When will my dog be TRAINED?

"I can't wait till my dog is TRAINED!" -- as if that is an END?!
..and when will TRAINED be?

When he sits?
When he lies down?
When he always comes?
When he doesn't jump on people?
When he doesn't get into the trash?

When he can heel off leash?
When he can do a directed retrieve?
When he can track a missing person?
When he can herd sheep into a pen?

You must decide what TRAINED means to you and your dog.
To me, TRAINED, is NOT an end - it is a lifelong journey.
Kind of like my own education - I learn new things daily.

TRAINED is not magical - it won't happen without outside influence.

If YOU are NOT that outside influence, other things WILL be
(i.e.; the dog won't wait for you to train him!):

  • You put old bread out on the ground for the birds - your dog finds it and eats all of it. He has just been trained to eat the bread - food is a strong reward for behavior.
  • One of his toys is partially under a bush in the garden. He uses his paws to get to it and digs a hole in the process. He gets his toy and the garden gets a hole. He was just trained how to get a hard to reach object he wants. The object itself (the toy) was his reward.
  • A delivery person comes to the door with a package while you aren't home. Your dog, who is learning to alert when strangers come to the door, jumps at the picture window, barking and banging on the window. The delivery person leaves the package and walks away. Your dog has just learned that the barking and lunging "chased" the stranger in uniform away.

LACK of training on your part is STILL TRAINING!!

  • Your dog shows fear of thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots.
    During a nasty thunderstorm, his eyes bug, ears go back - he paces and pants with his mouth wide open. You go to him and stroke him calmly, murmuring, "It's OK, it's ok." The next thunderstorm happens a few weeks later, and he acts worse. He tries to dig under the dresser or hides in the tub. You go to him, hug him and pet him and again tell him "It's OK, you're alright.". You wonder why his fear reaction has increased when you are working so hard to calm him. He IS learning - and you ARE teaching him! You are teaching him to be afraid of storms. Petting, stroking, hugging, soothing talk - all are ways to PRAISE your dog (more about this in an upcoming article). In this example, the dog is being inadvertently praised for his fearful behavior.

  • "He acts JUST FINE at home. I don't know WHY he gets so crazy here at dog school."
    I'll tell you why. When you do your training sessions at home, you chase the kids outside, turn off the radio and TV (because it distracts you), go to a quiet room or basement and just train. Then, when the dog encounters all the external stimulation at dog school, he can't handle it because he wasn't TRAINED with it. In order to have a TRAINED dog, he must be taught to behave correctly in ANY situation he will encounter: crowds, groups of dogs, vet clinic, groomer, front of your house, down the street, in your backyard, at the park during a ball game, when it is sunny, rainy, snowing, blowing, cold, hot, with birds, cats or squirrels around - ANY situation or place you can think of.

TRAINED is what you accept, promote and control.

  • "If I leave him outside for a while, what can he get into?"
  • "If he isn't be crated when I'm not home, what can happen that I cannot control?"
  • "I know if I leave food on the counter, he will eat it when I'm not looking. How can I work to change this?"
  • "If that loose dog runs up to us in the park, how can I handle the situation?"
  • "I see a squirrel/cat ahead on our walk and I know my dog will want to chase. How do I control his actions BEFORE he gets out of control?"

TRAINING means working and thinking one step ahead of your dog.

  • Your dog loves to fetch. Balls, toys, anything will work.
    He always tries to get you to participate by jumping on your lap and depositing a toy. This time, you are reading the paper and your dog jumps up with his toy and crumples the paper. "NO!, I don't WANT to play!", you say as you toss the toy away. Your dog retrieves the toy and comes back (he thinks "that throw was OK, but let's try for a better one!") This time, he doesn't jump on your lap, but nudges under the paper at your hand. You push him away several times, telling him "NO!", until finally you get angry, take the toy and throw it and tell him to go away. Your dog has just learned that patience is a virtue. If he pesters you long enough, he'll get to play!

  • You meet up with a friend on your walk with your dog, and you stop to chat for a while.
    Your dog is impatient, and starts to pace and prance. You are busy talking, but want him to sit quietly at your side. Telling him firmly to SIT, you go back to your conversation and don't realize he never sat. Your dog has just learned that he can ignore your commands. Seeing later that he didn't SIT, you tell him again. Again he ignores your command. Finally, you break away from your conversation and angrily command him to SIT. Well, he has learned he can ignore your commands UNLESS you have a hissy and get mad!

  • Eating dinner, or even snacks, causes your dog to sit at your feet, drool and stare.
    You wish he wouldn't be such a beggar. After several minutes of enduring the stares and getting no response to your commands to "go and lie down", you give in and hand him some food from your dish. Dogs learn very well to be patient (and persistent) to get what they want.

TRAINING means consistency and meaning what you convey both verbally and non-verbally.

TRAINING means following through with your commands.

  • When your dogs does what you want, when you want - LET HIM KNOW!
    You certainly let him know when he is bad - you need to concentrate on when he is GOOD, so he will know and learn.

TRAINING means praise when something is correctly done.

There is a law in dog training that says: YOU HAVE THE DOG YOU WANT

...Think about it...

 

Pam Young, LVT CDBC CPDT  
Dog Gone Good LLC
Dog Behavior Consultant
Personal Dog Trainer