With literally dozens of ways to teach a dog to do the same behaviour, how do we choose the best way for us? It seems we often choose a method because “it works” for us. But what does that mean? It could be that the dog looks like it’s doing what we want. But is there more to it?
Canine Nation is a series of essays by Eric Brad CPDT-KA, a certified professional dog trainer. He writes about living with dogs. Canine Nation is about discovering what is TRUE about dogs and discarding centuries of myth and folklore about we train and work with our dogs. It’s about challenging what we think we know and asking the dogs to tell us what’s real. It’s about giving science, scientific method, and collected data more credibility than hearsay, anecdotes, and the authoritative assertions of self-proclaimed “experts” about dogs.
Canine Nation Podcasts are also available HERE!
Nothing but time, the great healer of sadness, can take away the pain of losing a beloved dog. It is never easy to let go of a dog that has become so much a part of our lives. My heart goes out to all who are grieving the loss of a dear canine friend. They are with us for so short a time.
The greatest difficulty I have always had in improving how I live and work with my dogs has been my own attitudes and beliefs about dogs. Keeping an open mind and being willing to admit I’m wrong has allowed me to learn and grow. And that has benefited both me and my dogs.
Anyone who has let their dogs have a good run around knows just how agile dog are. Whether they are romping through the woods, narrowly avoiding collisions at the dog park, or playing the sport of dog agility, dogs seem to be masters of the running/jumping/turning thing. It doesn’t take much effort to teach them to use their powers for “good” on an agility course.
There is an old saying something like, “A good craftsman never blames his tools.” Likewise, it’s important that we never give credit to our tools for good work either. Dog training is an interactive process and as your dog’s trainer, you are responsible for creating a good relationship in which your dog can learn. Choose your tools wisely and learn to use them well!
Teaching our dogs to do things can be great fun. But teaching them to NOT do things can be just as important. Taking a proactive approach to teaching our dogs when it’s time to settle can be much more productive and rewarding than interrupting or scolding them. It’s remarkably easy and can make for happier dogs!
There is a trend in modern dog training toward kinder, more dog-friendly training methods. Training that seeks to remove everything unpleasant for the dog and to make learning more enjoyable. But is kindness enough to teach our dogs? Is there more to being effective trainers than just being kind to our dogs and not using force?
Modern reward-based training methods are based on some pretty simple concepts. And they can be amazingly effective. But things that are simple are not necessarily easy. Three simple guidelines can make all the difference, especially to those new to this kind of training. Sometimes you can make simple things easy!
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!