By Joel Monroe &
Please direct any questions or comments
to Joel Monroe firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want a dog to perform a desired
behavior, remember the "3 T's". Your
time should be spent teaching, training, and testing.
A majority of your time should be spent teaching and training, while
testing should only be done once in a while. One of the biggest
mistakes made by dog owners is that they test before training or,
even worse, they test before teaching.
When it comes to teaching, there are
2 main methods- compulsion and motivation. The best way to describe
compulsion is the direct use of physical force to make a dog perform
a specific behavior. An example of compulsion would be pulling up
on a dog's collar and pushing down on its hips in order to force
the dog into the sit position. Motivation can described as the use
of something that the dog desires to guide them into performing
a specific behavior. An example of the use of motivation to teach
the dog sit would be using a treat, placing it in front of the dog's
nose, and moving the treat at a certain angle that causes the dog
to drop into the sit position in order to get the treat.
I do not teach with compulsion. I
prefer to teach with motivation. Once the dog truly understands
what is being asked, then, and only then, will I use compulsion.
If my dog understands the "sit" command very well, but
decides to go over to a tree and mark an area instead of obeying
my command, I will absolutely use compulsion to show this is unacceptable
At times, I will let a puppy figure
out on his own a desired behavior with a reward, but there are also
times when I will guide my dog and reward it when it shows the desired
behavior. Guiding is very different from compulsion and I don't
correct a dog for trying to please but offering a behavior different
than the one I am looking for.
It is also important to know that
dogs learn directly and indirectly. Many dog owners do not realize
when they have indirectly taught their dogs certain behaviors. So
a key point in obedience training is to NEVER give a command you
cannot enforce 100% of the time. If a dog chooses to disobey and
your command is not enforced, you have indirectly taught the dog
that it is OK to disobey and it is guaranteed that you will see
that disobedience again.
When training a dog and shaping a
desired behavior, timing is everything. The reason is that dogs
learn in milli-seconds and do not have the same memory and thought
process as humans. When teaching, the dog must be given the reward
at that exact moment. I have seen countless times when the dog gives
exactly what has been asked and the handler is fidgeting in his
pocket for the treat or toy. The moment has been lost. If the dog
is given the reward after so much delay, the dog does not know that
it is being rewarded for the good performance that happened several
The same is true when letting the
dog know it has done something incorrectly. When someone is fumbling
with the leash and a correction is instantly needed, but doesn't
happen, this moment has also been lost. In this situation, correcting
the dog after such a delay is not only not beneficial for training,
but also harmful for the relationship between owner and dog because
the dog feels like it is being corrected for no reason.