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In a perfect world, you will educate yourself on what a dog is and how he learns PRIOR to you getting a dog. This is what we call canine characteristics and I believe it is the single most important thing required to effectively train a dog. If you already have a dog, we can still help; however, we will now be reprogramming the dog as compared to starting the dog off correctly.
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If I asked you what a dog is, most people would give adjectives such as loyal, happy, loving and so forth. I would say they are a pack animal, creatures of habit, place-oriented and learn through association.
What does that mean regarding our training of the dog? It is not as simple as there is an Alpha dog in the pack. You and your family have now become the dogs pack and until you establish where the dog is in the pack, he will ALWAYS be trying to be the leader of the pack. Some of these attempts are obvious but most are going to be subtle to you. For an example, when your dog comes and sits by you and is leaning against you, he is trying to be the leader of the pack. You need to decide which items are important to you and which ones you will allow to occur. The important thing is that you realize that you are dealing with pack issues and if the dog sometimes thinks that he is the leader and other times you do not let him be the leader it will create difficulties and apprehension for the dog (and you) at higher levels of training. It will make the dog unreliable regarding its training.
The reason that you need to really understand pack order and make it part of your daily life with your dog is because canines are creatures of habit. What your dog does today, he will do tomorrow. Our training is accomplished by maximizing this canine characteristic. Think about house breaking your puppy. By taking it out of the crate every morning and immediately taking the puppy out to air out, you are making that a habit. Since the dog is a creature of habit genetically, you are using that to make it a habit to come out of his crate and air out outside instead of in the house. After enough consistent repetitions, it becomes a habit. All of our training is done utilizing the inherent nature of a canine being a creature of habit. EVERY time we put the dog in a crate, the truck or its kennel, we say kennel. EVERY time we open the kennel door the dog must wait until told to come out. With enough CONSISTENT repetitions, we create the habit.
Keep in mind that this can also work against you. Consistent repetitions of undesirable things will make those things habits as well. For example, if you say “here” repeatedly and your dog does not respond then you are teaching him not to come. Once the dog knows what “here” means, get in the habit of saying “here” only once and if the dog does not respond, go get the dog.
Keep your commands consistent and expect compliance the first time. Your dog will better understand its place in the pack and it will make your time in the field more enjoyable.
Source: Craney Hill News Update Spring 2007