Positive dog training is when follow through with consistency and reward. But what does this mean?
Every interaction we have with dogs is an opportunity for teaching. So, when you don’t follow through you are teaching your dog that you aren’t serious, that it doesn’t matter if they listen to you or not, that you are inconsistent and all of this translates to the dog, that you are not trustworthy. This not only makes for a confused, disobedient dog it also causes much stress, both of which often lead to destruction, jumping and more reactivity in your dog. As this gets out of control, the only one to look to for a change is YOU! Your dog is not to blame for bad, destructive, nervous or fearful, anxious or hyper behavior. Your dog is the direct result of who YOU are being.
In the almost 40 years that I have been teaching people to train their dogs, I often hear this; “Wow, you’re amazing! She doesn’t listen to me that way” “Can you move in with us?” I would be a millionaire a thousand times over for this comment alone. My job then is to show them that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with who they are being, how they are being and proceed to teach them the leadership skills necessary to have the best and most loving relationship they can have with their dogs.
On my leadership skills list for positive dog training are:
FOLLOW THROUGH or don’t ask.
Be aware of how much you chatter to your dog. If you ask your dog to sit while you open the door and she doesn’t and you do nothing about it; you are either completely unaware that you ask for things all day long so of course you wouldn’t follow through or you just don’t think your dog’s capable of listening to you so you give in and don’t follow through.
Exhibit body language and energy that clearly shows you are a leader. Leaders are calm, non-reactive yet responsive, confident and prepared by educating themselves first.
Tones of Voice: If you yell a command/cue in a harsh tone then this is the way your dog will learn to listen to a cue. If you speak softly, this is the way your dog will learn to listen. Praise is a very important tool that you have with your tone of voice. If they do it right, get excited with your praise tone. If they do something wrong, have a stern tone (not yelling or reactive) just a lower tone of disappointment. Make real distinctions between your tones of voice. Sounding monotone makes it harder for your dog to understand what you are saying, especially if you’re body language is off as well.
Learn how to read dog body language: When you throw a ball or a toy and get mad at your dog when she brings you a shoe, you are confusing her. Remember you must teach appropriate behavior first, not get mad.
Training your dog in obedience, SIT, STAY, COME, DOWN, and others WAIT, LEAVE IT, DROP IT, etc are exercises for their mind and it’s you and your dog, one – on – one positive training time.
Respond, never react. (One of the hardest things for people to learn because they have no idea they are reacting) Observe yourself. Are you responding calmly and with authority or are you reacting by getting frustrated, angry, yelling, locking her up, making her fearful?
Play games with your dog because games offer another way to implement training and follow through.
Play – Train – Play: Exercise your dog before a training session to take the edge off so that she is able to concentrate on learning.
Observe your dog to see HOW she learns. Every dog is an individual and learns differently, so paying attention to her body language, attention span and watching how she moves in her world will tell you exactly how she learns, making your job easier and your dog much happier and more willing.
Have fun with your training. Be creative by challenging your dog in new places and distractions. Remember, if you’re having fun, so will your dog.