So often I see owners getting frustrated that their dog is not doing what they want… Yet I also see a dog that is confused. It’s all a case of miscommunication and in the next few minutes I am going to give you the secret to getting your message across.
If we go back to the beginning we need to consider the most basic thing – that is getting your dogs attention. However we need to do this in a positive way – make it a great experience for your dog to give you their attention. I believe in positive reinforcement so when you dog does what you want, you should give them a treat for it. So let’s take a quick look at how to get your dogs attention – basically when you say their name you want them to give you attention (look at your face) and wait for your next command.
Start this simply, position yourself in front of them now you want to say their name, and the minute they look at your face give them a treat directly to their mouth. Repeat this everyday for short periods – to get the association with their name and this you need to get a result on the first time. So if they do not look at you, then don’t keep repeating yourself but wait and then give them the treat when they do – it will get a lot quicker as you go on and the association becomes stronger.
It is important to do this in a small controlled area with few distractions when you first start, once you have the basic action of your dog giving you attention working 90% of the time in this area you can increase the area or add more distractions and build up.
Now once you have mastered getting their attention you can use something called a variable ratio for the positive reinforcement where you reward them randomly so that they never know when to expect the treat – but know that it will occur sometimes so carry out the behaviour in the chance that they will be rewarded.
You can then use the same techniques of positive reinforcement to train other things once you have your dog giving you their attention on demand you can give a command for a behaviour – and then reward them for doing the behaviour.
I think behaviour and learning is something every pet owner should understand, however it is often confused or twisted in the way it is explained. The best book I have found for learning about behaviour is by Dr Sophia Yin, and is called How to Behave so your Dog Behaves. I know it says “dog” in the title, however the principles here can be used with anything from chickens to elephants so in my opinion it would be a highly recommended read.