The Dog Training Tool You’re Missing.
Dogs are as individual as we are. They have their strengths and weaknesses; they have their quirks. They are not machines. Most people think that if the dog learns to do XYZ then training is done; the dog “knows” what to do. But here’s the thing, even if your dog knows what to do, they will stick try to pick what is most fun or interesting.
For example, my dog Bomba walks great on a loose leash around my neighborhood. I almost don’t even have to leash him up. BUT… if he sees a squashed, rotten, dead squirrel in the road he will try to pull over to it and eat it. Dogs are gross man. I just can change that. So what do I do? I anticipate him wanting to pull to the squirrel and I correct him if he tries it. If he doesn’t try, but looks at me instead, I reward him!
Anticipation is vital to getting your dog to cooperate in real life situations.
Once a dog has learned what you want versus what you don’t want, you still need to correct the behavior you don’t want. The more the dog gets away with doing the “bad” behavior, the more the dog will try it in the future.
Your dogs knows how to hold a nice long down stay because you took a fabulous obedience class with a trainer who cares about what you really need your dog to do. But your dog still has trouble staying when people come in to the house. If given the opportunity, your dog will pop up out of the stay and rush over to whoever’s coming in the door. If you don’t stop this from happening, then you will effectively train your dog that it’s ok to break a stay in this situation. (hint, it’s NOT OK!)
So what you need to do is anticipate this behavior and correct it as soon as the dog tries it. Timely and meaningful corrections are just as important as timely and meaningful rewards. What do I mean by timely? The moment your dog decides to try something is the moment that you need to respond. If a visitor is coming in, have the leash on your dog and maybe even hold the leash if it’s a really big problem. The second your dog says “Oh boy! A visitor just for MEEEEE!” and pops up out of the stay, that is the moment you need to correct. If you wait to long, the whole thing becomes fuzzy for the dog and they won’t understand what they did wrong. If the dog got all the way to the visitor before being corrected, you waited too long.
On the other hand, if a visitor comes in and your dog says “Oh, cool a visitor! I’ll stay here until I’m told I can get up.” then that is the moment you reward your dog.
You know your dog’s strengths and weaknesses; you live with them every day. Anticipate those moments when your dog is going to struggle because those are the moments that are most meaningful to your training. Those are the moments where your feedback is vital for the dogs continued improvement.
I didn't anticipate his unwillingness to catch the ball.
About the Author: Jen Banks has been training dogs professionally since 2008. She started her own pet dog training company in 2014. Owner and trainer at Banks K9 Solutions in Fitchburg MA, she provides group classes and in home training for families and their dogs.