Positive Reinforcement Training
You Can Train Your Dog Quickly if You:
Use praise not punishment
Motivate him or her
Communicate what you want clearly
Train a little bit several times a day
That means that you praise and reward your dog when he gets it right. Donít get upset when your dog doesnít do what is asked.† Show him what you want; lure him with treats; get the behavior you are seeking.
Praise should always be with your voice, your happy voice, I should say. Itís a good idea to use a clicker as well Ė itís another reinforcer for the dog getting it right. Of course, treats are very important. Most dogs will respond very well to treats. If not, try a ball, Frisbee, tug toy, or a cuddle. Whatever the dog likes best.
So the dog is asked to do something and he does it. Click, praise and reward. Do it as quickly as you can.
If your dog isnít doing what you asked, but starting to offer the behavior, click, praise and reward. For example, he doesnít sit all the way, but lowers himself part way: Click, praise and reward. When he is always lowering himself part way thatís when you wait until he is completely sitting and then:† Click, praise and reward.
Repeat that phrase over and over so you donít forget:† Click, praise, and reward!
If your dog does what is asked but you know it wonít last, click, praise and reward. For example, your dog jumps up on you whenever you come home and you want him to stop doing that. Ignore him. Donít so much as look at him. Turn in place so you donít offer a solid landing spot. Heíll stop jumping. Click, praise and reward immediately. He will instantly jump on you again. This is a promise. Ignore him and turn in place. The moment he stops:† Click, praise and reward. It wonít be long before he stops jumping on you. Donít get angry and donít yell. Ignore him . . . and then reward him immediately.
Always end a training session on a success. If you are trying to teach your dog something and he isnít quite getting it, end with something else that he does perfectly. Tell him he is wonderful.
Motivate Your Dog
Be the most interesting, happy thing around. Use a high chirpy voice Ė they like high tones. Act silly. Move around. Be playful.
For example, if you are having trouble getting your dog to come when called, start practicing a lot in the house or yard.
Play hide and seek with your dog. When he is not paying any attention to you, hide and call him. Reward him when he finds you. You know what that means: Click, praise and reward or at least praise and reward with some play if you donít have clicker and treats handy.
In other words, make training fun for both of you and your dog will be motivated.
Communicate What You Want Clearly
Your dog does not understand the words you use. He learns them over time by association. You say ďsit ďand lure him into sitting with a treat and tell him he is wonderful. Repeat it enough times and he learns what to do when he hears the word ďsit.Ē
So you communicate by leading him into the behavior you want. There are different techniques for teaching a dog to sit or stay or come when called, for example, but be sure your dog understands and take it slowly. You donít have to teach a dog to lie down in one session. For some dogs it takes three or four. Like the sitting, he may only get part way down at first. Just be sure he isnít confused or scared or stressed. (See the handout on Dog Talk) Pay attention, in other words, to what he is communicating to you as well.
When you start training be consistent. If you are working on a specific behavior, say walking on a loose leash, from that point on the leash must always be loose. If you let him pull you one day and not another, he wonít understand how he is supposed to act on a leash.
And Practice Consistently
You arenít going to practice every day if you set up an expectation of training for an hour a day. Try to practice every day, though, for a few minutes several times a day. The training can take place at odd moments. Call your dog to come when heís in another room, for example. Thatís real life practice and it works. Repetition is what is needed, but boring the dog by doing the same thing over and over in one long session wonít help.