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Training Insights

Before I get into the meat of this article, I would like to lay some groundwork so you can understand what I am trying to convey. There are thousands of books on the shelves that discuss training techniques. There are thousands of products on your retailers' shelves that are guaranteed to make training your dog easier. There are thousands of experts in the world all preaching different techniques, use of specific gadgets, all vying for your money and attention. With all this information available, how does the average person know what method to choose and what gadgets to use? The average person cannot because they do not have the knowledge or experience to do an evaluation. So what happens? People then spends hundreds and thousands of dollars trying this expert and that expert, buying this book and buying that book, going from gadget to gadget and usually the bottom line is they wind up right back where they started from. The dog still has his problems or the dog has gotten worse because of all the torture that has been instilled upon him. Now folks you have a way out. Through this article I am going to try and walk you through an overview of training techniques and ideas which if put into practice you will become your own problem solver/trainer.

I am going to discuss gadgets for my first rule. Any gadget (encompassing tools, equipment, or techniques) that instills pain, shock or any other types of emotional or physical breakdown- keep away from it. There is not a problem that a dog can have where one can condone the physical torture or emotional breakdown of that animal. All problems can be fixed without using harsh methods. In training, the rule is the more imagination you have the better the problem solver/trainer you will be. There are specific instances where one might have to use an electric collar (training a hunting dog because they could be a1/2 mile away) or electrics in food (poison proofing an attack dog because there are poisons that are so fast and powerful that a mistake is death) but these are rare cases and they do not relate to the average person. Put yourself in your dog's place. Then imagine the gadget being used on you. Being a dog now you do not have the mentality to know what, where or how this pain is being put on you. You have become confused, disorientated, scared, and damaged. If you can visualize this you are on the way to becoming a problem solver/trainer instead of an abuser.

Always try to visualize the effect of what you are doing to your dog. In other words, if you have determined that the gadget or training technique is non-abusive you then have to confirm this. You confirm this by watching the dog's reaction to the said technique or gadget. If in your observations you see that the dog is learning without being stressed due to emotional or physical breakdown, keep the technique. On the other hand if the act shows you emotional or physical breakdown stop immediately, take your dog's mind off of that particular exercise and immediately switch to something he loves to do. Hopefully you will be a fast learner and this trial-an-error mistakes will be kept to the barest minimum.

This is the most important rule out of all of them. This rule will make you the problem solver/trainer, which will be the most beneficial for your dog, you, and your household. Before you investigate using any type of gadget or piece of equipment or training procedure from the experts, be your own expert. Sit down and write down the problem you are having (when you really get good at this you will be able to think on your feet and do these steps in your head). List all the non-abusive ways where you can stop the problem. Know your dog's personality, know at which level of responsiveness he is at with you and put the problem solvers you have listed in order of easiest for the dog first with the hardest being last. Be consistent in your approach, be firm where need be (that does not mean show anger, yell, etc) but it means you can use a different inflection and depth of your voice to achieve your ends. Within days, depending on the problem you will get indicators if your approach is working. You will be able to see that your dog understands what you want by his reactions and you can see him working towards the end of the problem. Now all of this is pie in the sky but without specific examples to make the procedure clear, you will still be at a loss. Here is a specific example.

Problem: the dog constantly begs and steals food from the table when people are eating Solution: There are many things coming in to play here with this problem. First of all the dog is walking around with the freedom to steal the food. Second, when he steals the food he is being rewarded by the food to continue this behavior. Now as problem solvers/trainers, we have to make it more rewarding and profitable for the dog not to steal the food. Now this is the fun part, analyzing the behavior and turning it around so it is positive for the dog. First, we will address the walking around problem. The dog must be taught a rock-hard down stay. This must be done at first away from the table. While the dog is in training all food on the table must be kept out of the dog's reach and if that is impossible keep him away from the table during meals. Secondly, while he is learning his down stay reward him with lavish praise and tidbits (using a high frequency rate-which means he gets a lot of them) that he enjoys. Show him that it is a great game that when he stays down it is a pleasurable experience. After he has completed maintaining a down stay for ten minutes straight we start the second phase. Setup a fake meal with no food on the table and move the training session to the meal table. When he is comfortable with this situation, the next step is to have him doing his down stay during very short snack times (all staged for the benefit of training). Then after he has gotten that down move to the next phase: a full meal. The rewards that you were giving to the dog should now be stretched out in so the frequency is cut down. This is a positive-variable-reinforcement-schedule and it stabilizes the new behavior he is learning and deeply ingrains it into the dog's mentality.

If you are consistent, imaginative, non-abusive, caring, and loving, you will soon be enjoying your meal times without having a nose in your plates. As you can see by the above example, it is not complicated to be your own problem solver/trainer. All it takes is some thinking. You will see once you start being able to solve one or two problems the rest of them will fall like dominoes because you will now have the proper mindset to initiate and complete them. Best of luck I know that you will be successful.

Written by Neal Seaman

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