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Do You Know How Not To Train Your Dog?

Mar 6, 2008
It might seem strange to ask how not to train your dog, but if you know what to avoid, you'll be better placed to learn more effective methods for training your dog.

If you're reading this then you've already passed one hurdle on your journey to owning a well-trained dog: you care about your dog and want to develop a better relationship with it. Sadly there are some dog-owners out there who either don't feel they have anything to learn, or don't want to spend any extra time, money or effort on their pet.

To even the most motivated and caring dog-owner, our beloved family pets can at times be frustrating. Having to repeat the same training again and again can be discouraging, especially if our dog does not appear to be responding. While sometimes an individual dog may have a stubborn nature, the problem more often lies with us, or to be more precise, the way that we are communicating (or not) with our dog.

It is important for us to understand how our dogs learn so that we can adapt our training methods to them, rather than to us. This can be more difficult to do than it sounds as we are used to 'humanising' our pets. They do after all become an important member of our family - it's therefore natural for us to interpret their behaviour through our view of the world. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't love our dogs - the bond that we enjoy with them is after all very special, but failing to see them as what they are can hamper our attempts to train them.

A critical factor that can explain a lot of dog training problems is the way that dogs understand the relationship between cause and effect. Humans have the ability to understand a complicated series of causes and effects which can be separated by large differences in time or place. Dogs however normally associate cause and effect in a much more directly related way - this is why it is crucial that you apply any training methods to correct bad behaviour in your dog at the time it happens. When you reward your dog for good behaviour the same applies - if you delay the reward your dog will not associate it with the behaviour that you are trying to encourage.

This also means that patience is an essential quality that we will have to show towards our dogs. If we start building up resentment and punish our dog through frustration when he has just shown good behaviour, we could easily undo hours of previous training. A simple example of this might be where our dog fails to come to us when called. It may be that we're in a hurry or it's just started raining, and it's natural for us to get annoyed. Admonishing your dog while putting him on his leash after he's finally decided to return to us will only however confuse your dog. Unfortunately he won't link the ten minutes he spent wandering about sniffing for rabbits with your negative response when he ran back to you.

A crucial part of this patience is to resist the temptation to use physical punishment on your dog. In a wild pack situation the majority of problems will be solved through body language and through each dog understanding his place within the pack hierarchy. While many people look for solutions to specific dog behaviour problems, the overall object of dog training is to develop a better relationship with your dog. This improved relationship will allow you to correct any behaviour issues more effectively. The use of physical punishment will only make your dog fear you and will strip away any trust that they have built for you. It also effectively weakens your position as pack leader as the top dog in a pack would not normally have to resort to violence to get his own way.

So to summarize how NOT to train your dog:

Resist the temptation to humanise your dog too much -remember their differences.

Understand that your dog will not interpret time and action in the same way as you.

Although it's not always easy, try not to lose your patience when your dog misbehaves.

Do not resort to physical punishment no matter how frustrated you are.
About the Author
Bob James believes that as dog owners it's essential for us to educate ourselves so that we can build the best possible relationship with our dogs.

If you want to enjoy life more with your dog visit

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