10 Important Dog Training Tips: Week 5 – Realistic Expectations

Welcome back to my series on the top 10 Important Dog Training Tips! Over the past four bogs, I discussed the importance of  “no grey areas”, consistency,  creating attainable goals and repetition. This week I will cover the importance of setting realistic expectations for you and your dog during the training phase.

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One of the most important things to remember regarding your dog’s training and his success is there most definitely will be set backs along the way. What I mean is that your dog may be learning how to sit patiently at the door to go out for walks, and he may be doing really well at it. Then one day he won’t. This doesn’t mean he has forgotten everything, and it doesn’t mean he will never get it. Dogs, no matter their age, go through periods during the learning phase where they either just don’t want to comply with your request or they want to challenge it. They want to see if you really mean what you are asking and if you are going to follow through on your request.

*Your dog will challenge you along the way and this is very normal. Do not get frustrated, upset disappointed. Dogs are living creatures with the capability of making their own decisions. They have every right to challenge us…they are not robots. 

It is important to remember that it can take up to 6 months for a dog to fully understand a new behavior. Sure they may be understanding it and following through in your home or yard when you ask, but for you to be certain you must practice the behavior in every situation and have your dog comply with 90% reliability.

Here are two links to videos that were done 1 year apart showing Caleb learning positional cues (sit, down, heel, side, etc). As you can see in the second video, taken this Mother’s Day, Caleb is still learning to do things perfectly. This video is also a perfect example of your dog testing your request. Caleb knows what I am asking him to do but he is fired up, in a new park and testing me to see if I am going to make him perform the desired cue. As you can also see, I don’t get angry during this process. Instead, I laugh along and keep asking him knowing that he can’t be perfect every time.

 

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10 Important Dog Training Tips: Week 4 – Repetition

It’s week four of my 10 Important Dog Training Tips series! Over the past three weeks I discussed the importance of keeping things very clear through “no grey areas”, why consistency is key and creating attainable goals. Week four covers the importance of repetition during the training phase.

Just like when you were learning your time tables, and you would work through flash cards night after night to remember what 2×2 and 7×7 equaled, your dog must practice commands over and over to fully retain the information.

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How many repetitions you ask? Well, this depends on how clear you are when teaching your dog what you want and how much your dog wants to do the desired behavior. I have seen some dogs learn a behavior in less than 10 repetitions while it may take another dog 30 repetitions to learn the same behavior. However, I think it important to note that repetitions are successful when there is consistency in what you are asking your dog to do as well. If you pay close enough attention to your dog, you will soon learn their body language to let you know they get it. For example, when I am teaching Caleb a new behavior, I know that once he starts wagging his tail very happily it is because the behavior clicked in his head and he now understands what I am asking of him. Almost like he’s proud of himself for figuring it out lol.

You can check out a video I made specifically for this blog where I start teaching Caleb not to forge forward when he transitions from a sit to a stand.

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Along with how many repetitions it may take your dog to learn a behavior, you then have to add in the months of practicing that behavior in all settings to ensure your dog understands he has to perform the same behavior no matter if it is in your living room, around your neighborhood or at the local park. It is important to remember that you never push your dog and expect him to perform with out any hiccups in new environments if you have not set him up for success. This means, you don’t take your dog to a high stimulation environment and practice his behaviors if you haven’t practiced them in lower stimulation environments first.