I want to share with you the two most important things to think about when training your dog. Each time you train with your dog think about these concepts and you will set yourself and your dog up for success. These concepts are:
- What your dog is learning is what they are feeling
- What your dog is rehearsing will get stronger
So when implementing a training program we should spend 80% of our efforts on management. Management means preventing our dog from practicing unwanted behaviours or feelings. The other 20% is on teaching skills and reinforcing alternative behaviours, so teaching your dog what to do instead in situations when they previously performed unwanted behaviours.
Tip 1 # When training your dog “What your dog is learning is what they are feeling”
The driving emotion behind any behaviour is vital for us to understand. We need to identify why the dog is doing what it is doing to identify an appropriate strategy moving forward. To change these behaviours, we always need to ask ourselves prior and in the moment what might our dog be feeling. It is the feeling and emotion that the dog will remember next time; and it is the emotion that will shape behaviour.
Let’s say you have a puppy and you want to socialise it to other dogs. If you take it to a group puppy school session with multiple other dogs and they all rush up to your puppy and they feel overwhelmed, then they are learning to feel overwhelmed or scared by other dogs. Which is the opposite of what you want to achieve with socialisation. Alternatively, you start at a large open space between you and other dogs, when your puppy notices the other dogs you give them a tasty treat. Bingo! Your puppy is learning to feel good about dogs.
Maybe you already have an adult dog that barks or lunges at other dogs when they are on leash. If the emotion driving this behaviour is fear, and a choker chain or a shock collar is used to stop the reaction, this will supress the behaviour, but exacerbate the underlying fear. Your dog is learning that every time they see a dog, something bad or uncomfortable happens. Although they may not express this emotion in ways we notice each time, the emotion will get stronger. This can often result in additional anxious behaviours, and result in increasing the level of aggression around other dogs. Alternatively, we could help this dog to create an environment where they feel safe and comfortable and teach them good things happen when in the presence of other dogs and over time the dog will no longer feel the need to react.
Your dogs feelings and emotions is the most important consideration in every moment you create with your dog, particularly when trying to address unwanted behaviours.
Tip 2 # When training your dog “What they rehearse will get stronger”
People often struggle with this concept. It seems almost too simple when we recommend to prevent the dog from rehearsing the behaviour. However this takes a lot of effort to implement. If you don’t do it well it will be like creating holes in a bucket you are trying to fill. You will feel like you are not getting anywhere with improving the emotion and/or behaviour of your dog.
Think about practicing a dance routine; the more you do it the more it becomes muscle memory and you don’t even need to think before dancing. It is no different with our dogs. If they keep practicing the unwanted behaviour while we are trying to create a new behaviour in its place, the existing muscle memory stays just at strong.
It is no different with our dogs. For example, each time your dog jumps on someone, they are practicing what to do next time. Instead, if your guests, arrive and scatter treats on the ground before your dog jumps, you are taking away the opportunity to jump and reinforcing four paws on the ground and helping them to feel good.
We are here to help
These strategies are not always this simple and do need careful consideration and assessment of the behaviour and emotion. We can help you implement these strategies in a way that is kind and effective. You can book a service either face to face in your home or via zoom or phone here or contact us.