry friend get the most out of the process.

Be deliberate.
When teaching your dog a new exercise, have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to teach. Do you want the dog to only sit in front of you, or do you want your dog to sit in the heel position (on your left)? Does the dog have to drop in a perfectly straight line or is it okay if their bodyís a little crooked? Keeping this in mind during training will ensure that you are only teaching the dog the behaviour that you want it to display, rather than the dogís interpretation of what you want. Bear in mind why youíre training your dog: if itís for obedience trials you will need to make sure each action is always the same and performed to a very high standard (for example, the dog shouldnít move during the stay and should come the second you call it), but if you donít intend to take your dog into the trial ring you can be a little more lenient. Also remember to only give a command once, and to always follow through. For example, say you tell your dog to stay, but the dog breaks position before you call them. If you let this slide (or worse, reward the dog for coming to you) then the dog will begin to learn that commands are optional. However, if you bring the dog back into position and make them stay until you call them, the dog will realise that you mean business and that the only way they'll get what they want is to do what you want first.

Be clear.
Decide on a command (such as heel or stay) and use it every time you train your dog for that particular action. If there are other people who will be interacting with the dog (such as family members or frequently visiting friends) be sure to let them know what the commands are so that the dog always knows what is required of it. Make sure that the command youíre giving stands out; donít give it in the middle of a sentence or in a soft tone. This helps the dog to understand that particular words indicate that it should do a particular action. Your dog will become confused if you assign more than one command to a single behaviour (such as expecting the dog to drop when you say drop but also when you say down) so pick one and use it consistently. For the same reason, try to make each command sound distinct. It can help to say certain commands in a different tone of voice to emphasise the differences: sit might be clipped and chirpy; drop may be elongated and deeper; come might be high-pitched and excited. This can help the dog differentiate and make it easier for them to understand what you want.

Be prepared.
Always have a plan, but remember that you can change it later on Ė and in many cases you may have to, if you find that youíre moving too fast or the dog isnít reacting the way you expected it to. Make a list of equipment youíll need, which may include things like: food treats, collar, lead, a clicker, target stick, and any props (for example, if youíre training your dog to interact with a particular object, such as a table or ball). Know which technique(s) youíre going to use, and make sure you follow through with them. Ideally most of your training should be done with positive reinforcement (rewarding the dog for doing the correct thing) but you may need to use negative reinforcement (gently guiding the dog into position) or negative punishment (withholding something pleasant, such as food treats or attention, when the dog performs an incorrect behaviour). Most trainers advise against positive punishment (such as yelling at or hitting your dog) as it is much more beneficial for both of you to build up a good relationship through positive reinforcement. When used incorrectly or unnecessarily, positive punishment will usually increase a dog's agitation and decrease their motivation because they will be anticipating the punishment. This will create a tense and unpleasant training situation, so it's best to avoid it. Also remember that all dogs are different, and therefore you should plan your techniques around what will work for that particular dog. Take into account the dog's breed(s), as that can influence how they learn and what motivates them, as well as potentially placing limitations on what they can do (for example, breeds such as Dachshunds will have difficulty performing any behaviour that involves jumping, and Pugs may have trouble mastering the drop). You also need to be aware of the individual dog's temperament and motivations, so that you can choose the correct technique, reinforcer (such as food, a toy, or praise), and behavioural repertoire.

Be realistic.
Keep training sessions short and to the point. Anything over three minutes is probably too long, and puppies often have much shorter attention spans. You want to finish each training session before the dog starts losing interest, and ideally you should end on a high note Ė such as when the dog performs the action correctly and enthusiastically. It may be tempting to try ďjust one more repetitionĒ but that can quickly lead to the dog becoming bored and you becoming frustrated. Remember to always take small steps so that you donít overwhelm your dog. Break the task into simple steps and be on the lookout for behaviours you can reward so that the dog doesnít become discouraged. Itís better to take many small steps than to take one big step and risk pushing your dog past their threshold. Even if a certain task seems simple to you, your dog might have trouble with it Ė so work to their level, rather than expecting the dog to catch up to you. Try to limit the amount of new behaviours or commands you teach your dog at a time, because it can be easy to overload them with information. Ideally you should teach only one or two new behaviours at a time, moving on only when your dog has mastered them.

Be precise.
Timing is critical when training your dog. You have to be alert and watching so that you can reward a behaviour at the exact second it occurs. If you wait too long (even as short a time as four seconds can mean the dog no longer associates the behaviour with the reward) you could accidentally be rewarding the dog for doing something else. For example, say you tell your dog to bark. The dog does, but you donít reward it straight away, and in its agitation the dog then wags its tail, shakes its paw, and goes into a drop. By the time you reward the dog, it can be very hard to determine exactly which behaviour is being rewarded. Next time you say the command, the dog may be confused too Ė or it may go straight into a drop, because thatís the last behaviour you reinforced. Try to time it so that youíre only ever rewarding the actual behaviour youíre after. This is where conditioned or secondary reinforcers come in handy: these are certain words or sounds (such as a clicker) that are used to "mark" a behaviour. Since it's quicker to say a word or use the clicker than it is to physically give the dog a food reward, they are used as a bridge between the behaviour and the reward. They signal to the dog that this is the correct behaviour and that a reward is forthcoming.

Be flexible.
Although itís very important to have a plan when you start to train your dog, itís also important to be flexible. Dogs are living creatures and as such may not always follow your plan, and itís up to you as the trainer to adjust it according to the dogís responses. If your dog seems to be having trouble picking up a trick, try a different approach. If the dog loses interest in the food treat youíre using, try another one. If you wanted to train your dog using food but it isnít motivated by it, try using a toy. Donít be afraid to backtrack if you need to: itís better to go back and work on previous steps than to keep pushing forward if the dog is struggling. Before you move onto each step, make sure the dog understands the step youíre on. You may have a certain deadline or a goal in mind, but ultimately itís up to the dog as to when and how you achieve it. You have to go at the dogís pace, even if that seems slower than yours.

Above all, remember to be patient Ė and to keep your sense of humour. Training your dog can be incredibly fun and equally challenging, so itís important to always see the bright side. If you become frustrated or angry your dog will likely pick up on that and may be reluctant to work with you, whereas if you keep things upbeat and exciting your dog will begin to look forward to training sessions. If you do it right, you can train your dog to do just about anything Ė and both of you will have a lot of fun along the way!
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Re: Helpful hints for training your dog - November 11th 2019, 07:25 AM

I recall a saying that I heard from my uncle: While you train your dog, your dog trains you.

I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best
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