Whether a dog owner has just brought home a new dog, or they are ready to begin improving the relationship with an older dog, owners have a lot to consider when figuring out just how they will accomplish training their new or old best friend. From tried and true methods, to wacky gimmicks, to systems that just don’t work, there are so many ways to train dogs that owners (and their dogs) often end up so confused that limited to no results are accomplished. The reasons for the failure in any training system can quickly be analyzed to reveal that the failure most probably occurred due to lacking one of the three critical components (for both dog and owner).
When evaluating a dog training method, one of the most important factors is motivation. Motivation most often comes from what psychologists and trainers call positive reinforcement. Simply put, it is what everyone looks forward to about dog training, often taking the form of treats, toys, or praise. Not every dog has the same motives for working, so selecting the correct motivator, or lure is critical for training. Now the limitation to simply using a lure is that it isn’t always alluring…This is where the structure comes in.
Structure comes in the form of showing the dog what to do. A lure can, in many situations, offer enough motivation and structure of what to do but eventually, a dog will probably need some guidance. An example of the need for structure is when a dog bolts for the front door while being trained with a lure to perform a command. Although the dog may have a firm understanding of what a command should mean, the overwhelming influence of the doorbell may override the lure’s ability to motivate the dog to perform. In this case, something must be used to stop the dog from bolting to the door. A leash, physical touch, standing in front of the dog, or simply asking again for a behavior (giving a command) may represent enough structure to keep the dog performing a desired task. Without the structural component, the dog may run to the door, thereby only learning to repeat the mad dash next time. The occasional ‘mad dash’ is what is ruining our consistency…
Consistency is probably the most important factor that can have a positive influence on a dog’s behavior. The consistency of ‘doing’ what is right can only be learned from ‘doing’ what is right (practice makes perfect). Expecting the dog to figure out on his/her own what to do in a confusing situation will slowly eat away at the performance of the desired behavior. The proper application of motivation and structure can help the owner keep the consistency, but it is up to the owner to stay consistent.
By using this model for a foundation of training, a dog owner, and dog, can build and maintain a happy and successful relationship. Punishment is not needed in this model, and both owner and dog will confidently understand and uphold their roles in a household. Understand that all components of this model are required to achieve the most success, and your dog will thank you for it!