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Dog Training - Consistency vs Habitual

 Dog Training - Consistency vs Habitual

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Dog Training

In the world of dog training, consistency and persistence are the keys to a well-behaved dog. It is important to be consistent in taking the dog out on a regular schedule when he is small, so he learns that going potty in the house is not acceptable. It is also important that you are persistent in making sure he goes outside.

It is important when training the dog in obedience, even if it's just "house rules" obedience, that the rules are consistent, meaning they do not change from one day to the next. Jumping up on people as a puppy may be cute, but you cannot allow it as a pup and then expect to change it easily when the dog is grown, for instance. There is a saying, "start as you mean to finish." It holds pretty well in the dog training world.

However, consistency does not mean quite the same as habitual. For instance, if you always work with the dog in teaching commands in the same order, he will not be willing to do them out of order. You should be consistent in that each command will mean the same thing all the time, but do not teach them in the same order all the time.

Additionally, you want to teach the obedience commands in a variety of places. It is okay to do them in the same place to start with, but once the dog has the basic idea (i.e., sits consistently on the first command), take him somewhere else to teach the same commands. The more you change the venue of training, the better trained the dog will become. The more you vary the tasks expected, the better trained the dog will become.

Plus, if you teach the same commands in the same order all the time, the dog will become bored and lose interest in learning. If you vary the order and add a new behavior occasionally, the dog will be much more eager to learn, because it means spending more time with you and getting more praise. On top of that, as he learns something new and you get excited about it, he's really eager to learn. Too, you will want to vary the time of day you train and the length of the sessions.

Another way to vary the training is to combine actions. For example, you can teach the dog to come, then partway to you, have him do a down. Leave him there for a bit, then, have him continue to come to you. Why would you want to do this?

Imagine that your dog has gotten out of the house and run across the road to play in someone else's yard. You call the dog home. He complies, but you realize there is a car barrelling down the road and your dog will cross the street at the same time it's in a position to hit the dog. Dropping the dog to a down before he gets into the road could save his life. Make sense?

Once your dog has become well trained in a controlled environment, you'll also want to work with him in a less controlled area--say the parking lot of a nearby grocery store. You will be consistent in how you work with the dog, but the change in environment will not be consistent, so you want the dog to learn to focus on you, no matter what. To listen to you, no matter what.

When I worked at PetsMart, there was a man that would bring his German Shepherd into the store for training. He would wander up and down the aisles and give a variety of commands randomly. In this way, he taught the dog that where ever they were, the dog was to listen and obey. I'm sure he took the dog other places for the same training.

Another way of combining training tasks would be to teach the dog something you've seen in a movie. For example, in the movie "Good Boy," Owen takes Hubble to the park to train. Hubble does the sit-stay, he does a down, he does the roll-over, but when Owen asks him for "dead dog," Hubble does an extremely dramatic rendition. He stands on his hind legs, walks backward several steps, drops to the ground and rolls over onto his side. The final beat is when his tail drops to the ground, limp.

How would you teach your dog that? Break it into smaller actions. Teach him the dead trick (laying over on his side without moving) first. Then, teach him to stand on his hind legs. Once he has that down, teach him to walk backward. You could even add in a bit of a twirl. Then, he drops to the dead dog and, viola, you have a trick to amaze friends and family with. Plus, you have a well trained dog.

The upshot is, to really train your dog well, teach him consistently, but not in a habitual manner. Vary the behaviors you're teaching, but not how you teach them. Maybe we'll see your dog in the movies.