I have trained quite a few dogs over the years and almost all owners are very receptive to the training techniques and provide their pets with a good basis for learning, but you would be amazed at some of the reasoning people use to keep from properly training their companion.
Keep in mind that most people are not trying to sabotage their pets training on purpose; most do it subconsciously or by “overlooking” certain behaviors. When I took my first dog through obedience years ago I even did a few of these until my trainer showed me the error of my ways, just as I try to do for my students now.
Remember that trainers are not there to train your dog for you, they are teaching you to train your dog; a good trainer has studied dog/breed behavior and also human/dog interactions to become effective instructors and provide you with positive training skills. You must take the training they provide and transfer it to your pet. You are the one living and bonding with the pet so it is your responsibility as a Responsible Pet Owner to give your pet the best training atmosphere possible for learning.
Here are a few common problems I’ve seen over the years and their implications.
1. Not doing “homework” during the training class:
This is usually where a lot of people fall during training, they come to class, learn some new commands, go home and expect the dog to remember what it was taught in an hour! For most dogs it will take around 40 repetitions of a command before it understands it, so you must give that 10-15 minutes a day (shorter for puppies) to reinforce the training. Remember just as with children dogs have short/long attention spans and variable learning curves, so “homework” is a must.
Some of the more common reasons I hear are “not having enough time”, did or will you have enough time to give your children proper guidance? Pets are no different; they will be with you for the next 10-15 years and need the rules, guidance, and stability that the training will provide, so get off on the right foot and make the time! Or when they start misbehaving you will have no one else to blame but yourself!
People become impatient with the dog and stop the sessions. Just as a child would, the dog loves this excuse as it gets it out of the training and into play time, if you become impatient or agitated do not take it out on the dog… this training is new to the pet, so take a break then start the session over and always finish on a positive note!
2. Not utilizing proper corrections:
This is a big one… Most owners (including me) see our pets as a family member, so we are leery and sometimes afraid to use corrections, both verbal and with the training collar, to correct bad behaviors. We don’t want to hurt our companions, and I understand that because I went through the same feelings when training my first pet.
A good trainer understands that a proper correction of pets, just as a slap on the hand to a child, teaches an invaluable lesson and after the lesson is learned the collar corrections will slowly fall off and verbal corrections will take their place.
Although there are some people (and trainers) that misuse the training collar, hence the term “choke chain”, a collar is an invaluable tool when used correctly. Usually, after the dog matures the collar will be used infrequently, about the only time I use the collar now is when we go someplace new, even then the collars are not actually used they just get the dog into the right controlled mindset.
3. Allowing bad behaviors to take place outside of training classes:
The trainer has told you to not allow the dog to jump on people or furniture until the training cycle is over, but as soon as you get the dog home it assumes it’s normal position on the couch or bed or it is allowed to jump on people without their consent and no correction from you… Bad move as you are setting your pet up for some bad behaviors in the future.
Good trainers will evaluate pets that enter obedience training and give you tips and advice for your pet, some you might not yet understand, but most are used to get a jump on bad behaviors that will crop up if not corrected in the early years. When I give an owner a tip or advice concerning their pet, it is for a very specific reason, which I will usually explain, you should follow the trainers’ advice to the letter until the training cycle is complete, if you are unsure of the reason… ask for clarification!
4. Making excuses for a pet’s bad behaviors:
Hmm, how many of us have done this? (Don’s hand flies up in the air), during obedience training, this is a big no, no! Believe me when I say, “I have heard ’em all”.
Case in point, a woman brings a 7-month-old boxer to a puppy class (training under another instructor) the boxer acts friendly towards other dogs until they are within reach, then tries to bite them, I was talking to her, explaining that it is very bad manners and dangerous to allow this to continue. She said “that her dog did not like other dogs getting in it’s face” But “it was normally a very gentle puppy”, as I started to tell her what was going to happen in the future with this pet, she got a first-hand lesson; we were sitting on the ground talking when she abruptly pulled the boxer towards her, it promptly bit her in the face! What made it worse has she quit the class that day, so the dog learned nothing and will definitely bite again! Why? Because she justified its actions and allowed the bad behavior to continue
Never make excuses for bad behaviors; doing this, especially during the first year is setting your pet up for some major problems later in life.
5. Allowing other family members to disrupt the training of their pet:
Another big one, the owner, and pet are taking the lessons very seriously and trying very hard to get those commands down, but as soon as they get home other family members are allowed to sabotage the training by not following the guidelines laid out in class.
Case in Point: A young dog is showing some aggressive tendencies towards family members, I give the owner some advice and tips including, no rough play, not allowing the pet on furniture, submission techniques and a few other tips on controlling aggression. Everything is going well until her son comes home from college and starts roughing the dog up, wrestling and playing tug of war with various items… all are very bad for a dog showing aggression.
You are the one taking your pet through the training, but you should get the entire family involved in the training. I highly recommend all family members perform the commands with the pet and if possible attend the obedience class to view the techniques. Until the dog understands the commands being taught, you must control every action and behavior the pet shows.
Always remember that Positive Training is Quality Training