The hardest part of dog training is explaining how NOT to set your dog up to fail. How YOU need to learn how to work with your dog.
When training your dog or puppy it is crucial to maintain consistency, keep up repetition and get your timing absolutely right. However, probably the best advice would be to always make sure you set your dog up in such a way that he cannot fail. By doing this, he learns faster and you as a handler will make successful progress.
If you are pretty sure that your dog is not going to comply with a command or request; then don’t ask it or put them in that situation!!!
If, for example, you and your dog have not mastered a good recall in a quiet environment at home; then it will be futile to ask him to comply with this in the middle of a field surrounded by other dogs, children or wildlife. This is setting your dog up to fail and is often the reason why many owners become frustrated or even give up. Sadly, by not understanding the importance of groundwork and baby steps in dog training there is the real possibility that the relationship between you and your dog is gradually eroded.
Think of dog training like building bricks. Start by putting together just two, then a few more; building on the foundations you started with. By gradually working in this way, you can build ever more complicated patterns. However, it is unfair on the dog to miss out sections and ask your dog for something more difficult when he hasn’t yet got to grips with the basics. THIS APPLIES TO EVERY SITUATION NOT JUST OBEDIENCE.
Just like children (and adults!), dogs learn in stages, by association of one thing to another. However, one great difference between human and canine learning is that, by and large, dogs do not generalise. Even when you have taught your dog to perform a lovely sit stay in the quiet of your living room, this does not mean he will perform this at a busy park or at the vets! This also applies to inboard training. You have to learn and earn the respect if the dog. They again don’t generalize.
When training your dog, you need to begin in quiet and calm areas in order for him to learn a new behaviour such as sit, down or recall, but you then need to build distractions into subsequent training sessions, repeating what he has learnt, but this time gradually increasing distraction. Only when he has mastered something in a quiet environment, can you move on. You may for instance move from teaching the dog something indoors, to teaching him the same thing, using the same process in the garden where there are other sights and smells to act as mild distraction. Next move to the local park during a quiet period, next a slightly busier place and so on and so forth. What I explain to you guys in class. All if this again applies to aggression and other issues.
Aim for tiny steps – when teaching your dog a new behaviour set up your surroundings so that he has less chance to fail (e.g. become distracted, engage in behaviour other than that which you are asking for). Again. If you CANT manage the situation DONT put the dog in the situation.
Setting your dog up for success means managing situations carefully BEFORE he has chance to fail – this could be as simple as closing the door before he has time to bolt through it, which will only result in lots of chasing and shouting! Then embark on a positive training program to teach him how to approach doorways.
Add distractions to your training routine GRADUALLY and don’t let him fail by asking him to do something you know he does not understand. This is unfair and is setting him up to fail (see above).
As you build up distractions increase the rate at which you provide rewards (treats or play) as well as considering increasing the value of the reward; (tastiness of treats or gusto of game!).
Increase or decrease stimuli accordingly. In other words, if your dog lunges at joggers 5ft away, try training 15ft away or at whatever distance your dog is calm and receptive to distraction training. Increase the distance gradually once you have worked with him further away, but do not let him fail by working too close to the stimulus (e.g. jogger, squirrel, car, or other dogs).
Practice makes perfect! – Do not give up – dog training takes time and patience to reap the best rewards. Happy training!