It’s common to see videos that promise a secret method or quick fix to your dog’s problems. The truth is that good training is a process and takes time and patience. Quick fixes usually rely on stopping unwanted behaviour using something unpleasant the dog needs to avoid. Results typically don’t last, and there will be undesired fallout.

The 3 Must-Haves for Training Success

Instead, teaching behaviours that we want and our dogs love to do are keys to long-term success. No matter what behaviour you want to train, three things need to happen for you to be successful with your dog.

Manage Your Dog

You want to prevent your dog from continuing unwanted behaviours for several reasons. If your dog continues doing an unwanted behaviour:

  • the dog will get better at doing what you want to stop. You’ll be turning it into a habit that will be harder to change the longer it lasts
  • the behaviour may intensify or begin happening in other contexts
  • the value of the unwanted behaviour will continue to increase for the dog
  • introducing a new alternative may be confusing when the old behaviour is still happening

Good management is often not included in training and prevents people from being successful. And even if you aren’t ready to start training a new behaviour to replace the undesired one that’s happening now, using management in the meantime will be beneficial.

Teach the Desired Behaviour for Dog Training Success

Focusing on what you WANT your dog to do and teaching that new behaviour in a way that your dog can understand and enjoy is what positive training is about. Breaking the lessons into manageable steps will help your dog progress toward the goal more smoothly.

Training must also include practice in different contexts and with increasing distractions to create usable behaviour. This is where the bulk of training needs to be spent. Teaching initial lessons in a low-distraction area such as the home is an essential first step, but reliability will come only with generalization and training around distractions.

building better connection on walks

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce!

Another important feature of positive training is that the dog comes to love the desired behaviour and wants to do it more and more. This is accomplished by making the behaviour meaningful and valuable by associating it with something they enjoy. This is very different from training with aversives, which involves avoiding something unpleasant. Avoidance and relief are not the same as seeking and reinforcement.

Reinforcement usually starts with food, but you can use anything your dog likes or wants to build value into a behaviour. This is why your dog’s Top 10 List is an asset to your training.

Your goal is to reinforce the new behaviour during training and initial use to build a better reinforcement history than the undesired behaviour. You must factor in what you are working against to ensure you make that new behaviour way more valuable to your dog.

Incorporating management, a good training plan and appropriate reinforcement are all keys to dog training success. Together, they create positive learning experiences for your dog and make them enthusiastic learners. This will keep lessons enjoyable and anxiety-free, avoid frustration and make future training easier.

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