Dog live and learn in the moment. They have memories and emotions but we can only communicate in present tense. We cannot explain yesterday or tomorrow so we must be ready to communicate clearly and spontaneously.
Clear rules such as always or never are well understood. Sometimes or maybe rules cause confusion because the dog is left to figure out when they can do something and when they cannot. Rules and commands must be clear, concise, and consistent.
Asking a dog to “down” or “lay down” sound like different commands to the dog. Similarly, telling your dog to “get down” is unclear. Use a different command such as “OFF” to distinguish between lying down and getting OFF the kitchen counter.
Timing is key in communicating with your dog. Rewards must come the moment the behavior is displayed. When teaching SIT, a treat and verbal praise is given the moment the rear touches the floor. If you were to walk to the counter to get the treat, the dog would be standing when you returned and would associate standing with getting the treat.
Clicker training is utilized because of the effectiveness of the timing and sound the clicker provides. The clicker marks the exact moment a behavior occurs. It helps you to recognize when the dog has achieved the behavior you are training for and communicates to the dog, “Good job! You got it right and a treat is coming!” This allows you a moment to get your treat and give it to him for doing a great job. Use the word YES! when you do not have a clicker handy to say "great job buddy, you got it right, and a treat is on the way!"
Communicate with your dog by providing frequent feedback. We often get focused on what our dogs and puppies are doing wrong and walk around saying “No, no, no. You can’t have that, you can’t do that, you can’t go there, no, no, no!” A dog is not going to give up on life and go sit in the corner for the next 10 years. He or she is an active living, learning creature.
When your dog is lying quietly go to him and give a nice pet or give him verbal praise or a happy YES and treat. Yes, your dog will jump up and stop being calm and quiet for a moment but the more you tell him that he is a GOOD BOY the more he will repeat the behavior he was doing when you said that. Start doing this and you will find more often your dog lying quietly or chewing his bones instead of your furniture.
Communicating by providing feedback to your dog helps him to feel less isolated. Imagine if you were transported to Italy and knew no Italiano. Now imagine no one speaks English and so they just ignore you. Most of the time. When they do decide to talk, they are yelling NO, making angry faces, slamming doors, and forcing you to go outside on the porch all alone. That would be a very sad world for a very social animal.
Be your dog’s best friend, be his translator in this foreign world.
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.