A reliable dog training command is a dog cue that your dog will respond to no matter where you are or what is going on around you two. There is a system to achieve this, you need to use positive methods and lots of practice.
Learning has different steps or phases and understanding them will make you a better trainer. Luckily this steps are very easy to follow, just like using a recipe. But you do need to work hard and practice.
You will learn along the way that even though dogs are very smart creatures, they are not as smart as we are, they do not have some of the higher cognitive skills we do (and take for granted). That is why many times we think dogs know something, when they really don’t.
Teaching a reliable dog training command to your dog will make you understand that your dog will follow you to the end of the world, but only if he can understand you. That is the key, help him learn better and more efficiently.
The Learning Steps to a Reliable Dog Training Command
The Initiation Step:
- Introduce your dog to the behavior you want him to do. Use Luring and/or Capturing to elicit this behavior.
- You will go on to the next step only when your furry friend responds to your command 80% of the time. That is 8 good responses for every 10 times you ask.
You are on your way to a reliable dog training command!
The Fluency Step:
- Start giving treats only sometimes. Do it in a random manner so your canine friend can’t predict when he is going to get a treat and when he isn’t. This will ensure he will keep trying.
- During this time you can focus on improving your dog’s response.
For example: is he taking too long to respond? then only give him a treat when he acts within 2 seconds of your cue. Is the behavior not “pretty”? then only give him a treat when the behavior is performed correctly (i.e.: sitting straight instead of half way to a down!).
- You can move on to the next step when you notice that your hound can respond in a “fluent” way. What does this mean? When he responds almost automatically and the behavior is performed faster and better than on the initiation step.
Your reliable dog training command is almost there!
The Generalization Step:
- In this step you will be using Initiation and Fluency!
- You will teach your dog to respond to a particular cue under different conditions. – different environments, different distractions, different durations, different distances –
Different environments: different rooms in the house – backyard – front yard – park – your friends or family member’s house – pet store – etc.
Always start with easy and build to harder locations!
Different distractions: while a loud noise is heard – with a ball rolling on the floor – while the kids are running around – etc.
Always start with easy and build to harder distractions!
Different durations: ask your dog to sit for 1 sec, then 2 then 5 and so one.
Different distances: ask him to sit when you are 2 steps away, 5 steps, on a different room of the house and so on.
- Each time you pick a new condition start with the initiation step (a treat for EVERY good behavior – until 80% good response), then move on to the fluency step (Give treats randomly and pick the best behaviors), then choose another condition and start over!
You will notice that your pet “learns faster” with each different condition and also with new commands!
Good Job! You are on your way to have a good mannered dog!
- You can move on to the next step when your dog can fluently respond to your command in many different situations.
You now have a reliable dog training command!
The Auto-pilot Step:
You did it!
With knowledge and practice comes excellence…
- Remind your furry friend once in a while by practicing the command.
- Some dogs will need more reminders than others.
- If your pet seems to “have forgotten” about the reliable dog training command. Don’t Panic. Just start from Step 1 and move forward. He will be reminded fast!
Common Dog Training Mistakes
But my dog knows it!
If your dog doesn’t respond to your dog training command, it’s because he doesn’t know it!
The biggest misconception about dogs is that because they are taught a command at home, they should also perform it at the park!
Dogs are actually REALLY BAD at generalizing a concept. To you it might seem pretty obvious “sit” means “sit no matter where you are. To your pet, on the other hand, it doesn’t!
Not only that, but if there is a very attractive distraction (other dogs playing, a squirrel running away), then unless your hound has gone through SEVERAL cycles of the Generalization step you don’t stand a chance!
Follow the learning steps and pay special attention to the Generalization step.
Misuse of treats
Your treats (or any other reward you are using) are your most powerful tool!
So you need to use it wisely…
… but not thriftily!
Initially give treats EVERY SINGLE time your dog responds to you. You don’t want to count 8 out 10? Then look at your pet! Is he responding to you eagerly and happily? now you can probably move on to the next step.
When you start cutting back on treats, you still need to keep giving him treats! I mention earlier to give treats when the behavior is faster or better. What if your dog is not doing it faster or better? Then just randomly give him/her treats!
Eventually you will learn to see a faster or better response and reward it too!
You can only get a reliable dog training command if your hound is motivated.
Failing to go back to the Initiation Step when needed
If your canine friend is not responding consistently …
… go back to STEP ONE!
Do not feel this as a step back. By actually going back you will be building trust and understanding with your pet.
If you fail to go back to step one when your dog really needs it, he may get frustrated and training sessions will stop being fun!
You want your training sessions to be fun!
If your dog enjoys training with you…you will be ahead of the game!
But what is fun?
Well, dogs like treats, play time, petting, attention, going out for walks, interacting with other dogs and much more! Make sure you incorporate 2-3 of your dog’s favorite rewards in each training session to keep him/her interested all the time.
Not moving on to the next step
I always recommend dog parents to move through the steps slowly. It is better to over train your dog and keep him/her happy rather than go too fast and make your dog frustrated.
Don’t get stuck in one of the steps afraid to move on. If you move on too fast, you will see your dog unable to keep up with you. You can ALWAYS go back!
If you think your canine is ready keep moving along!
When you feel good about your reliable dog training command…move on to the next one!
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