Well, congratulations, you are ready to crack the code to better understand how to train your dog with a system that will work. Now, let’s get started with dog training secrets! Dogs will obey based on motivation, whether it be in the form of physical/verbal praise, food or other reward. I, Ryam Matthews, have created Four Pillars to Training Success. These pillars are the elements of instructing your dog, which must be present simultaneously for the magic to happen. Just as you need four legs for a table to stand, all four of these pillars working together will produce the desired and sustained behavior you are seeking.
If only one of these pillars is used, you will not get the desired outcome. For example, if you do not repeat the instruction, no learning will take place. It takes practice for a dog to understand that you have a goal connected to the repeated behavior. A good rule of thumb is 10 to 15 minutes spent on one command. Consistency comes into play because you need to always follow through with the command you give, otherwise your dog will never understand the connection between the command and behavior. Timing is important as seen in the famous study, which produced Pavlov’s Law. In this case, a bell initiated a salivation response. The food was given within one second of the bell ringing. The timing of the reward to the trigger was key in developing this automatic response. And finally, the reward is the motivation required for your dog to participate in training. While there are some dog personalities who just want to please, others will need to know what’s in it for them.
Repetition is a balance between not training too long or too short. I get a rhythm when working with a dog to the point where I can see the training click. When you are observing the desired outcome from the dog, and there is that “ah ha” moment when you can see the dog understands what you are wanting (the magic!), aim for three to five successful repetitions in a row of that behavior. I often witness people demand too many repetitions once they see the training is working. They will want the dog to repeat it so many times that the dog will actually become frustrated and lose focus. When the dog trainer is done, they’ve ended on a low and wasted their time because at that point, no learning took place and they are essentially starting over the next time they work on that command. The ideal scenario is ending your training session on a high, where the dog has repeated the command successfully three to five times and you can see the dog’s motivation is still there, wanting to do more, but don’t demand it yet. This applies when you are teaching something new. As an experienced dog trainer, myself Ryan Matthews, I recommend conducting training sessions three times a day. Since each session lasts for 10 to 15 minutes, it is an investment of 30-45 minutes per day, broken up.
Consistency is more about considering your dog. In order to expect your dog to obey, you need to follow through every time. The dog isn’t going to take you seriously if it’s learned you won’t always follow through, and it’s not a fair message to the dog if you don’t always mean it. Due to the fact that dogs are so opportunistic, to ensure your pet listens to your commands, you should not give a cue (command) that you are not willing to follow through with. For example, if you tell your pet to “sit” and it does not do it, you should take a brief moment from what you were doing and ensure the canine does as you ask. It may require some extra effort on your part initially, however, in time dogs will learn that you insist upon them doing as you say and they will comply. This does not mean, however, that we are asking anything unfair of our pets. To instill The Canine Connection (the book I wrote) we need to continuously assess if we are being reasonable. For instance, if you are asking a dog to sit on a hot surface, the pet will attempt to perform the command, but will be uncomfortable due to the heat of the pavement. Be aware of such challenges and go to where there is cooler pavement. By following through and being fair to the dog, you will not only gain its respect, but its loyalty as well.
Timing is crucial for both correction and reward. It needs to come within one second of the desired outcome or undesired response. In order for the dog to learn what is wanted or not wanted, you need to be able to respond immediately to the behavior. An example of when timing is frequently off is when a dog has a potty accident in the house and you are not there as it happens. Very often, owners will want to address the issue as soon as they see it, but unless they witnessed it happening, they are ALWAYS too late. Dragging the dog over to stick its nose in the puddle is not teaching the dog that it shouldn’t have peed on the floor, because dogs don’t think like that. A dog literally doesn’t know what it is being told. The only way for it to associate peeing on the floor with punishment is for you to respond within a second of the action. This is extremely important to understand and is a prime example of the importance of timing.
Rewarding your dog is what sets the behavior. I recommend a soft treat because it’s quicker for the dog to consume and promotes the rhythm and flow of training. Often people will use a milk bone-type treat, which is crunchy. This is a mistake as the time taken to consume it and lick up the crumbs will break up the tempo. Soft treats should be small because that is also quicker to eat, allowing you to move on to the next successful repetition and establish the behavior as automatic through that pillar. The dog’s brain will respond the same way with small or big food. Either one is equally motivating. You don’t want the dog to get sick by eating an excessive amount of a rich treats as you repeat the command.
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