Familiarize Yourself with Canine Body Language
Believe it or not, a dog can convey, in less than a second, the same thoughts and feelings it might take a human several minutes or even hours to voice! Though dogs do bark, whimper, or emit other vocal sounds, they are extremely adept at both reading and conveying visual cues. Your pet can probably tell exactly how you are feeling at any given time just by reading your body language, and you aren’t even the same species.
Teach Hand Signals
Because of this, learning the meanings behind a dog’s visual signals, and developing ‘hand signals’ yourself, is much more effective than trying to teach your pet the meanings behind your human speech or commands. It’s ironic, since that is the exact mistake the vast majority of pet owners make!
Learn to Recognize subtle, Split-Second Changes in Appearance
Because they aren’t encumbered by lengthy human speech, dogs are able to express their feelings very quickly. At times, this can seem almost instantaneous to the human eye! Learning to recognize these rapid shifts can’t just help improve your training, but help you recognize potential problems (ex. confrontations) fast enough in order to prevent them.
Learn How ‘a Dog Learns’, and What Drives Him
Many years ago, early in dog training history, we as owners were taught it was best to force an animal to submit to our desires, and correction was only effective if it was done as a means of punishment through ‘heavy handed’ techniques. After all, this makes perfect sense from a human’s perspective, right?
Today, the majority of educated dog trainers will tell you to do the exact opposite in ‘most’ training scenarios. Instead of causing a dog to fear the outcome if he doesn’t perform the way you want, it’s better to convince a dog to perform for you because he wants the reward he will get. Whether they are treats, toys, a game of ‘tug’, or simple praise, certain incentives are better ‘drives’ than others.
Research Dog Training Terms
At first, words like ‘operant conditioning’ or ‘desensitization’ can seem like a foreign language. Once you actually do understand exactly what the different kinds of conditioning are, what ‘baiting’ or ‘bridge stimulus’ means, or the importance of a reinforcer, a whole new world will open up to you!
Of course there are several more terms, but the point is these psychological terms will help you learn exactly what works best, how your dog ‘learns’, and why a certain technique will work much better for you than others. The best thing is- they aren’t difficult to learn!
Understand Your Dog’s Normal Behavior
If you want to know when your dog is trying to tell you something, you’ll need to be able to recognize shifts in behavior and body language. To understand and recognize differences, you’ll first need to be able to understand your pet’s ‘base, normal behavior’. All you have to do is watch out for changes in this baseline!