"My dog doesn't listen. He won't come when I call him, he doesn't sit or stay when I tell him and he jumps all over people. He does everything for the trainer, but he doesn't listen to me."
If I had a nickel for every time that I've heard this, I could have retired a long time ago. You can tell this to any trainer and you will immediately see a great big smile on his face.
Training your dog to be obedient, for agility, or even catching a Frisbee and returning it can be as much fun as it can be frustrating. However, keep in mind that in order to learn, dogs need to know what you want from them, this, as simple as it sounds, is the difficult part of the training program. The problem is that we speak different languages and as much as we want our pets to learn "Humanese", we have to learn "Dog".
Communication and Understanding
Before we are able to train our dogs, we have to learn how to communicate with them, understand them and interpret their behavior
Without proper or correct communication between human and dog, all we are
going to achieve is, nothing. Your dog wants nothing more than to please you, but, if he doesn't understand what you are trying to tell him, he is going to become as frustrated as you. He's not going to do what you think he should be doing and because he may be getting crossed signals from you, he's going to do whatever a dog normally does. In his mind, he isn't doing anything wrong, he's dong what comes naturally.
A basic example of what is natural for you dog is peeing and pooping. This is a natural and normal physical necessity for both dogs and humans. A dog, just as a child has to eliminate. You teach your child to eliminate in the bathroom and show him how to do it. With a child, it's a little easier because you both speak the same language and you are able to explain what you expect. With a dog, we have to teach him what you expect as well, but due to the language barrier, we must alter our methods so that we are not sending crossed signals and he understands exactly what you want.
In order to accomplish this, before anything else you must understand how a dog learns. This can be an education in itself. There are volumes written about this subject as well as different methods of teaching. Too much to get into in one article.
Without getting involved in the various methods of training, suffice it to say that, Obedience Training has changed considerable over the years.
Old school, traditional training revolved around punishment as an accepted method. If the dog didn't do what you wanted, he was punished until he did it correctly. It use to be that if the dog urinated in the house, you stuck his nose in it and hit him. But what were you teaching him with that approach. The dog didn't have a clue as to what you were attempting to do. He did what was natural, he had to pee and he did. He was never taught that you don't pee in the house. Those are human rules, not dog rules. So you took him for a walk, but you still never taught him that the walk was for peeing and pooping.
Over the years we learned that we didn't have to punish a dog in order for him to learn. By motivating and using positive reinforcement, we were getting the same, if not better results. Instead of the dog cowering in fear when you approached, he was all excited because he had learned that when you come to him something good was going to happen. He was motivated, the same as you were in school when you had a teacher that always added some excitement to the class and made learning easy.
Motivation is defined as; "the set of reasons that drives one to engage in a particular behavior." The definition is the same whether it is for humans or dogs. With relation to dog training, we want to create a positive motivation in order for them to learn. The motivation that we use is relatively simple. "Stimulus and Reward."
It is up to you to stimulate your dog in order for him to, want to do what you ask of him. That stimulus is also the reward that he receives upon completion of his command. The entire action has three stages.
The Stimulus: Also known as the Lure, is any object or incentive that can arouse
or motivate your dog into action. This can be food, a treat, a
sound, an over abundance of affection and praise, etc. (In our
case we use food (kibble) or treats and a lot of affection & praise.)
Response: Also known as the Behavior, this is the action phase. It may be,
Sit, Stay, Come, get the Ball, etc.
Reward: Also known as the Reinforcement, this is the same as the stimulus,
which he now receives as his reward for performing the action. (If
you use the food or treats, this doesn't mean a full meal. Just a
piece of kibble or a small piece of a treat.)
Working with your Trainer & Follow Through
The closer you work with your trainer the better your final outcome. This means continual practice between sessions. In addition, you both must be using the same procedures and terminology. Consistency is a must. If your trainer is telling your dog to heel and you are saying slow down, don't walk so fast, all you will do is create confusion.
Follow through with the training and instructions that your trainer gives you between sessions. The overall success of your training program is dependent upon Follow Through and Perseverance. You are not going to train your dog overnight. There are going to be accidents and set backs, which are only normal, but the more time and effort you are willing to put into the training the better your outcome will be.