What you need to know to train your dog – Part 1

Training dogs is not difficult, and there are numerous books, web sites and organizations dedicated to telling you how to teach or dog to sit or walk at heel. However, there are some areas of confusion and a few things that aren’t always discussed in sufficient detail, which novice trainers (and perhaps a few experienced trainers) should consider when training a dog.

1) Your dog is NOT a wolf

There’s a lot being made of the dog-wolf connection, and genetically and ancestrally, dogs and wolves ARE related. However, dogs are not wolves, and the differences are sufficiently significant to make the study of wolf behavior pretty much useless when training your dog. Wolves live in organized packs – dogs are merely social. Wolves are predominately hunters who also scavenge – dogs are scavengers that occasionally hunt. Wolves learn by observing – dogs learn through repetition. Wolves are intelligent – dogs are clever. The list goes on, and there are always exceptions, but you get the idea.

If you want to learn how to train your dog, don’t study wolves – study dogs!

2) Consistency is critical

You as the trainer, and everyone else in your dog’s world must be consistent in the words that are used and the behavior that is considered acceptable.

If you use “out” to refer to going out-of-doors, don’t use “out” to chase Rover from the kitchen. Everyone should use “down” to tell the him to lay down, but use “off” tell him to get off the sofa or off your lap.

If you are trying to teach your dog not to jump on your good clothes, but the husband thinks it’s fine for Rover to jump on his jeans, your dog will always jump – jumping is more fun than staying on the ground. If you’re trying to get the dog to stop begging at the table, but the kids are sneaking him bits of their unwanted vegetables, the dog will beg. Don’t blame the dog, but get the humans to agree to the rules.

3)Sugar wins out over vinegar

Old-school training was correction based – a jerk on the choke-chain, a swat with a rolled up news paper, yelling and rubbing their noses in “it”. These methods are out-dated, ineffective and are too likely to be misused by humans with short fuses. Ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior works much better, and will lead to a closer bond with your dog.

If your dog does something incorrectly, it’s acceptable to say “ooops” and withhold a reward, but anything else smacks of punishment, which dogs don’t understand. And while punishment MAY stop your dog from repeating

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