I am a teacher and we have been reading a book called, “Secrets of the Teenage Brain”, by Sheryl G. Feinstein . As I read this book I would think about how much it also relates to dogs and dog training. When teaching kids it is important that they have good foundation skills in order to learn more difficult information. It is not any different for training dogs. You have to build a solid foundation of skills, behaviors, and develop a great bond with your dog before you can move onto training more difficult tricks, dog sports, or behaviors.
This made me think about what is it that I feel is important to train a dog to do in order to build a solid foundation.
Learning games: Teach your dog to think by playing clicker games, 101 things to do with a box, recall games, attention games, and impulse control games. It has been proven that when a species learns, they are increasing the synapses in the brain, and basically means the dog is getting smarter.
Socialization: Socialize your dog to dogs, people, other animals, things, environments, and surfaces. It is important to provide your dog with positive life experiences.
Communication: Develop clear communication with your dog through positive reinforcement or clicker training by having good timing, being consistent, setting an acceptable criteria or expectations, and
Teach dogs to do what you want them to do, ignore what you do not want, and manage to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced.
Be NOVEL!! Be FUN!! Humans and dogs alike find novelty to be interesting and engaging. The other day in my PE class a student taught me this new dance move called a shuffle and they do this move in the song "Party Rock Anthem". Well after learning it, I used that move to get their attention at roll call and to tell them what they were doing for the day. Every student's eyes were on me and listening. It was fun and novel that their PE teacher was doing the same dance move that they love. We need to be like this with our dogs! Make training fun, be your dogs favorite playmate, and your dog will WANT to LEARN!
Playtime: Teaching a dog how to play with you, with toys, and with other dogs is a really valuable foundation skill. You want to train your dog the rules involved during playtime. Maybe those rules include: dropping the toy when asked, fetching the toy, not putting his mouth on the human, and playing appropriately with other dogs. Building a dogs play drive can strengthen the human canine relationship!
Teach BASIC skills: Teach a dog their NAME, Sit, Down, Stay, Come, hand targeting, loose leash walking, and to pay attention to you. Teach basic skills without force, intimidation, and physical punishment to help you build a positive strong bond with your dog.
Before a child can form sentences they must first learn their ABC’s. First a kid crawls, then walks, and finally runs. The same goes for our dogs. Before we can teach them to walk on a loose leash, we must first teach them how to accept having a collar and leash on. Before we can teach a dog to stay around distractions, we must first teach them how to stay in one spot for duration. In the beginning that stay might be one second, but we build on that behavior until they can stay for a minute. Then we add, distance, and eventually we add distractions and put it all together. It is not fair to ask a child to write a paragraph when they just learned how to formulate a simple sentence. So, it is not fair to ask something of our dogs that we have not really taught and practiced.
By, Pamela Johnson