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5 Stages of Successful Dog Training

All dogs learn through association, consistency, and repetition. Reinforcement and maintenance are the last two steps of successful training that help bomb-proof your dog's training throughout its lifetime. As their guide, it is your responsibility to ensure that your dog easily grasps the commands and expectations that help keep them safe. By keeping the 5 stages of dog training in focus, you can successfully shape your canine companion into the well-behaved best friend you've always desired.


1: Association /Acquisition


Before teaching a new command to a dog, it's essential to help them connect the action with the command. The word itself holds no meaning until you demonstrate the expected association. In this phase, I focus on free-shaping and marker/clicker training. Introducing a new command can be frustrating for dogs if they are consistently corrected with a "no" every time they make a mistake. This approach may reduce your dog's motivation during training. With free-shaping, you eliminate the possibility of error, which helps maintain their enthusiasm to collaborate with you. It's important not to say "no" until the dog comprehends what it is being asked. Break down the criteria into small steps and use a clicker to assist your dog as they progress toward the desired command. Remember, dogs do not understand our language, so patience is key. Throughout this training phase, focus on boosting their confidence in the task at hand by providing ample positive reinforcement and minimizing corrections when they make mistakes. The next step in dog training is…


2: Consistency


Consistency is Key in Dog Training. Inconsistency can be very confusing for a dog. When commands and expectations vary among household members, dogs may struggle to understand what is expected of them. Training becomes much easier with consistency, as dogs quickly learn and respond appropriately when everyone provides clear and consistent commands. It is beneficial for the entire family to participate in training sessions together to ensure uniformity in applying commands and corrections. Household rules should also be consistent; for instance, if the rule is no pets on furniture, it should be upheld by everyone. Inconsistencies, like allowing begging or feeding scraps in the kitchen, can hinder training progress and confuse the dog.


3:Repetition


To help a dog gain confidence in a new command or behavior, repetition plays a crucial role. This involves practicing the command repeatedly until the dog can consistently perform it at home. Next, the command should be practiced in the backyard, followed by the front yard, and then gradually in the neighborhood or public spaces like parks. It's essential to demonstrate the behavior in various settings, starting with no distractions and gradually introduce distractions. Training your dog to excel requires consistent repetition of the desired behaviors.



Training your dog to excel also involves positive reinforcement so make sure whenever your furry friend successfully follows a command or exhibits the desired behavior, reward them with praise, treats, or playtime. Positive reinforcement not only motivates your dog but also strengthens the bond between you. Remember to be patient and understanding during the training process, as each dog learns at its own pace. By being consistent, patient, and positive in your training approach, you can help your dog build confidence and master new commands with ease.



4:Reinforcement

The key to effectively training your dog a command involves more than just repetition. Merely repeating a command like "sit" multiple times without follow-through can lead to confusion. If your dog only responds once out of five attempts, it means you've unintentionally taught them to ignore the command four times. To avoid this counterproductive scenario, it's crucial to reinforce the command you give. Instead of endlessly repeating the command verbally, which may become background noise to the dog, consider incorporating a physical gesture. A slight step forward or a hand signal will often aid in achieving the desired response without constant repetition. For instance, a gentle touch on the butt or applying light leash pressure can also reinforce the command effectively.

Most of the time, if I say a command that is ignored, I will reinforce the command given, however, there are times when I won't reinforce it. For example, if I am working with a super nervous dog out in public, and I give a command that the dog is not ready to follow, I choose to disregard the command given until the dog is in a healthier, calmer state of mind. Forcing the dog to do the said command, will not help create confidence behind the command. Therefore it is important to note that this reinforcement stage is only when the dog is confident in the command given and in the environment of which the command is given in.


5:Maintenance


Dog training is a continuous labor of love, much like managing fees and taxes – it's ongoing. Your dog learns every day and will continue to do so. Often, people start dog training when their dog is young, expecting those skills to last a lifetime. However, training your dog should be a lifestyle, a consistent practice rather than a temporary hobby. This is why the final stage is Maintenance. Well-behaved dogs are those that understand boundaries, engage positively with people and other animals regularly. Many discover that by incorporating training throughout their dog's life, their pet remains attentive and sharp.

Dedicate a few minutes each day to work with your dog, perhaps during meal times or walks, integrating training into their daily routine to double the training time.

You can refresh your dog's training by occasionally participating in group classes, trying new activities like agility, dock diving, scent training, or flyball. As your dog's guide, the effort you invest in training will strengthen your bond and meet their mental needs, ensuring a well-behaved companion. So, remember to enjoy the process!



I promise! If you keep in mind the 5 stages of dog training, Acquisition, Consistency, Repetition, Reinforcement and Maintenance, you should have no problem finding within your puppy or dog, the well-mannered, well-behaved canine best friend you’ve always wanted.


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