Is dog training really necessary for every dog? And if so, why? Does every dog benefit from training, or is it really something for problem cases or people who want to do competitions and exams? What are the differences in training, how do you find a good trainer and what are the most common mistakes in dog training? Can you train your dog yourself?
All questions that are often asked. You will find answers in this blog!
What is training?
So what exactly is ‘training’? Dog training is a basic need for all dogs, in addition to food, water, medical care and basic grooming (fur, ears, eyes, nails, etc.).
In general, dog training is: consciously shaping dog behavior by humans and allowing this to take place through instructions from humans.
This can be teaching desired behavior or reducing undesirable behaviour. This includes everything, both in education and sports. Although we humans like to thbehaviorxes (upbringing is different, training is different, sport is different, tricks are different…) it is really all the same for your dog: stimulus, motivation, behavior and consequence.
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Why is dog training necessary for your dog?
A trained dog is a happy dog. By training your dog, he becomes more independent, he gains more self-confidence, you prevent stress and behavioral problems.
As you know prevention is better than cure. Your dog’s well-being is thus improved when you train with him. For some dog breeds, some type of training is really necessary to make them as happy as possible.
Think of retrieving with retrievers, tracking with beagles, bassets and similar breeds or herding cattle or dog sports with border collies. The lack of a challenge that fits a particular breed is one of the causes of problem behavior.
Also, don’t forget that we live in a human society. Behavior that is completely normal for a dog does not always fit our human social norms.
Barking, peeing on things, growling, biting, jumping up, chasing; all very normal, but not desired. And yes, of course training also makes the boss’s life a lot easier.back to menu ↑
When do I start training my dog?
You can always start training with your dog. The sooner the better, of course, but it’s never too late.
The most common question is ‘when can I take my puppy to a course?’ The most common answer is “a week after you bring the puppy home.” That’s not to say you can’t do anything with your puppy at home yet.
Most importantly, you and your puppy (or rehomer) get to know each other and work together. In fact, learning takes place at any time of the day. The aim of a course is therefore that you practice and apply what you learn at home. Practicing something for 1 hour a week and doing the opposite for the rest of the week doesn’t help.
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Can I metrain a dog yourself?
Yes, that is absolutely possible! That is usually the best option.
Why? Because training strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
Ultimately, you want your dog to listen to you, to work with you. Another person can teach your dog the training exercises (which has often happened with rehomers), but you would have to ‘redo’ the training, as it were, to make sure your dog understands what you mean.
In-house training is also often offered, especially if your dog shows some problem behavior. This is often extremely expensive and often things go well during the internal training, but things go wrong again after a few weeks at home. And also there is no control; there are trainers who offer in-house training for extremely high prices. And some trainers don’t have any kind of training for dog training.back to menu ↑
And have a trainer come home to train your dog and show you how? This also happens often. In principle, this can be a good idea. You learn how to teach something, just like on a course.
This can be a great idea if, for example, you have trouble with transport to a course, or if you or your dog learn better in your own environment. A guest trainer can also be a great idea if your dog has certain behaviors that only happen at home, such as sneaking or barking at the window.
And also pay attention to trainers who come home! Ask in advance about their education, further training and working method. For example, every ‘crazy’ can and may call himself a ‘behavioural therapist’.
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Training dogs… how?
It is important to understand why your dog shows (or does not) certain behavior. You can reinforce behavior (that is, the behavior you reinforce increases) or punish (that which you punish decreases).
Sounds very easy and it actually is. But there are some pitfalls.
The basis of learning principles is;
- Positive reinforcement; you add something nice
- Negative reinforcement; you take away something unpleasant
- Positive punishment; you add something unpleasant
- Negative punishment; you take away something pleasant
Examples of Reinforcers and Punishment in Dog Training
Positive reinforcers: give a biscuit, give a piece of sausage, give a ball, release, run with your dog, play with your dog, give a piece of cheese, praise with your voice.
Negative reinforcers: stop physical pressure (for example, if you press your dog against the ground and then release it), stop grumbling at your dog, stop jerking the leash.
Positive Punishment: You jerk the leash, hit your dog, yell at your dog, kick your dog, put pressure on the collar, or grab your dog’s scruff.
Negative punishment: stop giving attention, remove the food, put your dog in time-out (isolate), not give the reward food
It is important to understand that what is a reinforcer for one dog may not be a reinforcer for another. And what is a punishment for one dog, does not have to be for another dog. For example, if your dog does not like cheese, then giving a piece of cheese is not a reinforcer.
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An example of training
Imagine you have a dog that jumps up on people.
That is undesirable behavior for you. In your experience, you punish that behavior by yelling ‘phew, low’, or pushing your dog away, or (in the worst case) pulling your knee up. So in your experience you are punishing your dog for jumping. But, if it doesn’t help, then what? Why doesn’t it work?
Then you have to look at the motivation. Your dog probably likes attention and has learned that jumping up on people brings attention. Your dog hasn’t learned any other abilities either, so he keeps jumping up, because it gets him attention. You mean it punitive, but for your dog it is reinforcement that maintains the behavior.
Let’s say you want your dog to do something else instead of jumping up. To sit! Easy, and you can’t sit and jump at the same time. So you teach your dog the sitting exercise and when people come near, you ask to sit and give your dog something tasty and attention.
It can be that easy! You have trained your dog (learned behavior) so that the desired behavior increases and the unwanted behavior decreases.
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What are the most common dog training mistakes?
What mistakes do most people make in dog training? And how come?back to menu ↑
Account on red
huh? Does dog training cost that much money? No, we don’t mean that.
What we do mean is that people correct too much and too often and reward too little or not often enough.
Correcting is withdrawing money, rewarding is depositing money. So if you focus more on correcting unwanted behavior, unlearning things, punishing your dog after he has done something ‘naughty’, you will soon be deeply in debt. And getting out is harder than getting in.
You sometimes pay a lot of interest before you have a positive balance again and your dog wants to work with you again and trust you.back to menu ↑
In other words, do not fill in for someone else!
How often do I hear from an owner: ‘Well, he really can do that’, when the dog really can’t show the requested behavior at that moment. For example, your dog won’t sit after you’ve said “sit” 10 times in all tones, from gooey to super strict. The frustration with the owner increases, because your dog does it at home.
The point is that your dog is not at home right now, his motivation may be a bit less, or there are stimuli in the environment that make such a simple ‘sit’ impossible.
You are going to make assumptions: he is stubborn, he is stubborn, he is tired, maybe something is bothering him.back to menu ↑
In other words, there is no motivation to do what you ask.
Suppose your dog knows that if you say ‘sit’ and he doesn’t sit down immediately, you give the leash a tug. But, now he is loose. The motivation to avoid a painful stimulus may be diminished, as your dog has learned that the jerk cannot happen without a leash around his neck.
Maybe you train in a reward-oriented way, but the tastiest snack does not seem to be able to withstand the pursuit of cyclists. In that case, the motivation to chase moving objects is greater than the motivation to eat. If you use chasing as a reward (not chasing the innocent cyclist of course), you have a much better chance of success!back to menu ↑
Repeat too little
This is of course a real bargain. If you train for 2 minutes once a week to let your dog walk properly on a leash, the penny will not drop very quickly. If you now train for an hour or 2 every day (so the entire time that your dog is walking on a leash), you will have much faster results. Practice makes perfect. So the magic word is DO.
There are no shortcuts, no magic bullets, no super-fast solutions and there are certainly no training sessions your dog can do without you . Well, there are of course the super-fast ‘quick fixes’ such as a cord high behind the ears around your dog’s neck to prevent pulling… but you’re not going to do that, are you?back to menu ↑
Not a good foundation means that your dog, the boss, or neither of them really has a good foundation. And a good foundation is not basic obedience (sit, down, stay, next to walk) while most owners think so.
A good foundation means that you both really understand the reward signal and how to use it, that you know your dog’s TOP 5 and test again and again. That you can play with your dog in differentt ways, that you like to be together. Understanding each other is more than following commands!