Examples of making it hard for our dogs to succeed
Your dog is just running around in the park, playing with other dogs and you feel it's a great time to practice a recall. Unless you have trained your dog over a longer period of time to be able to be called away from other dogs, most likely your dog will ignore the COME command and continue playing with that other dog. Not only are you undermining the value of the command, but also your dog is being rewarded for ignoring you by getting a nice play session with their friends. What does that mean for your training? At KURI we say do not ask your dog to do something unless you know you can get your dog to complete that behaviour. Does that mean you should never call your dog away from other dogs? No, it just means you need to train that behaviour first and then make the exercises more challenging, gradually, as long you’re always ending on success. A good idea in harder environments is to pop your dog on a long lead, so you can make sure you can help them succeed.
Your dog has just learned a STAY command and you want to try this in the park around the corner. Is that setting my dog up to succeed? Not really, you first need to practise in areas with no distractions until your dog really understands the behaviour well and as you increase the distractions you need to decrease the difficulty of the STAY exercise and then work it up again.
You have taught yourself to be consistent and not rewarded your dog for jumping up on you, but now you get visitors over that are making a big fuss of your jumping puppy/dog. Again, are we setting them up to succeed? Perhaps not, for example you can train your puppy/dog to stay on a certain spot when visitors arrive, or train your visitors not to reward the pup for jumping, or pop the pup in the crate.
Your puppy is pulling on the end of the lead, trying real hard to say ‘hi' to another puppy and you ask them to SIT. Our dogs don’t respond to us if we don’t get their attention first, so our commands lose effectiveness if we use them incorrectly, remember to always call their name first. Alternatively, you could let your puppy say ‘hi' to the other puppy. What would that teach them? Because ‘Rewarding your dog is reinforcing their last behaviour’ you would now teach them “you need to pull at the end of the lead and then you get to say ‘hi'”. What we want to do instead is: drop some height, make a fun sound, have some yummies or a good toy and become better than the other puppy. Then reward your puppy hugely for paying attention to you.
I asked my dog to go in a sit, but instead the dog goes in a down and I reward them. Or I want to practice a SIT and STAY and tell my dog to SIT although they’re already sitting. My dog is sniffing something that I don’t want them to sniff and I ask them to COME and they stop sniffing and run somewhere else and you are happy. Those inconsistencies become very confusing for our dogs. They’re much happier with clear rules and boundaries, just like children.
You want your dog to do a DOWN in a new environment. He is focused on you, but he doesn’t lay down straight away. Because you know they can do a DOWN at home, you keep repeating the command. Instead of repeating or correcting your dog straight away you could keep showing your hand signal and give them time to think and work it out. Next time it should work faster and you haven’t taught them they can wait for a second or a third command.
You want your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead while you walk them 20 minutes around the block. Unless you have taught your dog in short training sessions (1 to 2 minutes at a time) and distraction free environments what behaviour you are expecting, they will struggle to walk on a loose lead. Remember they are on a hunt so it’s natural for them to run ahead and show mum and dad that they can catch the rabbit. Even when they know what behaviour you're after and you are able to increase the distractions step by step you still need to provide fun for them on their hunt. If we just march away for 20 minutes and check the news of the day on our phone we’re no fun. We always need to play with our dogs.
You are sitting on a park bench and your dog is laying nicely next to you while you are chatting away with your friend. Now another dog comes by and your dog starts barking, so you offer them a treat to stop. Did you want to reward your dog for showing unwanted behaviour or for stopping unwanted behaviour? If you are training for laying next to you nicely, then reward your dog when they are doing that action. As that’s the behaviour they are then becoming more and more likely to show.
Your dog always barks at the window or jumps up on the couch or steals your shoes at home. If you leave the house and give your dog the opportunity to make those mistakes they will never learn not to. Instead of telling them off for making the mistake when they do, you should set their environment up in a way that they can’t make the mistake when you are not around or too busy to do training and then help them understand what you want them to do when you are there and you do have time to train.