Problems when Training Dogs
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Dog training sessions are a pleasure for dogs, especially if we work with positive reinforcement. But sometimes, depending on the techniques used or some other factors, some problems may emerge.
Ideally we should work these small details so to improve our communication with the dog, get to know it better and begin to understand some techniques that may be very useful when training.
If your dog does not show progress, does not obey or appears to have an adverse reaction to training, then you have come to the right place as AnimalWised gives you some tips and helps you assess what is happening:
Duration and frequency of sessions
If you are starting to practice training and obedience with your dog then the first step is to look into the length and frequency of sessions. Ideally work between 5 and 10 minutes on a daily basis. However, when your dog is more accustomed you can spend 15 to 20 minutes on this, divided into two daily sessions.
The first part of a training session should consist in the practice of those commands that it has already learned and later work on new goals.
The place of training
If you start to train in a place with distractions it will be very difficult for your dog to pay attention. Start practising obedience in parks or enclosures that are free from distractions. When the dog correctly relates the commands then you can practice in busier areas so to promote a good response in different situations.
The amount and quality of the reinforcement
In many cases the response level of the dog is low due to the food that we offer as a reward. Although we may be offering a feed of excellent quality, this being a well known technique, the dog does not feel sufficiently motivated. If this is your case then try other things.
Regular food usually works if you train before mealtimes, but in some cases it is worth using another type of food. Examples include bits of sausage, tasty treats or you can prepare some delicious homemade cookies for dogs.
It is also good to give a handful of food in some exceptional responses, as a special reward. This should happen only rarely and as a result of extraordinary responses.
Has your dog already eaten?
If your dog does not respond properly to the food then make sure it is a little hungry before its training. This does not mean that it should go hungry, only that you have to train it before meals.
If it has just eaten you will be unable to motivate it with food. Similarly, when using games as reinforcements, if it has just played and is tired it will not be interested in chasing the ball or gnaw the rope.
The prize at just the right time
Check if your timing is right. To have a behaviour strongly reinforced with food we must reward the dog when it properly performs the order, never before or after. Inadequate timing will cause the dog to not understand what we expect from it and to not associate a command to its proper implementation.
On the other hand we must also ensure that the rate of reinforcement is appropriate. When our dog carries out an order we should not always offer treats, at times an affectionate pat, kind words or caresses will suffice.
We must always reward our dog after following a command, but using too much food will cause it to only obey in exchange of food. On the other hand, if we use very few rewards, it is also likely that the dog will lose interest in following our instructions.
New signals and commands in training
If a signal has become irrelevant for your dog it will be difficult for it to associate it with a particular conduct, so it will be better to use a new signal. For example, if you frequently say the name of your dog without it being associated to anything then your dog will have learned to ignore its name. In that case it is better to use another signal (another word or physical gesture) to get its attention.
On the other hand, it is very important that the words in your vocabulary be coherent and always the same. Discover in our article on how to talk to your dog a complete list of commands in different languages.
Understanding the learning process
Another common mistake is to have too high expectations of a good training. Many people think that once their dogs respond to a signal, that signal can be used in everyday life, and later find themselves surprised when the dog does not respond to them in different situations to those in which they trained. Progress slowly without skipping steps. Ideally you should work the commands in different places, situations and environments.
Variety of environments
It is very important to practice the training exercises in different places. This means training them again in different places, the only difference being that it will be increasingly easier and faster to do it. If you do not vary the place of exercises then your dog will only respond in one place. Tracking sheets have nine boxes numbered to register the generalisation of each criterion. Use these boxes to record that you have returned to a specific training criterion in different places, under different circumstances or in different locations.
It is also important to keep training. Many people train their dogs and then never do a session again. So then dogs start to forget things until they no longer respond to any of the exercises.
Maintaining learned exercises will become less demanding, but if you notice that some exercise is deteriorating start doing systematic sessions of this exercise again so to strengthen it. After a few years these behaviours will have become habits and so they will become resistant, but you will still have to do maintenance every now and then.
If you want to read similar articles to Problems when Training Dogs, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.