Congratulations! You are now a Puppy Coach. With consistency and guidance, learn how to coach and train your pup into being a great dog! Since you spend the most time with your pet you have the ability to reinforce the behaviors you like. By following these simple rules of learning, you'll find fast results in achieving your training goals.
T iming is everything
R einforce good behavior
A nticipate next steps / set goals
I mmediate consequence or Ignore unwanted behaviors
N ILIF (Nothing in Life is Free)
E xercise body and mind
R epetition for Reliability
A puppy cannot be bad ...
it can only be a puppy!
What does all this mean? Here's how it works . . .
1. Timing is everything - so many behaviors can occur in a just a few seconds; if you reinforce a behavior too late, you could be reinforcing a totally different behavior. For example, if your puppy sits, but by the time you give it a treat, the puppy is now standing, you are reinforcing the stand. While your timing can be a bit imprecise, the better your timing, the faster the behavior will be instilled. When training exact movements or behaviors, the use of a clicker, or event marker, is most beneficial. See more on clicker training on the Resources page.
2. Reinforce good behavior - it has been scientifically proven that behaviors that are reinforced are repeated. Behaviors that are ignored or punished will extinguish or change. If you like what you see, reinforce it to make the behavior occur more frequently, whether it is a sit or a cute head tilt. Later you can work on putting the behavior on cue or command.
3. Anticipate next steps / set goals - no training plan is complete without goals and steps to follow. Plan in advance, but be ready to have to change or modify your plans depending on your dogs's progress. Chart your progress.
4. Immediate consequence or Ignore unwanted behaviors - if your dog barks at you for attention, either ignore and look the other way or walk out of the room. Making eye contact and saying "shush" are ways that your pup gets attention. (Unless you are teaching "shush".) If you cannot ignore the behavior, then an immediate consequence is required. The use of timeouts works for puppies just as it does our children. When the inappropriate behavior occurs, mark it with a phrase like "too bad", then give the immediate consequence -- pick up your pup and put them in a time-out area like a small bathroom or x-pen for no more than 10 seconds. Timeouts must be repeated frequently and in quick succession for your pup to understand they need to change the behavior.
5. NILIF - Nothing in Life is Free means that your dog must work for all resources -- that is food, play, toys, petting, attention, etc. Ask your dog for a sit before he eats; ask him for down before you throw the ball, ask him for sit before inviting him onto the sofa. Remember, you control the resources and having your dog ask for them politely will make life more pleasant for everyone. We ask it of our humanselves -- why not our dogs?
6. Exercise body and mind - a tired dog is a good dog; a good dog means a happy owner. Exercise your dog physically to keep them healthy as well as in shape. Every dog was bred for different specialities -- keep this in mind when determining your dog's exercise needs. Many behavior problems are resolved by simply incorporating a proper exercise program and allowing for enough sleep and rest. Don't know what to do on a rainy or cold day -- use clicker training exercises, food puzzles or other fun training games to exercise your dog's mind. A good program will include a combination of both physical and mental stimulation every week.
7. Repetition for Reliability - Just like with us, the more we practice something, the better we become at it. Dogs require even more repetition and they require it in a variety of locations since they don't generalize very well. Practice your behaviors at the park, the pet store, inside your home in each room, at someone else's home, having someone else request the behavior and in puppy class, etc. Add distractions in the different locations and increase the level of difficulty as you can. The more places you practice, the more quickly the behavior will become fluent and without hesitation or prompting.
Food for Thought:
With a little help from Ralph Waldo Emerson - "A foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of your dog's mind."