The Importance of Training Your Dog Properly
Remember, if you do not make the conscious choice to be the Trainer…you are by default, the Trainee.”
Training is the process of reinforcing behavior, with the goal being to increase the probability that the desired behavior will be repeated. It is up to the Trainer to distinguish what behaviors are desired, then teach the dog to repeat them when they are appropriate. Remember, dogs are always learning, whether you are “training” them at the moment or not. Unfortunately, many people (unknowingly) train their dogs to do things they do not desire. Fortunately, this can be avoided and reversed with proper training and keen awareness.
The Art and Science of Dog Training
Dogs do things that work. Their actions, behaviors and choices are made based on the laws of cause and effect and whether it is safe or dangerous to do so. Contrary to popular myth, dogs are not out to “Please Us”. They are opportunists. They want what they want, and are always trying to figure out how to get what they want. A dog’s desire (or lack thereof) to “Please You” should not be confused with the amount of Love or Acceptance they have for you, which dogs give abundantly.
What’s In It For Me?
Just like humans evaluate and make decisions based on what’s in it for them, dogs tune into the station WIFM “What’s In It For Me?” and make choices that they hope will get them what they want. Sometimes getting what they want “Pleases You” and sometimes it does not. There is some motivation for your dog to want to “Please You” – if you in return give up more good things to your dog; however that is not necessarily their first consideration when making decisions. However, recognizing and rewarding their good choices (when they do Please You) may weigh more in your favor in future decisions and certainly won’t cause any harm.
Safe vs. Dangerous?
Dogs also view their world as “Safe” or “Dangerous”. When faced with temptation, dogs don’t ask themselves:
“Will eating this piece of hotdog on the table please my person?”
They decide if it is safe to eat the hotdog (i.e. you’re not there to stop them) or dangerous – they’ll get caught. Hence, they proceed if they want it and if it is safe. There are four common reactions to this question, if they perceive danger:
- Freeze: Often subtle and missed by an untrained eye, the Freeze is usually an immediate response.
- Fool Around: Often very dependent on personality, some dogs act goofy, lie down (quietly or not) making themselves smaller, and hence less of a threat. Some dogs will play bow, turn (intentionally looking away or playfully) or offer other play initiating behaviors.
- Flight: actually flee by distance, placing an object (You, car, shrub, bike, etc.) between themselves and the perceived threat.
- Fight: When all else fails… unfortunately, over time as this gains some success, then it becomes a more go-to response. The good news is, that with training, consistency and preparedness, we can do a lot to help calm the fight response into a safer response.
In my next article I’ll talk about the Law of Cause and Effect in training your dog…
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are, under given circumstances and situations.