The success of a dog training program should not be built just by what you want but by what your dog needs. By nature, dogs are not disobedient. Dogs are only disobedient when they don't understand what they are supposed to be doing or when the training is not working well for the dog. Sarah's training also works so well because she understands the proper behavior modification training that addresses the emotional issues that dogs develop from living in a world designed more for humans than for dogs.
Your dog is part of your family. They need to know that they have a position in that family unit and that they contribute something to that unit. Dogs are pack animals. The pack functions like a family. Dogs do not do well when they are spoiled or left to make their own decisions with no consequences. A pack runs off of a hierarchy. The same hierarchy that we run off of.
The dog at the top of that hierarchy is the most respected and the one that makes the decisions because it is the wisest. This dog has high standards for the pack but the pack also has high standards for that dog. Because the human world is difficult for a dog to navigate and understand, it is important that the people are the at the top of the hierarchy. Your dog is depending on you to guide them and teach them how to behave in the human world. Dogs do not separate from their pack members very often. This is very different than how we live with our dogs because we must separate from them often. Your training program needs to prepare your dog for this. Dogs are very hard on each other. They do not discipline with emotions. They have teeth and bodies and anyone that doesn't do what they are supposed to will not only get punished but will lose privilege's until they are ready to behave. Thankfully, dogs and humans do not have to live that rigidly but the same respect must be accomplished because when a dog is unhappy, confused, or thinks they are at the top of the hierarchy they will discipline like a dog. Your goal is to avoid your dog being unhappy, confused, or thinking they are at the top of the hierarchy with a good training program.
If you follow these guidelines you will be setting yourself and your dog up for success. You should start this on day one, but if you have had your dog for a while or even a long time you can still do this. You will need to fix some things which can be more difficult and take additional work. The good news is dogs live in the movement and they adapt very well and quickly.
First things first, I encourage you to think about what your dog is learning because learning is training. Dogs are highly intelligent animals. They are always learning, therefore you are always training them. Training does not have a beginning or an ending because once you stop training, your dog begins learning something new on their own. Unless they are resting they are learning and in training with you. If you are not proactively engaged in your dogs learning then they are learning without you. It's that simple. Training is not an action, it is a lifestyle. Training means that you are proactive in your dogs learning.
Training starts immediately. Puppies, adult dogs, seniors, rescues dogs, owned dogs, homeless dogs, at home, out of the home, at the shelter, in the street it doesn't matter what age, what stage a dog is in, in their life or where they are learning and training is actively happening for them. The question is are you a part of the learning or are you not?
You have the same responsibly to a dog as a parent has to a child. You are the biggest influencer and motivator in your dogs life. Your dog depends on you to help them learn right from wrong and to help them navigate the world around them. Parents and dog owners have big responsibilities. You must build self confidences and independence but also teach boundaries and skills that make navigating the world easier and less stressful for your dog. Not all dog training programs are designed to do this, so you want to think about the training you do and how it will help not just you but your dog get through their life with and without you. It is nice to say that our dogs world is limited to just us but that simply is not true. Dogs are thrown into all kinds of situations that include and exclude you. The unique thing about my training method is it prepares dogs for relationship learning and for independent learning.
Where to start? Learning starts at home with you. your home training must have two purposes. Helping your dog learn the expectations you have for them at home and helping your dog learn skills that will help them learn the expectations you will have for them out in the world. Many dog owners fail to teach their dog skills that will prepare them for the real world. The way you train your dog at home is not going to be the same as how you will train them in the world. Therefore you must have two at home training programs. One for house skills and one for outside skills. The good thing is the two can be done together, but you must think about your home training the same way you will think about your outside training. A lot of people train their dogs at home one way and they when they get in the real world the person trains very differently. For example, if you are going through the motion with your dog and telling them to go lie down and your dog runs to their bed to avoid getting in touble this is a very different down than you asking your dog to lie down on the ground next to you.
The first lesson I teach every dog is YES, Uh-uh, and NO! These three words in my opinion are the most important words a dog needs to know and these words give you all the power over your dog that you need. I not only teach these words but they ar my most frequently used words with my dog. The world is full of choices and things that dogs can do, sometimes can do, and should never do. These three words give me the ability to let the dog know if they can are ok doing something, should not do something right now, or should never do something. These 3 words give me and my dog so much more independence and communication in our relationship.
YES, Uh-Uh and NO! The world is filled with curiosities, distractions, and novel stuff that stimulates a dogs brain. A very basic and effective communication tool is to have the ability to tell your dog yes, uh-uh and no. When your dog understands yes, uh-uh and no you can communicate with them on the fly without having to yell at them, punish them, or be forced into doing training. If your dog knows yes, uh-uh and no the rest of training is easier and not necessary. People think obedience is the way you control a dog, but really yes, uh-uh and no is. Obedience is part of your relationship with your dog. We will get into that in a little bit. Yes, lets your dog know that the behavior they are doing is correct. Uh-uh, lets your dog know that they are not in trouble but you need them to stop doing the behavior that they are doing. No, lets your dog know that what they are doing is wrong and they are in trouble for doing that behavior.
Dogs do not know English. They learn to understand our words by associating the sound of a word with a behavior. It is our job to make the connection between a word and the correct behavior. Yes needs to be associated with behaviors that you like. Uh-uh needs to be associated with your dog stopping a behavior. No needs to be associated with behaviors that the dog wants to avoid.
Dogs are associative learns which means that a lot of what they learn is through association. This learning process is called Classical Conditioning. Dogs learn their name through Classical Conditioning. We say our dogs name and then we give the dog positive attention. Every time we say our dogs name we give them attention. This process is repeated over and over again. As soon as the dog makes the association between the name we are saying and the attention we are giving, the dog starts to react to the name the same way they react to the attention we give them. This is because of the magic of Classical Conditioning. In Classical Conditioning learning, a stimuli that does not elicit a response is paired with a stimuli that does elicit a response. Through repeatedly pairing the two the first stimuli starts to elicit the response of the second stimuli. Money is just paper, but because money gets us the things we want or need the paper money elicits all kinds of positive emotions from us. A car is a dangerous machine but because it takes us places we need to go, this dangerous machine is something we enjoy driving. 5 o'clock is just 5 o'clock until it means we get off work then 5 o'clock is the best time in the world. These are all examples of how humans are Classically Conditioned to care about one thing by having an emotional response to something that happens follows the first stimuli. Classical Conditioning can also work the opposite way. A needle makes most people cringe because we associate a needle with the pain of a shot, however, if you see a sewing needle you don't cringe because sewing needs are associated with the things that is made by that needle such as clothes. No one is afraid of a butter knife because we know they don't cut skin, but you will be careful with other knives because we have all been cut by a knife and we associate the other knives with that feeling. We respect stoves because we have all been burned by touching a hot stove so we associate the stove with the burn feeling.
Now that you understand Classical Conditioning through association lets get started in the first part of dog training. This is your foundation training. Think of foundation training as building pathways to help with the rest of your training.
Teach your dog YES! Step one is to teach the dog YES means good stuff. We do this with Classical Conditioning.
Step 1: Figure out what things your dog likes and what things they love. This is about your dog, it is not about you. Take time out to learn what things your dog like and what do they love? Treat, toys, affection are three of the most common rewards we use in training. Not all treats elicit the same emotions form your dog. Take time to learn what treats your dog like and what treats they cannot resist because they love it so much they will do anything for it. This treat will be very important. What about toys, what toys do your dog like and what are their favorite toys that they love and will do anything for? Petting feels good, but where does your dog like and not like to be petted?
You want to always say YES in a normal but happy tone.
1 second after you say yes, give your dog something that they find positive (treat, toy, affection).
Say yes in a normal but happy tone, and within one second give the dog something they really want.
Yes (1 second) hand them a yummy treat that they love.
Yes (1 second) throw their yummy treat for them to chase and eat. Dogs love to chase things and chasing food will be one of the games we play with them later in their training. If they don't instantly find it, let them sniff around. Don't be too quick to point to the treat. Your dog needs to learn how to use their nose and how to work independently to you. If they lose interest in looking for the treat just pick it up and throw it again. Your dog might not get the game at first, but keep working on it and eventually they will chase after the treat. This is a game worth teaching.
Yes (1 second) toss a yummy treat in the air. Teaching your dog to catch food is very fun and helpful in training. At first they might not catch it but keep working on it and they will eventually catch them. This is a game worth teaching.
Yes (1 second) hand them a toy that they love.
Yes (1 second) throw their toy for them to run and catch.
Yes, needs to first be associated with positive things by Classically Conditioning the word. All dog loves treats. Say the word YES in a normal happy tone and then one second later hand your dog the treat (video).
YES is the most powerful training word you can teach a dog. Dogs by nature want to do things well and right. They look to their leader to tell them what is right. Most of the time, dogs are mimicking their leader. Since we are not dogs and our world is much larger than just being a leader to our dog, this makes mimicking us very difficult and confusing to our dog. Sometimes, we must consider what we are modeling for our dog, but other times, we can help our dogs simply by letting them know they are doing the right thing or doing something well. Yes should be your most used word but don't use it unless your dog is really doing something right or well. Often times people just start telling their dog yes, yes, yes and the dog and person has no idea what they are doing right. Yes, must be said with a purpose to strengthen a particular thing.
First things first, you need to to teach your dog that yes is a positive word. We do this using a method of training called Classical Conditioning. This is a term you should learn because a lot of dog training is done through classical conditioning.
Take for example, if you tell your dog to lie down and they sit instead and you say yes then your dog will think the word down means to sit. Or, if you want your dog to sit and they sit then stand up and you say yes then really you are telling them standing was right. If your dog sits with their tail tucked and their head down because they are fearful and you start saying yes to them, then you will be saying yes sit in fear. That probably isn't a good idea to teach your dog to sit in fear. You want to make sure you use yes thoughtfully.
The above diagram shows how classical conditioning works. The word yes is a positive word to us because things that follow it are positive things therefore the word itself elicits a positive emotion. That is how classical conditioning works.
The bell can be anything. Lets look at some examples of classical conditioning
The leash car your dog food container the cupboard where treats are kept keys treat
Dogs enjoy getting out of the house so the leash is associated with the excitement of going outside. Dogs enjoy going places so the car is associated with excitement because it takes the dog places. Dogs love to eat so the sound of their dog food container excites them because it means it is feeding time. Dogs love treats so the cupboard that keeps the treats is a positive cupboard because it holds the treats. Dogs love to go places with us so the sound of your keys is associated with excitement because the dog knows it means you are leaving. The word treat will actually excite your dog because we always say do you want a treat and then hand the dog a treat therefore the word treat is paired with the treat. These things were not trained, they happened organically through classical conditioning because these things are very routine for us and the dog.
We want to change the word treat to yes. You can still use the word treat for when you give your dog a treat but we also want the word yes to be paired with your dogs treats. This is very easy to do.
Say "yes" and hand your dog a treat one second later. Repeat until you say the word yes and the dog gets excited for the treat.
Dogs are very smart, but they are smart because they make quick associations between two stimuli's that are repeatedly paired together (classical conditioning). Dogs do this naturally but we can also make the association between two stimuli's by pairing them together in training. You will learn a lot about this in my training.
Classical conditioning is an association game. Classical conditioning works by taking a stimuli that doesn't elicit an emotional response (yes) and pairing it with a stimuli that does produce an emotional response (food). When the two are paired the first stimuli (yes) will elicit the same emotional response as the second stimuli (food) elicits. If you really enjoy steak, just hearing the word steak will make your mouth start to water and send you to the store to get a steak. That is the result of classical conditioning. The word steak is associated with the response we get from eating a really good steak. Therefore, our behavior is associated with the word steak. If you talk about steak you will go to the store and buy steak. Going to the store is the behavior that is associated with steak.
Yes is not only associated with food, but food should be the first association made because food is a very powerful training tool for more difficult training. You will be sorry if you don't classically condition your yes word to food first. Spend 3 to 7 days working on pairing the word yes to your dogs favorite foods. This is also a bonding process for training.
Say yes, give a treat. Say yes, put your dogs food bowl down. It is a very simple concept. Make this a fun and engaging game for you and your dog. don't think of routine. Instead be creative. Feed your dog in different food bowls, in different locations of the house, and at different times of the day. I know this sounds like it contradicts everything you have been told but I promise you that this will help your training in the real world. It is very easy to become routine at home but the routines you use at home will not be the same routines as you have in the real world. We must train at home to prepare our dogs for the real world. If your dog eats at the same time everyday, out of the same dish, and you give your dog the same treats, at the same time, from the same cupboard, for the same behaviors at home then these routines are being classically conditioned and the dog will depend on these routines. Think of it like this, if you drive home from work everyday the same way then that drive becomes automatic and positively predictable to your brain. If you need to make a stop that is not in your normal routine that additional stop will add stress because it is out of the norm for your brain. You want your dog to feel comfortable eating food no matter where they are, what time it is, and what is happening around them. And you want them to hear the word YES and eat food no matter where they are, what time it is, and what is happening around them.
and something that elicits an emotional response then the first stimuli will provoke the emotional response of the second stimuli.
Find a treat that your dog likes. Some dogs are not very food motivated but every dog has something that they love. Your job is to figure out what that is. You should start this process with food, so do this before you feed your dog.
Say the word YES in your normal happy tone. Yes is a positive word so you want your dog to feel good when they hear it therefore you need to feel good when you say it. Say yes and then 1 second later hand your dog a treat. Repeat this about 10-30 times. Some dogs learn quickly while others learn a bit slower. If your dog learns quickly you won't need to do this very many times, but if your dog learns slowly you will need to do it many times over again until your dog makes the coneection between the word yes and the food. If your dogs food drive is very low only do it as long as the dog is engaged in taking the food then stop but you will need to play this word association game many times.