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Sunday, February 8, 2009

DOG TRAINING 101-A



Training Dogs is a talent or skill anyone could have, just like several years ago, I was not aware that I have the potential to train. It all started with a simple dog play, my mutt’s interest on playing with socks made it possible for me to get her attention and keep her sitting still, I have no idea then how it actually works but the socks really made wonders, so from then on my curiosity and enthusiasm led me to learn more about dog training and their behavior. Training dogs is not really that complex compared to rocket science, though it requires strong determination and plethora of patience.

It is better to understand some of the basics about dog‘s temperament, genetic behaviors and preferences before you actually start training your dog. Generally, knowing your dogs and establishing a strong bond with them is what makes training successful and fun as well. My experiences as a trainer have taught me a lot not only with canines but with people at the same time. I realized that dogs behave and react to situations just like humans. However in the canine world it is simpler.

Before anything else, it is so valuable to create a good relationship with your dog; you should know that dogs are accustomed to live in a pack where there is a leader and a follower. The leader or the alpha dog is the most dominant in the pack while the rest of the canine members become his followers. As a handler and trainer of dogs, you should position yourself as the alpha dog in the pack; the dog should look on you as his ultimate master and friend with all respect. Establishing this kind of relationship with your dog will make your training experience more relax, fun and rewarding.

I came across with different trainers using various methodologies in canine training. The effect and result of any program may vary depending on the approach of imprinting a command that the dog should understand and follow. Moreover, the temperament of the dog and its genetic behavior also contributes to how well it will respond to the training program; this is when dog psychology comes in handy. Reminds me of the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, who knows so much about dog behavior and how he effectively makes dogs to respond positively from uncomfortable situations. Obviously, I find Cesar’s approach effective and he made a great contribution to trainers like me, there are still a lot of good trainers whom I got a share of what I know in the field of dog training. And so, it’s just fair to share what I learned and experienced with those who wish to train their dogs.

Here are a few tips on how to train your dog effectively.


1. Conditioning-Before introducing the exercises or commands to your dog, first you need to get his attention by setting him in a situation that will eagerly makes him follow you, the dog should have interest and enthusiasm in you, dogs love to play and eat so you can entice your dog with a toy he likes or a treat. Some dogs will immediately show excitement simply just by seeing their master, especially when the owners have been away for quite a while. The dog’s enthusiasm is more noticeable during these times: Meal Time, Time to go out for stroll, after the long hours that the dog missed you. You can take advantage of these situations and convert it positively to make your dog do the training exercise you have programmed. CLICK HERE TO check this video on classical conditioning(Preparation for come or recall command)


2. Positive reinforcement- You should always remember that your dog will respond positively to every command as long he/she pleasurably benefits from the task, meaning every command obeyed by your dog should be rewarded; it may be a treat, a toy or a simple praise using your happiest tone of voice, timing in rewarding is also important and must be done within ½ second of the command to ensure that your dog makes the connection between his behavior and the reward. Dogs will most likely remember and repeat the task as long as his experience in doing it is pleasurable. If the dog fails to do the command, simply don’t reward it, but don’t recourse to hitting, spanking and shouting as a form of punishment, no reward is the punishment. The program should be reinforced positively; the moment should be fun and enjoyable experience for you and your dog.


3. Calm and Assertive Trainer’s attitude- You should display a calm and assertive attitude when training your dog, its okay for a dog to show excitement but not for the trainer, you should be relaxed and patient in giving the exercise or command and eventually the dog will also be calm as it follows. It is the attitude an alpha dog should be in a pack. Common mistake that trainers have is becoming overexcited and expecting too much from their canine friends, resulting to overtime training, causing stress and boredom in dogs. Training should be limited to 5 to 10 minutes to maintain the dog’s motivation. Do not force the dog to do the command after several attempts, resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command that you know he will obey then reward him for a job well done and issue a finish command such as “release”. Both the trainer and the dog should be left with a feeling of accomplishment. Don’t expect a wonder dog overnight.


4. Start with Basic Obedience- Basic Obedience Commands include come, heel, sit, down, and stay. It is essential for a dog to be familiar and have a strong foundation with the commands before introducing additional and advance tasks. Keep in mind that dog’s motivation decreases as the difficulty of the command increases. I would suggest starting with the sit and staying command which I find most useful during dog walks on leash. Eventually your dog will able to do more complex task as he progresses. Dog tricks you see in the movies are just a combination of basic and advance commands choreographed so well.


Here are videos you can watch on how to train your dog using basic commands.

SIT (Click to watch video)
STAY (Click to watch video)
DOWN (Click to watch video)
HEEL (Click to watch video)
COME (Click to watch video)

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