Modern, reward based training has not only proven to be as effective as more traditional training methods. It has actually stretched our definitions of what is possible in training our dogs. We are teaching our dogs more behaviours more quickly than ever before. The most exciting part is that the dogs themselves are teaching us how to go even further into these new frontiers!
It’s amazing that we can train dogs. That we can train dogs in so many different ways and that most of them work is almost miraculous. But how we teach our dogs is evolving. We have new and better ways to get our dogs to give us behaviours. Animal and learning science is making our training not just more effective but more fun!
It doesn’t matter how you train, timing is important when we communicate with our dogs. We don’t have the benefit of just explaining things to our dogs. It can be like a guessing game where telling the dog they are right (or wrong) at the right moment can mean the difference between understanding and confusion.
We don’t want our dogs deciding for themselves. Or do we? Maybe it’s actually not up to us humans. Our dogs make choices all the time whether we want to admit it or not. It can be a problem if we try to control something we can’t control. I think the answer might be in managing and influencing their choices instead of trying to decide for them!
Sometimes the most important thing we can do when we are training out dog is…nothing. How else will we find out what our dog knows if we don’t pause to see what they know? It’s a lesson my own dog taught me years ago. It has led to a delightful give and take that allows me to learn from her as as learns from me. Sometimes you just have to wait for the dog!
Most people call them “Time Outs.” That moment when we have to correct our dog for not doing what we ask by depriving them of something they wanted. Does it really work? It can. But it may be trickier than you think it is. Sometimes Negative Punishment turns into just plain retribution or retaliation and isn’t about teaching the dog at all!
“I just want my dog to sit when I ask.” Be careful what you wish for. How you get there may be more important than what you get when training your dog. Experience has taught me that getting what you want sometimes isn’t worth the cost of training your dog a certain way.
Science is not just a body of knowledge. It is a way of learning about and understanding our world. It’s a great way to learn about and understand our dogs too. If we approach our training with some understanding and a consistent approach, the results can be amazing. And don’t we owe that much to our dogs?
Dog training is simple. Anyone can do it, right? Well, maybe. Dog training involves a lot of mechanical skills that we can practise. The more we practise, the better we get. The better we get, the faster our dog learns. Maybe we should focus on doing the basics well instead of looking for some new-fangled clever techniques!
There is a lot of talk these days about the humane treatment of dogs. Being “humane” is a uniquely human pursuit by definition. We seek to be our best selves by doing our best for our dogs. But doing our best might not mean expensive dog food, long walks in the park, or the softest beds we can find. Being humane may be so much more simple than that.