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Dog Training


Five Principles of Dog Training

There are five main principles to always consider during dog training lessons. These principles are the core ingredients to dog…

5 principles of Dog TrainingThere are five main principles to always consider during dog training lessons. These principles are the core ingredients to dog behavior modification and are always at work, whether training the family pet or teaching a police dog to track felons. Understanding how these principles work is the secret to clear communication between you and your pet. These five principles of dog obedience training are:

  • Timing
  • Consistency
  • Motivation
  • Direction
  • Situation

1. Timing

Timing is the first principle in dog obedience training. Timing is the amount of time needed between cause and effect for a dog to connect one with the other. Timing says that any behavior a dog acts out must have a consequence within 1.3 seconds in order for the dog to associate that behavior with that consequence. Positive behaviors must have a positive consequence within 1.3 seconds, while negative behaviors must have a negative consequence within 1.3 seconds. Often pet owners reprimand a dog far after a negative event took place, something experienced trainers call punishment. The dog never has a chance to connect his negative behavior with the consequence, leaving the dog to deal with an angry owner having no idea what has made the owner upset. This leads to submissive posturing by the dog which owners will misconstrue as guilt. This, in turn, leads owners to believe that the dog, “Knew what he did wrong.”

2. Consistency

Consistency is needed to create set habits. One of the best dog training tips is to make sure there is ongoing conditioning intended to create ritual behavior. Consistency means promptly reacting the same way to a dog’s behavior in all situations. This means whether you are cooking, cleaning, entertaining guests, preparing the kids for school, watching the big game, etc. You must keep in mind that your dog is always learning from you. Habits will not be created until a dog has displayed repeated behavior without motivation for at least thirty days. Establishing a consistent bathroom regimen for your dog is crucial, as it helps them understand when and where it’s appropriate to do their business. This means there is a window of training time to teach new behaviors and a supervision time frame to create these new behaviors as habits. Reliable, off-leash dog training cannot occur until habits are established. When you miss opportunities to influence your dog’s behavior, you will dramatically delay the whole habit-forming/off-leash training process, which is why you should begin to start training your puppy quickly and consistently.

3. Motivation

Motivation is needed to influence your dog to make correct decisions, which requires action from the owner. If your dog acts out a positive behavior, you must quickly act in a positive, rewarding manner. This is called positive motivation or rewards. How you reward your dog is very important. Rewards should be tangible and physical. Verbal rewards often do not create enthusiasm in the dog, but food and petting can go a long way. Negative motivation or corrections may be applied if your dog acts out a negative behavior. A correction is a matter of fact negative stimulation a dog receives promptly following negative behavior. Use of safe, proven dog training equipment is recommended. Owners must be coached as to how to use this equipment correctly. Corrections must never be delivered out of frustration or anger. Further, they must be applied routinely and with proper timing. Dogs can be trained without the use of negative motivation, however, in many instances, reliability will suffer.

4. Direction

Direction is any hand placement, body movement, verbal signal, body posture, reward placement, etc. that a trainer or owner uses to help clarify the desired behavior to their dog. For example, when teaching a dog to sit, some of the directional components include holding a treat up over the dog’s head, pushing down on the dog’s rear end, lifting up on the dog’s collar, etc. Clear directional dog training dramatically decreases a dog’s learning period as well as dramatically reducing confusion and stress. You should never mistake confusion in a dog with stubbornness. When your dog is having problems learning, it is likely that more direction is needed during training.

5. Situation

Situation training is the process of defining triggers to create behavior expectations in a dog. Triggers are sights, sounds, smells, etc. These triggers, when properly defined, will signal to the dog how he/she will be expected to behave. When we as humans enter a library, triggers immediately influence our behavior because we have been conditioned to whisper, walk and move softly. These triggers tell us to behave far differently than when we go out to our favorite sporting event, where we have been conditioned to clap and shout. It is up to you to define these triggers for your dog. Be prepared to clearly teach your dog how you want them to behave in many situations such as, when you are eating dinner as a family, going for a walk around the block, going to the vet office, playing with the kids, going to the dog park, etc.

Communication is key in dog training

One of the best dog training tips is to keep in mind is that the way your dog behaves is a product of how you interact with him/her. Don’t blame the dog. Your dog’s behavior is directly related to your ability to understand and implement these dog training principles:

  • Timing links behavior with a consequence
  • Consistency creates habits
  • Motivation influences decision making
  • Direction makes learning easy
  • Situation creates behavior expectation

Remember to keep these in mind during your dog obedience training.

Check out our post on the 5 worst dog training mistakes.

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