Updated: May 18, 2021
Are you ready to find out two of the biggest dog training mistakes that are preventing you from getting real life dog training results?
Often I get calls from owners that say they don't understand why their dog training isn't working. They have taught their dog to sit, down, stay, come, rollover, and heel. They took the puppy classes, and in fact, they were one of the best listeners in class.
Fast forward six months later, and walks are terrible, forget going to the pet store. Fido is always pulling when he goes out with his owner, and never listens to directions outside of the house; it was like he never learned a single command. What happened? Why doesn't Fido listen? What do I wish someone told me when I first started training?
First, I wish someone explained that it is not so much about teaching my dogs commands like sit and down, but more about teaching them to want be with and work with me. Commands are easy to learn and often quickly forgotten in exciting situations. Teaching a dog the value of being close to you and teaching them that you are the most exciting thing in the world changes your training and relationship in invaluable ways!
While my dogs know many commands, sit, down, take a bow, and more, they are not the basis of our training sessions. We like to work on impulse control, play, the value in proximity to me, being able to orient to me, and listening through arousal. We do all these things by playing various games that make training sessions so much more enjoyable for all of us!
Second, you have to change the locations you train! If you only ever teach your dog to heel in the living room and at puppy class, it is likely, they won't be able to do it when walking past a group of barking dogs on a walk. You need to take your training session in different locations. I like to start somewhere simple and then slowly work up. For example, to teach heel, I first teach it in the living room, then the back yard, then the front yard, then two houses down the road, and then slowly places with more and more distractions.
You should never expect your dog to be able to do something they do in a sterile environment in a very stimulating environment. I am also going to teach it on leash and off-leash. Just because your dog understands heel off-leash in the living room doesn't mean they know it on-leash two blocks from the house. Who would have imagined that something as simple as wearing a leash or the location of training would have such a significant impact? Dogs are excellent predictors, and small changes can make a huge difference in practice.
Going back to the heeling example, you may be able to command your dog from across the room into a heel position by patting your left side. However, when you pat your right side, your dog stares at you like you are asking them to do the impossible. It is the same command, isn't it? Well, for many dogs, it isn't. The simple act of switching hands can throw most dogs through a loop, and you have to start back at the beginning to teach heel on the other side of your body.
What is the big take away? Play games that teach valuable life skills, and remember to play and teach in as many different locations as possible, in as many different ways as you can.
The more your dog learns the more, the easier the next task will be for them, the least frustrated you will be, and the better the relationships with your dog will be!
If you want to learn more about game-based dog training be sure to contact us!
Or you can book a session or join a group class on our website!