By Terry Jester
The four dog training essentials you need most to successfully train your dog have nothing to do with what equipment to buy.
It isn’t about the leash, the collar, or the type of treat you use. It’s about attitude. A well-trained dog doesn’t care whether he’s wearing a collar or leash. He doesn’t care if you have a treat.
What he cares about is pleasing you. What he cares about is doing it right.
In order to have that well-trained dog you need to keep four things in mind.
First, remember that a dog is a social, pack-oriented animal. He responds to a leader figure, dog or human. A good pack leader isn’t the most aggressive member, or, the one with the biggest cookie, or the one who scares him into submission.
The best pack leaders are the ones most consistent. Dogs respond to consistency because they know they can trust the consistent leader. Consistent leaders don’t invite the dog onto the couch one day and punish him the next when he jumps on the couch without permission.
They don’t use confusing words like “sit down.” How can a dog “sit down?” He can sit, or he can down. They don’t use the same word to mean different things, like “down” meaning don’t jump on people, get off of the couch and lay down on the ground. Consistent leaders allow the dog to relax. They mean what they say and there is no confusion.
Second, good leaders are also firm without being harsh. A good leader tells the dog to do something. He or she doesn’t shout at the dog, plead with the dog or scream at the dog to obey. The punctuation at the end of a good leader’s command is simply a period. Not an exclamation mark and not a question mark.
Third, the good leader is humane. He or she doesn’t punish the dog for mistakes that were made by the leader.
And last, a good leader remembers to praise appropriately, never mistiming the praise or giving praise undeserved.
When the dog does something praiseworthy, the praise is delivered immediately. The good leader does not praise behaviors that are unwanted, no matter how unintentional the praise may be.
If the dog is showing fear, aggressiveness, or timidity, the good leader either ignores the behavior or tells the dog to knock it off. The good leader doesn’t praise, and, therefore, encourage the behavior, by stroking the dog, telling him it’s OK, you’re fine, etc., while the dog is acting out.
These four dog training essentials: being consistent, being firm without being harsh, being humane and giving appropriate, well-timed praise, are key in having a well-behaved, happy and confident dog.
Whether you have a puppy, an adult dog, are in a formal obedience class or just training your dog at home, keeping these four dog training essentials in mind will benefit both you and your dog.
Terry Jester is a nationally-recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.