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   The training methods I use have produced great results for many years. I have changed some things in the 30 years I have trained dogs and I have tried some of the new methods keeping some aspects of those methods for my tool kit but discarding many of them. I am satisfied with what I have been doing and the dogs work reliably and happily.

  I use the combination method of show and tell until the dog understands the exercise then correction for disobedience. I like to proof dogs once they understand they must follow direction. Proofing makes the obedience better as the dog understands that she must obey even if something in the environment is far more enticing. Praise is used as the only reward for doing a good job. I want the dog focused on me and obeying me for the praise not the food or the toy. The problem with rewarding with other things as “primary reinforcers” is that you have to wean the dog off those things at some point in training. I don’t have to wean the dog off of praise or retrain the dog to “just accept praise” as her form of reward. Also I am not giving the dog the choice to refuse to obey because I don’t have what they feel is a good enough reward. I do use food occasionally as a secondary reinforcer in some exercises as an extra incentive. Also there are a couple of exercises that are easier to teach with the use of food or a toy as a “target” such as the “send away” in utility.

   My other big issue in training is that I don’t believe in repeating commands. I want my dog to obey the first time I give the command so that is how I have to teach the dog from the start. Most people have a hard time with this one as it seems to be the biggest trap most people fall into with their dogs.

   When I give a command to my dog no matter what phase of training I’m in (teaching, proofing, correcting) I give the command once. While I am teaching an exercise such as the manipulated sit or down I say the command as I start placing the dog. If I am luring as in the down (see “training the down”) I give the command when the dog is almost in position. If the dog breaks position I do not give further commands I just put the dog back in position. Teaching the dog this way makes it clear to the dog that she will never hear a command twice. My first command always has authority and the dog soon learns that she has two choices; obey and be praised, disobey and receive correction. If I constantly repeat commands the dogs work soon becomes slow and sloppy with the dog listening 50% of the time and ignoring the other 50%. This is very frustrating to most owners but it is ultimately the owners fault in the first place for giving the dog too many chances before they have to obey.

   Well, now you know I am not a food trainer, I have not mentioned clickers as I don’t like them and I use correction in my training program. This method will not suit everybody and that’s ok. You need to choose what works for you, the dog will learn no matter the method used to teach. Its how well the dog learns that proves the method.

Happy Training!!


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