How Not To Train Your Dog

Most dog owners sincerely want to train their dog well. But an almost equal number will underestimate the time and effort it takes to do so. The result is frequently a common set of mistakes that can be, with more or less effort, avoided.

Dogs are not furry children. Though the average mature dog has a mental development somewhere around the level of a human two year old, there are more differences than there are similarities. Dogs can be amazing at processing language. But they don’t reason the way humans do. They don’t connect cause and effect in the same way.

As a result, it can be frustrating to repeat the same command over and over, only to have the dog apparently ignore you. Most times, they are not ignoring the command as much as failing to understand it. It seems it should be obvious – they’ve done the behavior successfully many times before – but today they are just ‘being stubborn’.

Some dogs probably are what would, in humans, be called stubborn. But they can be easily distracted, or fail to connect today’s instance of ‘come’ with yesterday’s behavior and subsequent reward. There are alternative explanations for their behavior.

Patience is the number one needed quality, therefore. You have to be prepared to repeat the same command, day in and day out, and sometimes not get the same result. Many dogs take two years to learn anything beyond the simplest basics to the point that it consistently sticks.

Part of that patience means keeping your temper when you want to lash out physically. It’s easy to take physical punishment as the first route of correcting a dog’s behavior. But that’s reserved in the wild for only the most severe circumstances. So, the dog hasn’t evolved to understand why you’re hitting them. It instills fear, not trust.

Dogs, like humans, much more readily follow those they trust than those they fear. The latter they do only when they have no choice. But dogs make choices very differently from people. They will often just endure the punishment without learning anything. Physical punishment simply isn’t an effective training method.

So, here’s how NOT to train your dog:

– Forget that your dog has a nature different from yours. Talk to them like they were human.

– Believe that the dog can connect events across time and circumstances, then draw the same conclusion you would.

– Get impatient and frustrated when they don’t behave as you want them to. Punish them for not behaving the way you want.

Follow those useless methods and you’ll reap the reward of a maladjusted dog and an unhappy owner. But if those are not the results you seek, be prepared to change YOUR behavior, before you try to change the dog’s.