June 25, 2015

6 Steps to Teach Your Dog Pretty Much Anything

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5Back when I worked as an intelligence officer in the Israeli Army, I learned an important lesson. Most days, things didn’t go to plan. That’s not to say we hadn’t put in the preparation legwork. Rather, even though we’d made our plans, unexpected things happened.

When things changed suddenly like that, we had to change plans. Sticking to the original plan could lead to disaster. Training your dog is a similar process. You must pay attention to what’s happening, and adjust your plans accordingly.

Here are my six steps to teach your dog pretty much anything, contingency plans included.

Back when I worked as an intelligence officer in the Israeli Army, I learned an important lesson. Most days, things didn’t go to plan. That’s not to say we hadn’t put in the preparation legwork. Rather, even though we’d made our plans, unexpected things happened.

  1. 1
    Decide What You Want Your Dog To Learn

    Create a clear definition of what you want your dog to do. Be realistic here.I said you can teach your dog pretty much anything, not absolutely anything. If you’ve got a pocket-sized pooch, she won’t be learning to jump a six foot fence. Nor is any dog likely to learn how to fly a plane.Even so, I’ve worked with clients who have taught their dogs to bring the morning newspaper, slam dunk a doggy basketball, fetch a beer from the refrigerator, and dance with them to their favorite music track.

    Be specific, too. Wanting your dog to “be well mannered” is too general. Break it down into specific behaviors. You can teach your dog to come when he’s called. You can teach him to put away his toys. You can teach him to wait politely while you prepare his dinner. The more specific you are about what you want to teach, the quicker you’ll see the results you want.

  2. 2
    Notice What Your Dog is Doing Right

    Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. That means noticing and acknowledging every step they’re taking towards what you want them to learn.Praise and reward your dog for every teensy bit of progress, no matter how small.

    By paying attention to what’s going right, you create a positive environment where success is a natural outcome.

    Punish your dog for what he does wrong, and he’ll live in fear of making mistakes. Praise him for what he does right, and he’ll give the best he can. It’s simple psychology, and it works with humans too!

  3. 3
    Use What Your Dog Knows

    Break down the desired behavior into a series of steps, and make as many of the steps about something your dog already knows or does well.For example, one of my clients taught her dog how to get ready for bed by rolling himself up in a blanket. It looked as cute as it sounds!The trick was made up of a series of things the dog already knew – “down”, “take it”, “roll over” and “head down”. When you work with what your dog already knows, you’ll reach your destination faster.

  4. 4
    Keep Working!

    The secret to training a dog sounds really boring: consistency. But I promise you, it’s the only path to success. No dog, no matter how intelligent, learns a new behavior instantly. It always, always takes time, effort and input from the dog’s owner.

    Teaching your dog a new behavior is a process you must commit to. And by commit, I mean pouring your heart and soul into it. Believe your dog can do it. Don’t do it half-heartedly. Dogs sense emotion, and they can tell when you’re faking interest in them. Switch off the TV, power down your computer, set your phone to silent, and give your dog your full attention during the training session.

    Work with your dog every day, and eventually it will come.

  5. 5
    Rinse & Repeat

    When Thomas Edison first created a lightbulb, he failed. The second lightbulb he created broke too. In fact, it took him over 1,000 attempts before he created a working prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” he was asked. Edison replied: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” The only path to success is failure. You might have to step across failure hundreds or thousands of times before you reach your destination. If your training regime isn’t working, try something different. Mix it up. Try your training at a different time of day. Just like humans, dogs have peaks and troughs of energy. Even if you’re sure your dog has learned a new behavior, keep going. Most dogs have to repeat a behavior many times in lots of different environments before they’ve truly mastered it.

  6. 6
    Remember to Make it Fun

    Dogs learn best through play, so unless you’re having fun teaching your dog a new behavior, you may as well quit.

    Being playful and imaginative in your approach increases your chance of success. When you’re willing to try different approaches, you’ll eventually find the right path. Success is a journey, not a destination. Ultimately, coaching your dog to learn a new behavior is about building your relationship with your pet. Whatever he or she picks up from the coaching, you’ll always be learning more about each other. And that’s the most important thing of all. Want help coaching your dog? Why not coach with the Loved Dog? Or if you want to know your dog is having a great time while you’re at work or away, check out Los Angeles Doggie Daycare.

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