Obedience Training

Feb 25, 2019   Tracey Aston   Training

According to dictionary.com, obedience is “compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority.”  The problem with using the word obedience is that it automatically establishes a hierarchy between trainer and pet and too easily lends itself into the dominance/submission mindset of training. As we posted in our earlier blog Positive Reinforcement Training vs Aversive Training, “The most important lesson in training is that training is communication. The second most important lesson is dogs communicate much differently than we do. Dogs communicate through body language and subtle cues, therefore they must be taught our language by using word association and incentives. “ 

Obedience training has become a widely used word, covering many possible meanings. Some will say obedience training and mean the AKC obedience trial commands, covering sit, stay, heel and recall. Others will say they want their dog to be obedient, but simply mean they want their dog to listen or learn basic manners.  All of the above start out with basic training.

When training a pet, you are working as a team, establishing trust and building a bond. Pet parents know our animals are intelligent and have their own unique personalities and wants. A highly energetic, food driven dog isn't going to respond to training the same way a more laid back, toy driven dog would. Knowing your pet's personality and motivations will allow you to offer better incentives, and therefore keep them wanting to continue doing what they're doing to achieve what they want.  In grade school the teacher often hands out gold stars to the students for good grades, cleaning up their space and attendance. The children want to do well because they want their gold star. Now imagine for every good grade those students got more homework. They wouldn't be nearly as inclined to continue to achieve their potential. 

Dogs want to please us and see us happy.  Try it. Go over to your dog and start clapping and jumping around. I bet they jumped up and started celebrating right there with you. They won't have any idea why you're excited, but if you're happy, they're happy. Now, the important part of training is to associate that excitement with a word or phrase. Treats are a great incentive to get your pet started but too many treats can lead to a bigger waistline. Eventually, we want our pets to follow our verbal cues and to do that they need to know what you're communicating with them.  Basic training commands are a good place to start such as a sit or down. For their own safety, every pet should know their recall command. This command is a priority and could save your dog's life! If the dog ever gets loose and is heading towards traffic, another dog, wildlife or any type of danger, having a solid recall will assure you can get your dog back to you before they are injured, or worse.  Make sure if you are using the command “come” that you aren't overusing it or using it for other commands because the dog will have a negative association with the word. For example, a pet is the backyard and you want them to come inside. They are out there having a great time and don't want to come in. By associating the word “come” with making them go inside, they are now associating the word with a negative consequence – my pet parent made me go inside when I didn't want to go.  If a pet parent does decide to use the word “come”, make sure you aren't using it in association with other commands. If you want your pet to come inside, try using the word “inside” instead of “come”.

Training takes time and patience and some dogs will learn faster than others or pick up certain types of commands easier than others. Training should be a positive, fun experience with your pet. If you find yourself getting frustrated, stop the training. Your pet will pick up on your frustration and energy and now the session has been stressful and confusing for them. Start again when you're feeling more patient. Dogs want to please, but they must know what is expected of them and you can teach them that through word association and incentives. 

 
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