Get Your Dog Excited About Training

Are you hoping to get your dog excited about training sessions? I always enjoy the training sessions I have with my dogs and have from the start.

Bevly, Bear, Patches, and Hank about 10-12 weeks old

Don’t feel you have missed out if you weren’t able to train when your dog was a pup. Dogs can learn at any age and enjoy training sessions.

Training your dog is not just for tricks or obedience; it is also for their safety (come, leave it, stay, etc.), helps to improve their knowledge, enhance cognition, and reduce boredom. Training sessions present a wonderful time to bond with your dog.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m training and I see my dog “get it”, oh my I am so happy.  And, you know what, so are they. The key is to provide training in a positive and correct manner, so that dogs will look forward to training sessions.  My dogs, get so excited when I grab my training gear.  When training Hank I can see his wheels turning.  If I lag on a cue to him, he will begin without me by going through the entire list of cues he knows – hoping to get a reward.  Isn’t that what we want – dogs that are excited and happy to learn?

Training your dog is not a once and done deal, it should span their entire lifetime and add to their enjoyment each time spent with you.  Training is not a chore.  Training is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

Before we get into methods of training let me give you a fun fact:  According to Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychologist and an expert on dog intelligence, says the smartest dogs can understand approximately 250 words.  That’s the equivalent of a 2 year old child.  Pretty cool, huh?

As you may have guessed or already know, I am all about positive reinforcement training – ONLY.  So, why am I a firm believer in this method?  Pure and simple because it works.  Scientific studies show positive reinforcement training is the best method.  It allows your dog to make good decisions, gain confidence, look to you for instruction, builds trust, and so much more.

Did you know that other animals can be trained with these positive conditioning techniques?  Even bees. In this link bees were trained to detect TNT.  AWESOMENESS.   Here is an extract from the article below “So how do you train them to respond to TNT the way they respond to pollen?  The same way you train any animal to do almost anything:  by associating a particular stimulus with a reward.” 

Still not fully on board with positive reinforcement training?  Let’s go over this scenario:

What if you were trying to learn how to type and every time you pressed the wrong key someone smacked your hand with a ruler.  You would not WANT to learn to type.  But, what if you were to earn a $1.00 for each correct word you typed?  Wow, that would increase your desire to learn typing, wouldn’t it?  Your direction would be clear and you would strive for no errors so you could get more money.  This, my friend, is positive reward based training.

Other methods of dog training require you to use dominance or force.  Here is what I know, there is NEVER a need for dominance, force, punishment, or tools like prong, shock, or choke collars when training a dog – EVER!!!   YES, I said it!  Many people will grumble at that statement and stop reading at this point, and that is OK.  Perhaps their mind is closed to learning something gentler.  Perhaps they believe that one must become a “pack leader” to show the dog who is boss.  Perhaps they are under the misconception that their dog will only respond when a reward is present.  There are many more reasons that some dog owners do not use positive reinforcement training.

Did you know that the “pack leader”, “alpha dog”, “dominance”, “leader” theory has been debunked?  It can be dangerous to use these ideas to train your dog.  For more information on this training myth see the great information in the link below.

Still think that adverse methods are ok?  Take for example, you don’t want your dog jumping on you when you come home. So you have heard and seen other people that knee their dog in the chest.  

Let’s go over this scenario:  Your dog sees you and is so excited.  They are thinking how much they missed you and are so happy you’re a finally home.  Because in dog time it has been forever since they saw you.  So your dog runs to greet you and you throw your knee up effectively kicking him in the chest.  That is the equivalent to a small child running to greet you and you punch them in the chest – what signal does that send?  

Antiquated training methods like this may stop your dog from jumping on you, but it has broken the trust your dog has with you and may physically hurt them.  As you continue to use this method to teach your dog, your dog may no longer be excited to see you.  Is that the desired outcome you want? Or, is it that you just want to teach your dog not to jump on you.  There is a better way.

Pro Tip:  Lead your dog with clear instructions, a gentle demeanor, and positive rewards.

In the next blog – clicker training.

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