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Dog Training: You're Doing It!

by Linda Jenkinson |

You know more about dog training than you think you do.

dog on a rocket

Training a dog is not rocket science. How and where you live with your dog dictates the amount of training he needs. A great deal of training is done unconsciously. In fact, if your dog knows any of the following, it is due to training:

  • If your dog knows his name, that is a part of basic training.
  • If he knows that he may not chew your shoes, socks or other possessions, he is trained not to chew your things.
  • If she knows that she may not take food off your table or from your plate, she is partly trained.
  • When you throw a ball or a stick for him and he retrieves it, that's training, too.
  • If your dog comes when you call her, that is the beginning of developing recall, which is an intermediate skill.

Every person who lives with a dog is capable of training him. You might want to schedule short training sessions when you're getting started, but training doesn't always need to be on a schedule. If you are a good guardian, training will become a natural part of the time you spend with your dog.

Training teaches you as much about your dog as it teaches your dog about you.

I learned a lot form our Airedale, Bailey. He has a very different temperament from other dogs I have owned. He is as gentle as a lamb, but as stubborn as a mule. Bailey has taught me to carefully order my priorities so that we can both be successful in our relationship with each other. We have both made some compromises. I have learned that compromise with your dog isn't much different than compromise with any roommate.

The most important part of training a dog is consistency, that is giving the same command each time to get a certain result. Something you should be aware of from the start is that most dogs respond as well or better to hand signals and body language than to verbal commands. On the other hand, though, the happy tone of your voice will soon be recognized as a sign of success.

The second most important part of training is immediacy of reward. Until you are sure your dog understands what you are trying to accomplish, he needs to get a reward as soon as he is successful in carrying out your command. Additionally, the reward you give him for success needs to be consistently the same as well. Most folks start training with small treats because treats are the easiest media for a dog to recognize as a "congratulations".

It may take awhile, but your dog will catch on when he is doing things “right”, i.e. when he pleases you and what he did that pleased you. Once your dog is consistently successful, you can replace some food treats with praise. It's amazing how a simple "atta boy" or "good girl" and a pat resonates with our dogs. If you are training for obedience, your session might end with a game such as fetch or tug, depending on what your dog enjoys most.

The trick in training a dog is consistently letting the dog know when he is doing well. Your dog's “good behavior” is only the behavior that is acceptable to his humans and it is learned, not innate. Without training he will go wherever his impulses lead him because that's the way dogs are built. Still, our dogs work just as hard to please us as we do to help them understand what pleases us.

Finally, never take training for granted or figure that your dog has graduated. Training is something you will need to keep up for as long as you have the dog. For a dog, training is like learning a new “language”. If she doesn't use it, she'll lose it.

Positive training results in a confident pet that is more aware of the world around him and his ability to be successful in that world. Training builds a closer bond between you and your dog and results in a safer and healthier companionship for both of you.

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