Think of a time when you were learning something new- how to ride a bike, a new language, how to read, etc.
To learn effectively we need a clear, consistent teacher and we need to practice (sometimes we have to practice a lot!). If our teacher does not have a plan or if the instructions are confusing, our learning will suffer. If we don’t practice, our learning will be difficult.
Dogs are not born to walk nicely on a leash or to sit when asked. They must learn these things. Some skills may be easier than other for them to figure out. However, no matter what is being taught, dogs need clear, consistent instruction to be successful. They also need to practice!
I see dog’s every day that have behavior problems mostly because their teaching has not been consistent and/or they have not had enough practice. Jumping is one good example. If dog jumps on a person and the person sometimes pets them and other times tells them to get down, the person is sending a mixed message. Every time that dog gets a scratch when he jumps, he is being reinforced for more jumping. If the dog wants attention, he or she will likely continue to jump.
With recall, I often see a lack of practice or repetition. The person teaches the dog “come” in the house or backyard (where there are little distraction) then the person is surprised or angry when the dog will not respond to “come” at a park. When teaching a new skills, it is critical to work with the dog in a variety of environments so the dog has a lot of practice dealing with distractions. Like the old saying goes “Practice make perfect”.
Next time you are teaching your dog and he is not responding exactly how you would like, ask yourself a few questions….. Have I been clear and consistent with my expectations and my teaching? Have I truly practiced this skill with my dog enough?
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