Before we even begin to talk of training, we assume that you have socialized your puppy.
People have the wrong concept of dog training. They compare it with a child’s schooling, and often assume that a special ‘trainer’ is a must. The fact is that all the training you really need to impart to a family pet lies entirely in the hands of the family that it lives with. This can be broken down into simple parts:
- Make sure you do not get the puppy/dog into wrong habits. This is 25% of ‘training’.
- Make sure you inculcate proper behavior, instead. This is like good up-bringing of a child. No amount of schooling helps to improve a child that is spoiled at home, and given the wrong values. So it is with your puppy/dog. This is the next 25% of ‘training’.
- Understand dog behavior. You may (and should) love your dog like a close member of the family, but you MUST understand him as a dog. Remember, you have chosen to bring in a dog, not a human child. A dog is a pack animal descended from a branch of the wolf family, whose behaviour has been adapted to human needs, but which still retains the essential characteristics of his ancestors. Dog training is not about your dog understanding you (which he does better than you realize, without your even trying). It is all about your understanding him. For this you have to be cleverer than your dog, which should be simple, but is often not so easy. This is the next 25% of ‘training’.
- Be with your dog, and let your dog be with you. If you cannot be bothered to be with your dog, why even be concerned about his ‘training’? A good, dedicated servant may help; an outsider may come in to give you proper advice and guidance; but what good is it to you having a dog if you and your family are not involved with him all along? This is the final 25% of ‘training’.
Never hurt or scold your dog when he comes to you. It does not matter whether you have called him or not, or whether he has misbehaved just before coming to you. Any disapproval shown when the dog comes to you will be associated by him with his immediate action of coming to you, and not with an earlier action which you disapprove. And coming to you should never be distasteful to the dog.
Be honest with your dog. Do not bluff him by calling him sweetly pretending to feed him, and then grab him and give medicine instead.
Tone of voice is a very important factor in obedience training. Give your command crisply and authoritatively, but do not shout; your dog’s ears are much sharper than yours, and there is no point in speaking any louder than is necessary for him to clearly hear you. In the armed forces shouting of orders is the norm; in relation to dogs it is indicative of failing authority. Remember, too, that a dog does not understand any ‘language’ as such — he merely recognizes sounds. It is logical, therefore, that the sound of the command should be appropriate to the requirement. For example, do not say “Shoo” when you want your dog to stop barking. It’s English language, all right, but will excite a dog even more. Often, hand gestures or even facial expressions are enough to communicate to your dog, because your dog reads you like a book.
Praise and correction are the cornerstones of all training. Dog owners often make the mistake of neglecting praise until perfection is attained. The dog does not understand the ultimate aim of each step in training, and even though his performance may be far short of perfection, he must be praised for every small step in the right direction. Immediate reward by way of a tit-bit within 3 seconds of the right response works wonders. Repeat until the proper response is quick and consistent. Only then should you reduce the frequency of food reward for that exercise. Let the dog feel confident about one exercise before you begin with another.
It is very essential that your pup be taught the ‘Come’ command so that you may not be afraid to leave him off the leash when outdoors. Several times during the day, keep calling him to you and as soon as he comes give him a tit-bit or throw his ball or toy for him. This way he will associate coming to you as being fun.
One of the first words the dog learns besides his name is “no”. It is given to stop him chewing a wire, or tearing your new shoe, or climbing on the sofa. Dogs, like children, learn the meaning of the word “no” by the tone of the voice. Even a mere grunt of disapproval will do. Every time you want your dog to not do something, immediately show him what he is supposed to do instead. Training is ultimately about positives, not negatives.
Consistency in training is essential. The dog must always understand exactly what you mean by your actions and tone of voice. This must apply to his behavior at all times, not just during periods of training. Inconsistency may result in a reversal of the desired effect.
Dogs are creatures of habit. Any action that a dog is allowed to repeat over and over again will become a habit. Make sure these are only good habits.
Another aspect to be borne in mind is that the dog picks up your thoughts by an acute telepathic sense. It has often been noticed that dogs bark or go to attack certain visitors more than others. This is so because these people are scared of the dog or you yourself inwardly detest the person, and the dog is always very quick to sense this. In training, it is essential that you communicate with your dog with your mind as well as your voice. Concentrate on your dog. You can’t chat with a friend or worry about your mortgage while training your dog.
And whatever you do, enjoy yourselves. End on a happy note; play a game; make a fool of yourself with your dog. He’ll love you for it.