I’m a professional dog trainer. I’ve had formal education, studied with other accomplished trainers and worked with dogs for nearly thirty years. It’s no secret why I can do things with dogs that seem amazing to the average person. However, it about more than just how to train a dog. Training dog behavior is about you AND your dog, not me. If I can’t give you some useful nugget of knowledge that will cause a change in how you relate to your dog, then I’ve failed both you and your dog. The most important thing I’ve found to teach the average dog owner is a simple universal dog behavior. In turn, this will allow you to teach your dog any trick or cure almost any problem behavior.
Shaping Their Environment
Simply keep in mind the simple axiom that “Dogs do not engage in unrewarding behavior”. That’s it. Remember this and you can accomplish anything with a dog. To use this powerful tool, you employ a strategy that I call “shaping”. What this means is that by using the superior intellect of a human over a dog, you shape their environment to create rewarding outcomes for positive actions and unrewarding outcomes for negative actions.
Let’s take the example of your dog jumping up on you with his muddy paws. This is a negative action. But it can also be very rewarding to a frisky dog that wants to get as close to master’s face as possible, as quickly as possible. Now here’s where much confusion comes in to the dog owner. One book or trainer says to turn your back on the dog, another source says to spray him in the face with a squirt bottle, and another says to knee him in the chest. Who’s right?
They All Are Right
What they’re telling you is that you want to make jumping unrewarding for your dog. If you consistently squirt, turn your back or do something that is unpleasant and unrewarding your dog will stop jumping up on you. I guarantee it. When he doesn’t jump, you praise him and make the experience of greeting you in a civilized fashion rewarding. The dog will pick the rewarding behavior every time.
I mentioned that we humans have a superior intellect over dogs. Have fun and use it. If your dog is a ten pound Yorkshire terrier, I’d suggest you use a squirt bottle or turning your back. If your dog is a two hundred pound Rottweiler, then a firm knee to the chest might be more appropriate. Ponder the problem and create a negative and positive outcome for your dog. In this way you have allowed your dog to teach themselves when they invariably choose the rewarding behavior. So please forget about learning some magical technique that must be some secret that only the pros understand. The magic is in not “training” your dog but offering your dog choices that will allow them to train themselves. Try it. You’ll like the results.