What it takes for a dog to learn.
You’ve just acquired your new puppy or new dog. How do you go about teaching them all the commands and wanted behaviours that are necessary in order to end up with a well socialized, well behaved and easily controlled dog?
There are basically two types of behaviour, natural behaviour which means preprogrammed in at birth and learned behaviour which means it is acquired as the result of personal experiences in the environment.
Natural behaviour can be manipulated genetically and will depend on your chosen breed of dog and how strong certain traits were in its parents and grandparents.
This is unfortunately where a lot of pet owners get things wrong. They select a breed based on its look rather than on its likely behaviour, drive and breed. Most dogs that end up with behaviour problems are merely displaying normal behaviour for their breed but in an inappropriate environment!
This means the dog may be in the wrong place at the wrong time sometimes. A dog may be placed with a wrong member(s) who it’s not compatible with. The dog may not belong to that family and that family may be ideal for another dog that really needs them.
This scenario, unfortunately, happens too often. I have seen dogs that have high energy level personalities with humans who have low energy level personalities. I have seen families that are super busy with high energy family members and a dog which has a low energy level personality but is forced to live with the active family.
Most dogs are selected for their looks. A dog, however, should not be selected based on its looks. When a dog is selected for its looks a lot of things go wrong for the dog and its family. Most large breed puppies grow up from their puppy size and become too large for the owners to handle them.
Most dog breeds are capable of learning common, simple tasks in the training process. The difficulty and problems of a dog not responding to their handlers’ requests happen when the dog and the owner are frustrated by each other and lose their connection. This results in the dogs not cooperating with their owners, which in return, translates to the human that their dog is bad. This all happens because the owner lacks the knowledge of understanding a dog’s natural behaviour.
First, select a dog by what size and breed are best required for your family. Then, you select the individual dog among that particular breed. Let’s say you’re looking for a dog. What dog could work for you? Are you a busy person or a kind of person who needs solidarity and a companion? These are tricky questions.
If you are a person who seeks solidarity then you must be a calm person who will need a calm dog. If you are a busy person or have a busy family then you won’t have much time to dedicate to your dog, so you don’t want a high energy dog either. What you need is a calm dog that will not ask for much.
In both these examples, both families need to have a calm energy breed. Unfortunately, that is not what happens in reality. Due to a lack of time, most busy families lean towards getting a high energy breed. with the idea that just weekend exercise will be enough. The dog is basically allowed to be apart of the family on the weekends only.
The person who seeks solidarity and is a low energy person tends to pick a dog that is high energy and needs tons of exercise because look wise, the breed is ideal for them.
Lack of knowledge can make you select the wrong breed and the wrong dog for you, which can lead to built-up negativity in the relationship and with that energy no one can teach or learn. Don’t choose with your heart. Choose with your mind.
Learned behaviour is what we are more interested in because we can manipulate the learning process so that we end up with a well-trained dog that has learned to display only appropriate behaviours within its environment. To begin the training your dog you will need two basic ingredients:
This is the most important ingredient in the process. Without it, you can’t do anything and won’t have a dog that is balanced and willing to work with you.
You need to have the knowledge and you need to empower your dog with this knowledge. The way you gain knowledge is by learning about the dog breed and the animal itself first. What does it take to live with an animal in a house? Is my dog panting because it’s happy or because it’s hot? Then you need to start figuring out how dogs learn and what you need to do to teach your dog.
You need to know that, today, we use obedience training to teach dogs and build a communication line between the dog and human. There are few systems or training methods that are used to train dogs. To learn about the different training systems or methods refer to my previous article here.
In order for you to have a good dog you need to be able to communicate with your dog and that happens by starting to build a trusting relationship with your dog. Then, you learn how to communicate with your dog using training which covers the emotional and mental part of the training. The physical part of the training is the use of techniques that help deliver the message and the information you are trying to communicate with your dog.
The use of the leash, the hand signals, the body language, the movements and the energy you use are all part of the technical learning process and using them will improve the training in general.
You will need to learn to practice the techniques properly and consistently.
If you follow these simple yet effective steps, you will have the dog you’ve dreamed of. Dogs don’t come pre-loaded with your expectations. You need to load the information manually into your dog. That means YOU need to put in the work and effort, physically and mentally, with your dog to see and get results.