I guess I speak for all us by saying that we want our dog to be happy, but also to behave. My training formula aims to include both; ensuring your best friend is happy to be with you, but also that she listens to your commands.
Let me debunk a myth here; asking your dog to listen to your command is not cruel. In fact, quite the opposite – your dog wants to please you and loves to have mental stimulation. Your dog needs a job and by you asking him to sit, stay, heel, etc., you are fulfilling his needs by giving him a job.
I am sure that you have seen guide dogs helping less able people. They are truly content because they have a job, and this is how dogs have evolved around humans for thousands of years. If you have not tried dog sledging, I strongly recommend this to you. You will witness a dog’s absolute happiness when she pulls the sledge.
Living in a city might be foreign to our dogs. Although they do an absolutely great job in adapting their needs, we can still try and create mental stimulation by training them to do things so we can keep their mind engaged.
Loving somebody means fulfilling their needs and not your own. Loving your dogs is the same and you need to see what is good for her and not what you perceive is good for her. Remember, it is never too late to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’.
I would also like to debunk another myth. Dogs don’t come trained! If you see your four-legged friend misbehaving, it is simply because you have not taken the time to tell her what you expect her to do.
My training formula is Patience, Consistency and Repetition. Is it that simple? Let’s see.
Like any formula, there are two sides to the equation. Einstein’s famous “E” is meaningless without “=mc2”. Likewise, in order to have a trained dog you need the rest of the equation.
We live a fast-paced lifestyle and that has resulted in an expectation of quick fixes for everything. It just does not work like that when you work with animals. I get asked by dog owners “how long does it take to get him trained? How long does it take to housebreak a dog? How long does it take for him to learn to walk on a leash?” My answer is “ I don’t know” because each dog is different. Dog training is about applying human psychology to dogs. Commands such as sit, stay, heel, down etc. only exist in human life. Have you ever seen a dog asking her pups to stay until she gets back? No. These commands are all foreign to dogs and this challenge lies on top of everything else they need to do to adjust themselves to living in our environment – indoors and in a city.
Tip: whenever you feel that you are losing your patience while training your dog, take a break. It is absolutely fine. Come back when you are prepared and start from the beginning.
Remember: animals are very patient. Have you seen a crocodile waiting for his hunt? Have you seen a lion ambushing for prey? Your four-legged friend is a perfect teacher to learn patience from.
If your dog is not allowed to jump on the couch, you need to be consistent with what you want. That means that if you go to your friend’s home or you go on holiday, your dog should not be allowed on the couch. To allow them otherwise will just confuse your dog.
If feeding your dog at the table is not allowed, then everybody in the house must observe that. Your dog does not understand that it is Christmas and probably ok for him to have a piece of turkey from the table. It is very likely that he will come back the day after Christmas and wait for you at the table to feed him.
Humans love variety but on the contrary, dogs love routine and that means you need to be consistent in your training otherwise you are setting your best friend up to fail.
This is obviously a no brainer. You need to repeat the training over and over again until you get a 100% response from your dog. That means that when your dog comes back only 80% of the time when you call him, you are not done with training and this needs to be repeated until you get a 100% recall.
The good news is that as you repeat the exercise, whatever it may be, you also get better at doing it.
An example of that is training your dog to walk on the leash; the more you repeat the exercise, the better you get at handling your dog in different circumstances and consequently your own confidence will increase.