It doesn’t matter what kind of personality or attitude your dog has when it comes to training. However, it all comes down to YOUR attitude as a dog owner. If you think back to your years in school, or your first couple of weeks at a new job; you’ll remember how lost you were. It was a new environment with new people and new things to learn. You probably messed up a few times in the beginning, and even when you thought you mastered certain skills. Well, I hate to break it to some dog owners, but dogs are the same way. They need to learn before they can sit. They need to listen before they come to their name. But most importantly, they need you to be trained before you can train them.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you and your dog when you start training.
I cannot stress this enough. Like humans, every dog learns at a different pace, as well as in different ways. Some dogs learn better by hearing commands. Others learn better with hand signals. Some even perform better when hearing AND seeing the command, because it allows them to put two and two together thus creating a clearer understanding as to what you want them to do.
Just remember, you’re learning with your dog. Just because they don’t get it down on the first, fifth or tenth try; doesn’t mean they never will. It might take multiple tries to get your dog to perform a task for the first time, and then you need to complete the same task even more times to make sure they understand. If you notice you OR your dog starting to get frustrated, take a deep breathe and end the training there for the day. Pick up where you left off next time when both of you are in a good head space. Learning new things can not only put a lot of stress on your dog, but it drains their energy levels. If you notice your dogs attention span fading or see them trying to lay down mid command, it may mean they are tired and have had enough.
KEEP YOUR COOL.
You are setting you and your dog up to fail if you can’t keep your cool. Dogs pick up on a change in attitude and/or a change in your voice. Most dogs know when they are in trouble because they associate your tone with the crime they committed. If you are scolding or treating them the way you do when they chew up your favorite shoes during training; they might start associate training with getting in trouble. Ultimately resulting in a fear to fail. It’s okay to be stern, whether it’s a quick snap of the leash or a firm “uh-uh” as I call it, to get their attention back to where it should be.
Dogs perform better when they hear positive affirmations. I’m not talking about constantly praising your dog, I’m talking about having a positive attitude and being okay with your dog messing up.
MAKE COMMANDS EASY.
Dogs associate words with actions, so making them short and sweet is important. Unless your dog is some sort of service animal, you don’t want to be associating a simple command like “stay” with an entire sentence. As I mentioned above, hand signals also work well. When you say “stay”, raise your hand flat so your palm is facing the dog, similar to how you’d signal someone to stop. This way, if for some reason you can’t speak or are in a noisy environment that makes hearing hard, a simple gesture will allow your pup to know what they need to do.
Once you pick a command word or gesture, stick to it. Using too many words for one task can become very confusing, not only for a dog but for you too. For example, if you want your dog to stop jumping up on people, you can’t use “off”, “down”, “no jumping”, etc. all at different instances and expect them to know that each one means the same thing.
HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT.
Nothing is worse than training your dog in equipment that isn’t meant for training. When I first started training Nala about a month ago, I was using a nylon leash and a regular collar. (I laugh when I look back on this, but it’s a learning process, remember?) I would leave the training center with sore and nylon burned hands because Nala was a puller. She was also coughing from choking herself because of the regular collar.
I upgraded to a leather leash and a martingale collar. The leather leash gives me more control overall. It offers a better grip and lowers the chances of it slipping through my hands if I get pulled. The martingale collar is basically a less scary choker. It doesn’t have all the spikes and chains that ultimately train your dog not to pull, but it does still teach them. Martingale collars are meant to tighten around a dogs neck so that they cannot back out or pull their head out of it. This collar has worked for me when it comes to Nala, but it doesn’t work for everyone. A real metal choker/pincher collar works almost every time. Just make sure you don’t continue to use it after your dog is fully trained. They can cause anxiety and a sense of fear when going on a walk because they’re collars that are meant to cause pain and the dog can become afraid of them. They can also cause damage to a dogs trachea, esophagus and neck glands.
USE THE RIGHT TREATS.
Unless you have a picky pup, it’s not so much the flavor that matter. It’s the size and calorie amount of each individual treat that does. It’s important to note that a dog needs to accept and consume a treat in a timely manner in order to avoid delays during the training process. If a treat is too big, too crunchy or too chewy; it may take your dog longer to consume it. However, just because a treat is small, doesn’t mean the treat is “light in weight”. Be sure to look for low calorie based or treats that specify they are meant for training (usually they are low in calories). Not only could it cause weight gain if training occurs often, but it can cause your dog to get sick and throw up if they eat too much in one session.
DON’T OVER PRAISE.
Something equally as bad as giving your dog the wrong treats, is giving them too many treats (or compliments). You don’t need to praise your dog with treats every time they complete a task. You actually shouldn’t praise them too much every single time. I know it makes you happy to see your dog happy, but they can become prone to only doing tasks if there is a tasty reward after. The point of rewarding your dog after something is learned is to show them that they did a good job.
Nicole & Nala