5 Simple Rules for Dog Training

A few years ago I found this gem in a catalog, apparently anonymous:

5 Simple Rules for Happiness

Free your heart from hatred.

Free your mind from worries.

Live simply.

Do more.

Expect less.

Why not a similar set of rules for dog training?  Here’s my version:

1.  Free your training from force
Use positive reinforcement to shape and increase behaviors you want.  Punishment does not teach more appropriate behaviors, and can result in fear or an increase in aggression.

2.  Teach your dog self-control
Realize that your dog ultimately controls his own behavior – you can sometimes control the environment and you can give consequences if you are on the spot.  Teach your dog that calm, controlled behavior will get him what he wants.

3.  Focus on the positive
Catch your dog doing something right!  Decide exactly what you want your dog to do when the doorbell rings, or when you are eating dinner, for example.  There are thousands of “wrong ways” for  your dog to behave during these events,  decide on the “right way” for your dog and train it.

4.  Reinforce more often
When training a new behavior or working in a distracting environment, keep the rate of clicks and treats high – 10 C/Ts per minute is not too much!  Find ways to reinforce behavior you like throughout the day, when it occurs. Use a verbal marker “Yes!” and reinforce with life rewards if clicker and treats are not available.  Your dog is always learning, you always have opportunities for reinforcement. 

5.  Take small steps
Break new behaviors down into baby steps, so your dog can be successful and you can reinforce the good behavior more often.  The journey to a wonderful companion or an agility champion starts with the first “Sit”.  If your dog doesn’t understand what you want, make it easier. 

 An old dog and a pup relax together

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