Dog training tips 5 Communication with the dog

Teach and Show!

Today we have wonderful methods to teach young puppies. The best method is clicker training. This is a way to communicate exactly what you want the puppy (or older dog) to learn. It is also fun and a great way to motivate a dog to want to work with you. Clicker training is a successful, positive training method. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the technique. Note: although I refer to dogs, clicker training applies to almost all animals. I have clicker trained birds and cats.

Scout finding the missing child (training)

It is very sad that many trainers still use harsh punishment methods that cause pain. Imagine if an instructor gave you a complex mathematical problem and told you to solve it. The teaching method was to jerk a rope around your neck or shock you every time you got it wrong. Eventually you would either get it right or have a complete mental breakdown from fear and frustration. Whether you got it right or wrong, how would feel about mathematics? How willing would you be to do the next problem even if you were rewarded for finally getting it right? How well would you like your instructor?

Because people are deeply bonded to their dogs, they forget that dogs do not speak our language. They have an amazing ability to watch our body language, couple it with what we say and seem to understand. But in reality, they interpret what we do based on canine language and meaning first, even though they can learn what our body and spoken language means.

Dogs love to do things with us. They want to understand us, but we can make it difficult for them. When training a dog, you must teach and show them what you want. You cannot tell them. You must not expect your dog to “get it” immediately. Puppies can be especially frustrating because they may seem to learn quickly but in a short time, sometimes hours, they act as though they forgot the lesson entirely. In reality they have not completely forgotten, they have not had enough time to practice the lesson to have it go from short term memory to long term memory. Life for a puppy and a young dog is fascinating, everything is new, exciting and distracting. It can be hard for them to focus on a lesson. This is no different than it is for young children. Like us, the more a dog learns the easier it is for them to learn new lessons. This is because the young dog has not had enough life experience to relate the new lesson to something he already knows, but the older dog has learned how to learn. They can relate it to other lessons. This is no different than the way people learn. 

Jib alerting that he found someone

If you show your dog what you want and then reward him for doing it, he will be willing and happy to work with you. Most dogs try very hard to do what we want them to do. Each dog has a different personality and drive to obey. Some breeds are not as willing to obey (being biddable) as others. It is important to recognize this. Before you train your dog, be sure to understand the dynamics of his breed. If he is a mixed breed a DNA test will help you understand the genetics that are dictating his behavior.

For example, if there were a flock of sheep in a pasture and a rabbit hidden in the brush. A Border Collie would focus on the sheep even though he knows the rabbit is there. On the other hand, if a Beagle were taken to the field, he would ignore the sheep and focus on the rabbit. This is a simple example of how genetics affects behavior.

Clicker training is a way to communicate to your dog what you want him to do. The click only says “Yes, that is correct.” What is very important to remember about obedience is this: Once a dog is trained and knows what the command is, the ability to obey depends entirely on how well the dog can exercise self-control, not on how well he knows the exercise. Even people have difficulty with self-control. Think about it.

In conclusion keep these points in mind.

  1. Understand the genetics that drive your dog.
  2. Teach and show your dog what you want.
  3. Do not use harsh methods.
  4. Give your dog time to learn what you want.
  5. Obedience depends on self-control–no one is 100%.
  6. Self-control comes with practice.
  7. Puppies need more time to relate to the lessons.
  8. Reliable obedience depends on positive motivation, not fear.

Dog Training Tips 3

In Dog Training Tips 2 I talked about how the type of dog, its breed(s) influence the dog’s personality and how biddable the dog is. The term biddable means how willing the dog is to obey. Some breeds are much more biddable than others. For example, most of the herding and some of the hunting breeds are very biddable. Some of the breeds classified as working dogs are biddable but some are not. The least biddable breeds tend to fall into the livestock guarding breeds and the hounds. However, this does not mean that they are less intelligent. As a matter of fact, the livestock guarding breeds are very intelligent but as a rule are bred to work independently, and alone. They must make very important decisions to protect the flock that they are guarding. Many people are attracted to these breeds because they are very quiet and calm. However, they do not make good pets. They are bred to repel an intruder regardless if it is animal or human. It takes a special person who understands this type of dog and knows how to train them to successfully own one.

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Created by Bruce Ross

The hounds are another difficult breed to train. Again, not because they are less intelligent, but because they are bred to be very focused. Think of it this way. If a hound is bred and taught to hunt fox, they must only find and follow the scent of a fox. A Foxhound who is side-tracked on the fresher scent of a rabbit or deer, is no use as a Foxhound. But, some of you may say, what about Bloodhounds that look for missing people. Each person has his own unique scent. This is true, but the hound is trained to follow only human scent, whichever human scent his handler indicates. The Search and Rescue (SAR) Bloodhound will not veer off a trail to track an animal.

Because the hounds are very focused, they often block out everything else. For the pet owner, this can be frustrating because as hound owners know, when these dogs go for a walk, their noses are often on the ground taking in all of the scents. Their tendency to focus so strongly on scent, and their ability to block out everything else makes them seem to ignore the commands of their owners. The younger the dog, the harder the hound is to train because he is going to follow his instincts first. This means that the dog’s owner must exercise a lot more patience and realize that it will take much more effort on their part to motivate the hound to break his focus and listen to commands. One way to circumvent this is to use clicker training on the very young, 12-week-old puppy, before he fully develops his ability to focus on scent. All puppies have short attention spans and if you do not want to train your puppy to hunt, then this is a good time to take advantage of the puppy’s short attention span to teach him to focus on you.

Never forget, dogs do not speak human languages. Therefore, it takes patience on our part to teach them and you must take care not  to repeat a command. The dog does not understand that “Sit” is one word. If you say, “Sit, Sit, Sit!” the dog will think it is all one word and never sit until you say it three times. A thought for today, did you ever wonder why dogs seem to be able to communicate to us better than we can to them?

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or if you need a certified canine behaviorist.