Resolving Common Dog Education and Training Problems

Dog education problems are common but easy to resolve. New dog owners often get into trouble with inconsistent commands and misusing reward and punishment. Informed dog education is especially important for housebreaking and crate training your dog. Good training will also help to keep your dog safe and obedient while off leash and on walks.

Making Commands Effective

Dogs respond best to commands that are simple, consistent and clear. The average dog has the ability to understand language about like a 2 to 3 year-old child in terms of directions and prompts. A command should be anywhere from 1 to 5 words max. The same words should be used every time the command is given. You should only ask your dog to do one thing at a time. Good commands include, “leave it”, “come”, “drop it” and “no bark”. Saying “drop the toy and come here” might be understood but it might not. Do one command, praise, and then do the second command.

Avoiding Punishment Whenever Possible

There are several disadvantages to punishment (yelling, hitting, pulling on a choke chain, etc.). Punishment can create a negative relationship between you and your dog, and teach your dog to fear you. Fear is different than respect, and it can lead to aggression and sneaky behavior. Moreover, sometimes punishment unintentionally reinforces bad dog behavior. Punishment and yelling weaken a certain behavior while positive reinforcement strengthens or encourages a behavior.

Unintentionally Reinforcing Bad Dog Behavior

What a dog owner perceives as punishment may be perceived by a dog as reinforcement. Let’s say the dog is barking when someone comes to the door. If the owner starts yelling at the dog, the dog most likely will perceive this as just another form of barking. The dog may perceive this then as negative reinforcement, i.e. his anxiety is lessened because the alpha stepped in once she started barking. She may perceive it as positive reinforcement, i.e. she got attention from the owner once she started barking. Either way, the barking is getting reinforced and will continue.

Using Rewards

By ignoring unwanted behaviors and rewarding desired behaviors, you harness the most powerful aspects of conditioning. It’s best to figure out what feels the most rewarding for your dog. Some dogs will do anything for a treat while others love any kind of playtime or attention. Most dogs naturally want the alpha to be happy. If you teach your dog that everything has to be earned, you establish yourself as the alpha and create many opportunities for your dog to get things he likes. Most dogs take to this form of training very quickly.

Housebreaking and Crate Training

The above guidelines are core in successful housebreaking. After you’ve introduced your dog to a crate or carrier, he’ll consider it his safe place. Then you can use simple commands, such as, “go to your bed” in between trips outside. Give him a treat for going into his crate. Then when you let him out of the crate, you can use other simple commands such as, “go pee”. Then when he urinates, give him a treat or excited praise. Make it more rewarding by playing more when he comes back into the house. He’ll learn that eliminating outside results in good things. He’ll want you to see him doing it. He’ll eventually start asking to go outside.