Welcome to our very first How to Train Your Human (for dogs) post with training tips from celebrity pet trainer Harrison Forbes!
Before we start, we have a bit of a disclaimer to cover. There may be dozens of solutions for problems and each dog (and pet parent) is unique, therefore not every training method will work for every dog. There are multiple approaches to every problem, and each trainer has a personal approach that may differ from the approaches of other trainers. This doesn’t make one “right” and one “wrong”- just different. Please keep this in mind when trying tips out with your own dogs.
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Harrison explains dog training as a library. The more books, or training methods you have under each category, the more successful your library will be. You don’t have to be “in one camp or the other” with just one training method. Sometimes the best approach is to learn as much as possible and try something new.
The Basics of Dog Training
Dogs, at heart, are fairly simple creatures. They are motivated by food, affection, and playtime (and reproduction for some dogs). They also seek to avoid danger and unpleasant experiences, but recent research has proven that positive reinforcement (versus the old “rub their nose in it and smack them with a newspaper” approach) is much more effective.
Our tips will focus on positive reinforcement dog training only for this reason, (plus, we don’t like to see our dogs unhappy).
Before you begin, you’ll need some motivation for your dog. Try choosing his favorite toy and some yummy treats (Chrissy’s favorites are the salmon TREAT ME). You’ll need to become a personality detective and find out what makes your dog tick. Each dog has his own favorite reward, and lesser rewards, so find out what motivates your dog best and use that to make training enjoyable for both of you.
You’ll also need a pup who’s receptive to training. That means no cats or squirrels running around in the backyard, no other dogs to sniff. If your dog is motivated by play, do some training when he’s full of energy. If he’s a bit hyper and distractible, try to take him for a walk first to expend some excess energy.
Also, your pup may not want to train if he’s just eaten a big meal, so keep that in mind as well. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS at all times.
Old dogs CAN learn new tricks! in fact, most dogs find training to be mentally stimulating and enjoyable (after they figure out what’s going on). Your older dog can learn just as many “tricks” as a puppy. There’s no age limit on learning.
The biggest obstacle to training a dog is one you’re not going to like to hear about…. well, it’s YOU!
Most pet parents are themselves the biggest obstacle a dog must overcome in order to learn.
Your anxiety, your rewarding of behaviors, your inconsistencies in messages, your patience…. all affect how your dog learns.
Let’s take a closer look….
Training a Human (for dogs)
Training a human pet parent to train a dog is the first (and crucial) step in teaching a dog.
Establish the rules you want, and then stick to it. CONSISTENCY is key. Create your game plan- no coach goes into a game without a game plan, you need to do the same.
- Find your dog’s motivators
- Establish rules you want to accomplish
- Communicate your goals with your family (team members) so they can stick to the same rules
Before training, take a look at your relationship with your dog.
When do you give him attention (both affection and scolding)?
When do you reward him?
What problems does he have with living in the world of people as a domesticated dog?
What does he love?
What is he afraid of?
How do you feel when he acts happy or afraid?
How do you respond to your dog’s hyperactivity, fear, or unwanted behaviors?
A lot of the time, your dog’s bad behavior is a direct reaction to your own behavior. Puppies are genetically wired to learn how to respond to fear or aggression by watching their dog parents. Your dog looks to you to learn how he should respond to situations.
I know, that’s hard to hear. Many dogs exhibit separation anxiety because their parents are anxious about leaving them.
Many dogs bark because their parents yell (or bark in human language) when the dog does, so they think it’s acceptable behavior.
Many dogs continue a bad behavior because negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Sometimes, the most powerful tool you have is to ignore a bad behavior.
That’s why it’s super important that you be very intentional about how you interact with your dog.
It’s important to stay consitstent, in charge, and intentional during training sessions. Any negative emotions your project will be picked up by your dog and he’ll most likely react to how you’re feeling instead of what you’re trying to teach him.
The first step in training your dog is always a self assessment and “training” yourself to act appropriately before you expect your dog to do the same.
Create an atmosphere of fun and energy so your dog will look forward to training sessions. Learn what motivates him, and end each session before your dog loses interest. Always leave your dog wanting more, and within two weeks, your dog will grow to love each training session. Make an assessment of your dog’s attention span and work from his limitations.
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