There are five main principles to always consider when training your dog. These principles are the core ingredients to 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 are timing, consistency, motivation, direction, and situation.
Timing is the first principle. 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. Experienced trainers call this punishment. The dog never has a chance to connect his negative behavior with the consequence. Therefore, the dog is forced 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”.
Consistency is needed to create set habits. It is ongoing conditioning intended to create ritual behavior. Consistency means promptly reacting the same way to a dog 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. This means there is a training time to teach new behaviors and a supervision time frame to create these new behaviors as habits. Reliable, off leash 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.
Motivation is needed to influence your dog to make correct decisions. Motivation 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.
Direction is any hand placement, body movement, verbal signal, body posture, reward placement, etc. that a trainer/owner uses to help clarify a 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 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.
Situation Training is the process of defining triggers to create behavior expectation 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 to 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.
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 training principles:-Timing links behavior with consequence-Consistency creates habits-Motivation influences decision making-Direction makes learning easy-Situation creates behavior expectation