Beginner’s Guide to Dog Training
4 Main Training Methods
–Luring: Luring is a type of hands-off method where you guide your dog through a certain behavior. For instance, a food lure may be used for guiding a dog from sitting into a down. It is a common method of obtaining more complex behaviors. Typically, lures are food. However, they can also be a target, tugs, toys, or anything else that your dog is willing to follow. It isn’t very hard to understand how to use and introduce a lure to your dog. However, knowing how to properly phase the lure out is quite important and is the hard part of learning how to lure.
–Shaping: Shaping enables you to build up a new behavior in a step-by-step fashion that reinforces small approximations of the desired behavior until your final goal is achieved. In other words, you’re accepting a lesser behavior in the hopes that it leads to the desired behavior. Every step represents part of the behavior and once your dog has achieved the first step, we will then increase the difficulty gradually until the ultimate goal has been reached.
–Capturing: Capturing the behavior of a dog is a highly effective method to use when you are training a dog. The animal is required to “think” about the specific situation. This method only uses behaviors that your dog freely offers. You basically will have to wait until your dog performs the desired behavior and then reward him instantly. The key is being very consistent, having great timing and repeating it numerous times. After we have captured a behavior successfully, we then pair it with a hand or verbal command.
–Molding: Molding involves guiding a dog physically or otherwise compelling him to perform a certain behavior. Pushing down on a dog’s rear while pulling on his collar is a molding method to teach him to sit. Using physical props is also included in molding, like placing a tap on your dog’s face to get him to put his paw over his nose (for a trick) or working your dog against a wall in order to teach them how to walk in a straight heel. We do not utilize molding as a primary teaching method. However, we do make use of this tool as necessary when other methods are not successful. It is very important not to close yourself and using just one kind of training method, especially since we know that not all behavior cases or dogs are identical.
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament and past experiences. The crate should always be associated with something positive, and training should take place in a series of small steps. Encourage your dog to enter the crate with a treat or toy lure. Have a blanket or bed set up already to make it more appealing. Leave the door open at first and allow them to go in and out freely, do not force them in. When they enter the crate, give lots of praise! You can also start feeding your dog in the crate to build that positive association, gradually increase the amount of time they’re crated each day and keep safe/durable toys in the crate to keep them occupied.
Potty training begins with YOU being consistent, having good time management, and rewarding the behavior that you want. It is not about punishing your dog for going inside, but rather ensuring your dog has the opportunity to go outside. Start crate training. A crate can help your dog learn to “hold it” because they don’t normally want to soil an area where they spend time living and sleeping. Stick to a daily schedule with set feeding, nap, and potty times. Dogs pick up on routines quickly! If your dog doesn’t go to the bathroom during a potty break, make sure they go directly to their crate once back in the house. Don’t let them run free in your house unsupervised. Give it another 15 minutes or so in the crate and then go outside and try again.
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs are separated from their owners. They may become disruptive or destructive when left alone. Don’t make a big deal when you leave for the day or when you return. This way, you are communicating to your dog that the time apart is no big deal. When you do return home, allow your dog to calm down before you give them attention. Remember to reward the behavior you want. Do not acknowledge the whining, barking, jumping, etc. You can also try these tips to help your dog through the anxiety: slowly start increasing the time you spend away from your dog, play relaxing music on the tv, place a blanket over their kennel, give your dog a toy that they don’t usually get to play with before you leave.
Loose Leash Walking
Leash pulling is one of the most common complaints among dog owners. Being outside is very exciting for your dog, between all of the different sights, smells and sounds. They also generally just walk at a faster pace than people so it’s no surprise that dogs who aren’t taught otherwise will pull when they reach the end of their leash. With that being said, you need to teach your dog that NOT pulling on their leash is more rewarding than pulling. Begin with taking a couple steps forward. The second your dog starts to pull, stop walking. There should never be tension on the leash unless you’re making a leash correction. When they stop pulling, and the leash is loose, offer praise and treats and continue taking steps forward. Over time, this will teach your dog that pulling will prevent them from reaching their intended destination. If your dog struggles staying focused on walks, make time to practice inside where it’s familiar and there’s minimal distraction.
Depending on the breed, your dog might be a natural in the water or swimming will be a challenge. Bulldogs, Pugs, Dachshunds etc. are generally unable to swim well due to their anatomy. In this case, use a flotation device when they are in or around water. To entice your dog to enter the water, try standing in the shallow end and calling them in. Use a toy or ball to lure them. If you know another dog who’s a confident swimmer, invite them over so your dog can watch and learn. This can lead to them being more comfortable and willing to give it a try! Once in the water, encourage gradual movement into deeper water. Use lots of praise and positive reinforcement. Guide your dog around the perimeter of the pool to show them where the steps are, and how to exit the water. Help your dog stay afloat by placing your arm under their belly while they learn to paddle. Keep swim sessions brief to avoid them becoming overtired and remember to never leave your dog unattended in the water.
As a dog owner, you will always run into situations where your dog comes across another dog they don’t know. If you choose to let them meet each other, watch their body language closely. We don’t want them to appear frightened (tucked tail, trembling, attempting to hide) or tense (stiff body, intense stare) We also don’t want them to be too high energy (pulling towards dog, trying to jump) The introduction needs to be gradual. Never walk your dog directly up to another without feeling it out first and asking the other owner if they are comfortable with a greeting. When the dogs get close, they should be using their noses to sniff and get familiar with one another. Bodies should be relaxed. Keep your leash loose! If you put tension on the leash you are communicating to your dog that you are tense with the situation. Put tension on your leash ONLY if you need to make a correction.