Like humans, dogs respond best to praise, encouragement, and rewards.
When I am working with my clients, at some point they eventually realize that I am not actually teaching their dogs, I am teaching them how to teach their dogs. I admit that working with a dog who is experiencing fear, anxiety, one who is barking, growling, or lunging, may be more challenging, but teaching your dog the basics is not as complicated. In addition, once you understand the basics of how to teach your dog, helping them in fearful situations will be easier. I work with dogs who just need to learn manners, dogs that bite, and everything in between.
No Bad Dogs, Only Bad Behavior
With all of the dogs and people I have worked with, I have never met a bad dog, and I have never met a bad person. I have met many dogs that exhibit bad or inappropriate behavior, and I have met many people who don’t know what to do in those situations. I often compare it to a parent who has a child that had severe ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, or another brain disease. The parents are not bad because they have these children. They just need help figuring out how best to help their children. Asking for help is hard to do, but it is the best thing to do when you love your dog or child.
What You’ve Heard Before May Be Wrong
The most challenging thing about teaching humans is to get them to accept that there are other ways to do things if they have trained dogs before. Humans and dogs are creatures of habit, and it becomes uncomfortable to learn something new even if the old way is not working, like in the case of childbed fever and the Semmelweis Reflex (a form of cognitive bias, it is the predisposition to deny new information or evidence that challenges our established views.) For many people, traditional training with choke, pinch, or electric collars is all they have ever known.
Dog training also has a history of misinformation about dogs being just like wolves, or that dogs seek to dominate humans. Unfortunately, years of misinformation is clouding the science-based information that we have to show that dogs differ greatly from wolves, and they are not seeking dominance over humans. Over the years, we have moved away from teachers hitting students with rulers and therapists using shock therapy on people, but we still use these aversive techniques on dogs when it is unnecessary.
Better Dog Training Techniques
Being a beginner at anything is hard, whether you are a human or a dog, or if you’re an adult or a child. However, we are always learning; therefore, we will always be a beginner if we want to make improvements in our life. A beginner opens himself to learning new things and we must Practice. Practice. Practice. It is also extremely important to exercise patience with yourself and your dog.
Using treats, markers, or clickers may seem new to you and that is okay. Being willing to take this journey will not only open your mind but it will improve your relationship with your dog and possibly others in your life, too. When you stop looking for what is bad and start embracing the good, your who lives can change. Traditional training looks for the “no” in behavior so it can be corrected. Positive, force free training is looking for the “yes.” Dogs and humans both respond better to praise, rewards, gifts, and bonuses than criticism, complaints, and punishment. I noticed in many cases, that when the dog begins to have fun with training, the person has fun as well.
When you start training your dog, strengthening your bond and trust is an opportunity. One that can lead to a long, happy partnership between you and your dog. Force free dog training leads to a bond that brings greater satisfaction and meaning to both of your lives.
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