by Kathy Pierson

Setting up the correct training program for you and your dog is the first critical step to a successful training plan.

Factors that determine how successful a plan will be are:

Your expectations for the desired outcome

The attitude of the dog owner about training

Your dog’s environment

Your dog’s social needs

Your dog’s physical needs

Your dog’s nutritional needs

In this article, I will talk to you about your expectations for your dog’s reaction to training and your attitude towards training.

Typically people vary in their expectations from realistic, to too low, to too high.   Examples are:

Realistic:   My dog completes most of my commands in a timely fashion and seems to have learned the command.  She responds correctly 90% of the time.

Too Low:  My dog will only complete my commands when she wants something.  She is stubborn.  (This is an example of someone who is not patient or is not paying attention to the dog’s reaction to training.  Does the dog know what is being asked of her?)

Too High:  My dog forgets how to respond to my command.   She should respond correctly every time I say the command.  Maybe if I change my words that I say, she will learn better.  (This is an example of someone who is not consistent in their training methods).  And no dog responds correctly on every command unless they are on TV!

We often talk about how our dogs know everything we are saying.  Also we tend to believe that our dog’s behavior is based upon a human trait like being mad at us for leaving them home alone.  These concepts are frequently accepted by dog owners.  Unfortunately, attributing human characteristics and attributes to an animal is not factual.

In addition, when your dog is bred for certain characteristics, herding for instance, these characteristics bring out behavior in your dog and may not be easily eliminated.  So knowing up front what type of drives your dog has will also be helpful in setting realistic expectations for training.

The well trained dog obeys because he has been trained and has actually learned what you want with the command word or signal you are using.   Dogs begin to learn at 3 weeks of age.  At 7 weeks old, their brains are neurologically complete.  Therefore, the best time to train is as soon as you get your dog.  They will not forget what they have learned early in life and training is a life long process.  Dogs are never too old to learn either and can build on their learning by beginning with simple commands and then move on to more difficult commands.

Attitude and Training

Your attitude during training is another critical aspect of how well your training will be accepted and learned by your dog.  Never train when you are in a bad mood or don’t feel well.  Training should be positive and kind yet firm.  Remember that you are the benevolent leader and your dog will respond to you well if you conduct training in a friendly manner.  Training should be fun and you can make it fun.  It should be instant gratification for both of you.