Fast Forward Your Dog Training
We live in a society of NOW. We want everything we want, when we want it! Patience is not often seen much less practiced and we live in a world full of technology and excessive over-stimulation. How many kids today can sit in a room for an hour or two without any TV or video games and not go crazy?
So it is no surprise for me when I see people wanting thing out of their dogs, without putting in the time and the effort it requires.
A dog is not going to teach himself to “heel” perfectly at your left side.
He isn’t going to teach himself patience and coping skills and giving you eye contact instead of barking lunging and pulling toward other dogs.
This kind of training demands time, patience and it has to be to TAUGHT to your dog. One session is usually not sufficient for true teaching and learning.
Good dog training, you know the kind you see on You Tube where the owner is walking around kids, dogs, bikes, noise, ducks and other distractions and the dog is just staring into their master’s face and ignoring EVERYTHING around him; well that takes a lot of time, training and patience!
So How Do You Know When it is Time to Progress Forward in Your Training Program?
What Do You Do in the Interim?
I have a 4.5 month old puppy and we are working very hard on some basic leash manners and eye contact.
I have to admit that because I do some protection sports with my dogs, I usually wait until they begin teething to really start leash manners and obedience with them.
Once their teeth start to erupt through their gums, the game of biting is over until they get their big dog teeth. I don’t ever want them to associate pain or discomfort with a sport I want to play in later.
So I am just beginning to teach him the basics of the leash.
He learned early on to stare at me for treats and attention (this doesn’t have to have anything to do with the leash until I begin to pair them together).
I know we have a lot of work ahead of us! I can see glimmers of hope as I take him out daily for snacks and leash work. Dogs have a way of amazing us with their intelligence. It’s funny, too because all you have to do is spend a little time working with them a little bit and you will see how smart they really are!
It will probably take a year or more before we are “perfected” and heeling together amongst distractions like a well-oiled team.
So, how do I know when he is ready to progress?
I know he is ready to take on the challenge of something more, when he is accomplishing the task I have taught him 90 to 95% of the time without question.
If he is ignoring me and not listening I know I still have work to do. That doesn’t mean that I use corrections and force and other means of compulsion to MAKE HIM LISTEN!! That means I am not doing my job and he probably doesn’t understand it.
OR, I am not REWARDING or EXCITING enough for him to listen to and ignore other things in his environment. Remember I have to be better than the squirrel or the bird or the group of kids playing, in order for him to be successful ignoring them.
At first, I work with little to no distractions and one or two commands this teaches him how fun I am without having to compete for his attention. Then as he accomplishes this and is at his 90% or higher we progress to a place with more distractions.
It is normal for a first a dog or a puppy to totally seem to have forgotten what you had taught them. It is like they simply CAN’T “sit or lay down” in the company of other dogs; or while there is a bird in the bush next to them!
A dog has to LEARN that he can comply amongst distractions. This is something you have to teach him.
It, unfortunately, is not as easy as teaching him sit, or heel once or twice in a rushed session and then expecting him to know it flawlessly under all circumstances. Although sadly, that is what I think 90% of people expect!
So obedience is or should be in a constant state of progression. Learning and conquering phase after phase and building on the blocks of knowledge you have instilled until you accomplish your goals (and then I think you should set new goals 😉
I don’t think obedience training is ever truly “finished”. So I give myself and my dogs more and more experience and expect more out of them. And, with this I find joy in spending time with them and watching them progress.
What to Do in the Interim of Training?
This is a good question and one I probably don’t get asked enough.
We all want to take our dogs places even if they are “not ready”. For example; I took my puppy swimming this weekend. I can’t expect “perfect leash manners or heel” for him to get the privilege of going to his favorite swimming hole. We haven’t worked through enough training yet.
- So do I leave him home?
- Do I let him PULL me to his swimmer’s paradise?
And, for me it comes down to some simple basic rules that I have to make for my dogs and myself as an owner. Each person may be different.
If he won’t listen to me when I call him to come (if he will be off leash) then I leave him home.
Until he can listen to me and come when called he cannot come with me, it simply isn’t safe for him.
And, I don’t allow him to PULL me with full force. Right now I just stop when he pulls and he learns that pulling doesn’t get him anywhere.
I don’t need to wait for perfect heel position or eye contact, cause he is too new in his program to be able to do those things for me; so I stick to my guns about a few simple principles.
That way he learns it is NEVER okay to pull or ignore the come command!
If I allow this behavior then I am teaching him it is okay to do these things under certain circumstances.
So I might someday get pulled into the water haha. Or, he might run away and get bit by a snake or lost in the woods.
Come up with a basic set of rules for their age and their training program.
If they make a mistake, leave and work more on the basic things.
As they get older and progress you can expect more out of them!
Be kind, but be firm. If you are weak they will take advantage of you and only listen when they desire.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.