The term “dog training” can mean many different things – this is an important fact to remember when deciding what exactly you need to do with your dog.
First, there is “behavior training”.
This is the kind of dog training in which a dog is taught to be good. Usually this would include house training, good behavior around other people and dogs, and other small things that make a dog a much more pleasant companion. A well-behaved dog attracts no special notice from members of the public (apart from occasional comments about their good manners).
Next, there is “obedience training,” which is teaching the dog how to perform specific activities.
This can include traditional obedience exercises such as heeling. The emphasis here is on prompt and precise performance. While there can be many overall benefits to this kind of dog training, the training is not necessarily used in order to improve the dog’s behavior.
Dogs that have been obedience trained will perform tasks when their owners ask them to do so. (Although, some obedience trained dogs may well behave poorly!)
“Activity training” refers to dog training for specific activities – this could include hunting, herding, search and rescue or any of a number of activities designed to show off the abilities of the dog and his handler. These days, such activity also includes sports such as frisbee, flyball and agility.
At times, these dog training methods can cross over somewhat.
A certain amount of obedience training will help with behaviors, for example. A dog that is heeling will not pull on the leash.
You will still want to keep this in mind when selecting a training class, however, so that it best matches your needs. For many pet owners, the behavior-oriented classes are the best way to learn how to understand and control your dog. For those of you who want to enjoy a sport or compete in an activity with your dog, you will need to move along to more complex dog training.
You need to be fully aware of whether or not your dog needs behavior modification (where you will have to find out the underlying reason why your dog digs holes) or obedience training (to understand commands).
The two may be related: a dog that digs because it is bored may become less bored with obedience training and stop digging. It is important, however, to understand that the dog stopped digging because it was no longer bored not that it now knows how to heel. You will need to modify your approach, or select a trainer to help you, with behavior vs. training in mind.
Please also remember not to punish the dog whilst training.
Punishment is not a training aid. It does little to foster willingness to learn and achieve. Limit yourself to a firm “no” and to using your hands to block the dog’s negative actions. Refrain from hitting or physically abusing the dog.
Display extreme levels of patience and persistence, and never give up; if you do, you are relinquishing your status as the dominant one. The dog is bound by nature and genetics to test how far he can push you or get away with disobeying you. You must display a stern and stoic attitude and do not pat, praise, or reward the dog if he does not pay attention or refuses to do as you have asked. Only yield once your commands are followed. If you “heel” instead of your dog then he will soon know who is the boss.
Use rewards and praise as often as required. Praise should immediately be forthcoming when a dog responds to any command. The pet will associate responding to commands with praise/rewards (treats) and will try and respond quicker to reap his rewards. Once a command/trick has been mastered then the treats can be withdrawn. You will find that obeying a command becomes second nature to your dog.
Keep the lessons simple. To begin with, the lessons should be fairly easy and such that the dog can complete it within two-three actions. As his level of learning increases the lessons could be more complex. Just as our children go, at first to play school, then to kindergarten, and then to the first grade so also in the case of our pets.
Whether you are a first time dog owner or a seasoned veteran, your learning never stops as far as it comes to training your dog. Each and every dog presents different training challenges, and the more equipped you are to handle these training issues the more likely you are to prevent any permanent and long term future behavioral problems.