Man and dog have been seemingly inseparable for centuries. The unique
relationship between the two animals has been studied extensively as people have
sought to better train their dogs as work partners and companions.
There are virtually as many training strategies as there are dog owners. Almost everyone approaches the process of training his or her dog or dogs differently. There is no single method that works perfectly for all dogs and any variety of systems can produce the kinds of results an owner wants.
However, there are some common traits that seem to be apparent in all successful dog training strategies. Any approach that ignores these commonalities is likely to fall far short of expectations and will not produce desired outcomes. When contemplating a plan for training your dog, make sure the system you will use is consistent with these four critical underpinnings of all successful programs.
Training Should be Based on Positive Reinforcement
Any successful strategy must rely upon positive reinforcement for optimal results. Operant conditioning of this sort, whether done via clicker training or any other means has been consistently demonstrated to be more successful techniques relying on punishment and negative reinforcement. Dogs perform better when their behavior is rewarded. Some dogs may avoid inappropriate behavior out of fear, but making gains through such negative techniques brings with it a host of other problems and is widely understood to be less efficient than relying on positive reinforcement.
Exercise is a Critical Element of Successful Training
Any program is likely to be far less successful unless attention is paid to a dog's need for extensive physical activity. Not only is exercise good for a pet's health in a general sense. It also creates a mindset for the pet which leaves him more open and receptive to learning. With regular outlets to expend physical energy available, a dog will be more satisfied and comfortable, effectively positioning them for learning. Make sure any training regimen you adopt includes regular significant exercise for your dog. Failure to do so will limit the effectiveness of any strategies chosen.
Enjoyable Interaction is Essential to the Training Process
One reason why the relationship between man and dog has flourished over time is the social nature of both creatures. Dogs enjoy the company of their owners and training systems should be devised with this in mind. The training process should not become a 'doggy boot camp', but instead should be offered as an enjoyable opportunity for interaction. This does not mean that training should be unorganized or undisciplined. It does mean that it should be approached with love and smile instead of with a rigid and wholly serious attitude. Effective training techniques recognize that dogs will respond better to lessons taught in a social, enjoyable context. Training is an important part of a dog's life. That does not, however, mean it must be a cold or otherwise un-enjoyable experience.
Training is an Ongoing Process
Training is not merely a collection of isolated sessions. Dog training is an ongoing process that occurs during specified training sessions and through the rest of every dog's day. The lessons taught during training times should be reinforced at all times. Additionally, an owner should recognize that there is no particular time frame for training. It is a process that literally lasts the lifetime of the dog/owner relationship. Those who see training as a discrete step or defined moment in a dog's life are likely not to get the results they desire from their training regimen. Training not only lasts a lifetime, it occurs over the course of a lifetime.
If a dog owner adopts a training strategy based on positive reinforcement, which includes plenty of opportunity for exercise and a commitment to enjoyable owner/dog interactions while being mindful that training will be an ongoing process, they will undoubtedly produce a well-trained dog. Losing sight of this foundation for success, however, will cripple an otherwise well-intended method of dog training.
The specifics of dog training strategies may vary greatly, but as long as the program you choose remains consistent with these critical aspects of proven training programs, it is likely to help you and your dog enjoy a very meaningful and pleasant relationship for years to come.