by Kerry Ryan, Owner and Manager of Dog Adventures Northwest
As we work through teaching your dog various skills, we will always keep these three pillars of training in mind:
Set your dog up for success.
Do you do your best learning when you are distracted by pain, hyperactivity, or Big Feelings? Of course you don’t, and neither does your dog. Set your dog up for success by only training when your dog possesses the capacity for learning. Rule out any health issues, give your pup the exercise they need, and make sure they are feeling safe, comfortable, and secure in their surroundings, all before you start training. (Please make sure your dog has recently gone potty before our arrival and that they have access to water while training. Please also make sure they are having their daily exercise and enrichment needs met. We can chat more about how best to achieve this!)
Teach your dog to love the behaviors you want to see.
The fastest way to teach your dog what is acceptable in people-town is to teach them to actually love our rules. Help your dog sincerely love the behaviors you are teaching by pairing/rewarding those behaviors with things that dogs already love. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Pavlov.) When a dog has fun learning, they will engage in a behavior willingly (and often with lots of enthusiasm). Shift your perspective… instead of teaching your dog that they have to come to do something, teach them that they get to do that thing.
Start at the beginning.
You wouldn’t teach a dog how to find and retrieve your car keys, for example, without teaching them to pick up (and to love picking up!) your keys in the first place. Your dog will be successful if learning is fun, challenging-but-attainable, and results in tangible or intangible rewards. When learning is a chore, too hard, or brings misery… your dog will not learn the skill you are trying to teach. What’s more, they won’t want to learn. Don’t expect post-doctoral behavior from your preschooler. You want a skyscraper? You’ve got to start with the first story and then build up, without skipping any floors.