How To Train A Dog
Not everyone knows how to train a dog. Let’s face it… nobody want’s to raise a dog who develops lots of behavior problems; who can’t be trusted around children, or is so hyperactive you have to lock him up whenever guests come over.We all want our dogs to coexist with other people, children and dogs who come into their environment, without having to constantly yell, scold or punish him.
You just want your dog to “get” the social rules of your house and follow them, but you’re not REALLY sure how to actually go about training your dog to behave that way.
So if you’re like most well intentioned people, you hop on the internet and start looking for good dog training tips and articles to help point you in the right direction; which is where you’ll run into your first major problem…
Most Dog Training advice doesn’t tell you the whole story!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the trainers who write about dog training, and I don’t think they’re intentionally trying to steer you in the wrong direction. In fact sometimes their “how to” content is amazing.
The problem I have is how they share their advice with you.
They spend all their time trying to fix your dog’s existing problems with fancy techniques, and very little time showing new dog lovers how to prevent that problem from ever showing up in the first place!
Again, I don’t have any problem with the “fancy techniques”, you need techniques to fix problems, and I like to teach techniques too. But just teaching problem solving techniques only helps dog owners who already have a problem. But when learning how to train a dog it’s important to try and do it correctly before these behavior issues ever begin.
So that’s why I wanted to write this article; to show you what I think are the 3 biggest mistakes you can make when you set out to start training your dog.
My hope is to show you some of the POWERFUL concepts you NEED to grasp if you want your dog to turn out as obedient and well mannered as possible.
So let’s dive in…
Mistake #1: Neglecting the Window of Opportunity for “Learning Language”
You may not have realized this, but any brain, whether it be inside a dog, or a human child, has a short window of opportunity where it does 95% of it’s development, forms lasting neural pathways and essentially builds all the conceptual building blocks that it will use to do it’s thinking for the rest of it’s life.
And teaching your dog things after this window of opportunity has closed ALWAYS takes longer then if you teach it BEFORE the window has closed and while the brain is still easily malleable. That’s why I would argue that the more concepts you can teach a dog while he’s in this stage of development, the easier you’ll make it for your dog to put what he’s learned into practice AFTER the window of opportunity for learning has closed.
This is VERY similar to how easy it is for a HUMAN child to learn a second language while they are still young… they just pick it up as long as they’re around enough people who speak the second language… and they’ll pick it up WITHOUT an accent!
But if that same child were forced to wait until he or she was 30 to learn that second language, it would take MUCH more effort, and usually result in a much heavier accent.
In fact scientific brain scans have even shown that when a young child learns a second language before their window of opportunity for learning has closed, the learning takes place in the same portion of the brain that their first language was learned in.
But when learning takes place later in life, the learning is done in a different section of the brain, one that hasn’t been pre-programmed with the concepts of language.
So How Can You Take Advantage Of This Concept?
Simply try to teach your dog one new thing every day, even if you don’t have any long term interest in your dog being able to perform that skill.
Try to teach your dog a variety of things, and a variety of concepts.
For example, with my own dog Bauer, one advanced concept that I worked on was object discrimination. Meaning the ability to recognize and retrieve different toy stuffed animals by name. It’s not that I really had an interest in him being able to discriminate between objects, it’s just that I knew teaching him this advanced skill early in his life would make it easier to modify his behavior later in life, because it was preparing his brain for learning.
Here’s some other things I’d recommend training your dog on a daily basis up until around 2 1/2 years of age:
- Trick Training
- Scent Tracking
- Fly Ball
- Object Discrimination
- Gun Dog Training Drills
If you’re just getting started, one thing I’d HIGHLY recommend is picking up a copy of my Hands Off Dog Training course, which contains step by step instructions for how to do many things on this list. It doesn’t cover them all, but it’s a good place to start.
You’re definitely going to want to start acquiring a library of different dog training manuals and start training lots of different things… it’s one of the best things you can do for preventing future problems in your dog.
Mistake #2: Believing You Have NO Say in the personality your dog develops
In addition to a young dog’s brain developing the foundation for understanding advanced concepts or “language”, another thing that is being formed in your dog’s brain up until around the age of two and a half is your dog’s personality.
Like it or not, the way you interact with any young living thing drastically effects it’s “personality” as it grows up much more then God does.
For example, when studying how severe punishment effected the aggressive behavior of adults later in life, NoSpank.net published an article stating “schoolchildren who were rated by their peers to be the most aggressive in the classroom tended to have parents who used the most corporal punishment”. The article also goes on to talk about all sorts of animal related studies showed similar findings in dogs and other animals.
So does that mean those kids were born with “aggressive” personalities, or was it forged from poor, naive parenting?
Either way, this is GOOD news for you, because it means there’s actual scientific evidence that proves you can play a role in determining what personality you want your dog to have, or at least preventing those types of personalities you DON’T want him to have.
How To Train A Dog To Have an “Easy Going” Personality
I have quite a bit of experience in helping dog owners change their dog’s personalities, because I recently conducted an 8 week training course to help ADULT dogs change their personalities from mildly temperamental, reactive and aggressive, to easy going, with GREAT results!
The entire program is based on exercises that reprogram the Emotional part of a dog’s brain, and change the way he FEELS in certain situations. So instead of feeling nervous, he feels confident. Instead of feeling aggressive, we force him to feel playful.
If you’ve got an older dog who needs his personality re-programmed, you can learn more about this program here.
But the real reason I bring this up, is because one of the BIG insights I had after holding that program was how much easier it would have been for my clients to simply prevent their dog’s from ever developing these temperamental personalities, vs. trying to fix them once they started to rear their ugly little heads.
If I could have gotten a hold of these dogs while they were still puppies, protected them from punishment based dog training programs, and instead ran them through a positive training program that focuses on getting the dog to obey because he WANT’S to, instead of because he’s AFRAID not to, I could have prevented lots of problems.
Later this year I plan on releasing a Personality Programming course specifically for puppies, so make sure you stay tuned for more information on when that will be released.
Until then, my Hands Off Dog Training course is the next best thing I’d recommend using on your dog, as it uses all positive reinforcement techniques to teach your dog the foundational skills he’ll need for life.
Consider it a foundation for sculpting your puppies personality. It doesn’t cover all aspects, but it does teach the skills needed to start with.
Mistake #3: Accidentally Training your Dog to Misbehave
The third and final major mistake that I want to help you avoid, is realizing how almost every behavior problem your dog currently has, or will develop in the future, is a direct result of you “Accidentally Training” your dog to behave that way.
The most common types of accidental training mistakes are:
- Rewarding with Attention
- Caving to your dog’s desires
- Making the situation worse by overreacting
First let’s address rewarding with attention. Attention, food and play are the three tools a dog trainer will use to reward a dog for doing a behavior. Used correctly, these are powerful tools that allow us to get dog’s to do a WIDE variety of behaviors. But used incorrectly accidentally reward bad behaviors.
One VERY common example of this is owners who let their dog’s in from the backyard when they hear them bark. Typically this problem starts off innocently with a dog barking to get attention because it’s owner has forgotten to let it back in from outside. The dog would rather be inside with the family, so it barks to be remembered.
Often times, the owner didn’t mean to leave the dog outside, and absent-mindedly reacts by going to the door and letting the dog in, because they feel guilty for leaving him outside.
But do this at your own PERIL! Because whether you realize it or not, you’ve just rewarded your dog for barking with your attention. And this will INCREASE the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future.
So what should you do instead?
With my own dog, I was aware of this law of training before it ever became a problem, so I instructed my wife that we were to NEVER, EVER, not even ONCE open the door for our dog within 60 seconds of him barking. And if we wanted the dog to lay down, we were to wait until he was sitting or laying down on the back steps.
This taught my dog that he needs to sit or lay down quietly if he wants to be let in, and that barking always makes it take longer to be let in.
The result…. He NEVER barks to be let in, because he’s never been let in for barking!
Now let’s move on to caving to your dog’s desires. What I specifically mean by this is when you first tell your dog “NO” for doing something 1, 2, 3, 4 or however many times, and then eventually just let him do the behavior.
This is like the toddler crying to his mother in the grocery store isle for a bar of candy. The mother says “No”, what seems like 100 times, before eventually caving into her child’s desires. What the mother who does this doesn’t understand is that while she may have temporarily stopped the whining child, she has just trained the child to whine LONGER anytime she wants anything.
This same principle works for dog’s too!
You MUST be anal when training your dog. Whatever you ask him to do, you must stick to those requirements, otherwise you risk training him to just wine, beg or bark louder and longer the next time he wants it.
If you’ll follow this advice and do your best to avoid making these three dog training mistakes I PROMISE you that life with your dog will be much more easy going.
If you’d like to make sure you get off on the right track, remember to go through my Hands Off Dog Training program, and spend a little time every day training your dog. It’ll be the smartest investment towards learning how to train a dog.