The first step is to make sure your dog understands what you want him do. You need to tell him clearly what you want him to do, so that he will understand it. If you don’t say exactly what you want him to do, then he won’t listen at all and will just sit there doing nothing. So if your goal is for your dog not bite anyone, then the very first thing you have to do is get yourself out of danger!
If you are going to take your dog into the woods or somewhere where you might encounter another dog, then you must first learn what to expect from other dogs. Then, when they come near your dog, you have to show them that your dog is friendly and does not mean any harm.
So let’s begin…
Step 1: What Do I Want My Dog To Do?
You must decide what kind of behavior you want your dog to exhibit towards humans. Some dogs like to play tug of war with their human friends, while others prefer to chase after squirrels. Most dogs enjoy playing fetch with their human friends.
There are many different kinds of training methods that you can use on your dog. Here are some suggestions:
Training Method #1: Training With Toys
Toys can be used as a great way to teach your dog new behaviors. You can train your dog how to sit, stay, down, and other commands using toys. Here are some suggestions:
Use a soft toy that the dog really likes, and stuff it with treats. Whenever you give the command that you want the dog to learn, also give him the stuffed toy to hold in his mouth. Praise the dog for holding the toy in his mouth. After several repetitions, take away the treats from inside the toy. Continue to praise the dog for holding the toy in his mouth.
Eventually, the dog will continue to hold the toy in his mouth because he has learned that doing so earns praise and attention.
Use a squeaky toy that the dog really likes, and squeak it whenever the dog does something that you want him to repeat. For example, if you want your dog to sit, squeak the toy and then praise him when he sits. After several repetitions, stop squeaking the toy and just praise him when he sits. Eventually, the dog will learn to associate squeaking the toy with your praise, and he will sit whenever he hears the squeak without you even having to reward him.
Use a favorite toy of yours that the dog really likes, and offer it to him whenever he does something that you want him to repeat. For example, if you want your dog to sit, offer him the toy and then praise him when he sits. After several repetitions, stop offering the toy and just praise him when he sits. Eventually, the dog will learn that sitting earns him attention from you, and he will sit whenever you pay attention to him.
Training Method #2: Training With Food
Food can be a powerful training tool. Some people use food as their only training tool. Here are some good recommendations:
Get a high-value treat such as sliced hot dog, cooked hamburger, or sliced chicken. Hold it in your hand and allow the dog to sniff it. Place the treat in your other hand and offer your dog the empty hand, palm up. When the dog puts his nose into the palm of your hand, immediately press gently on his neck so that he has no other choice but to put his nose into your hand. As soon as he does so, praise him and give him the treat.
After a few repetitions, the dog will begin to anticipate that he will get a treat whenever he puts his nose in your hand.
While your dog is eating his meal, pick up one of his kibbles and hold it in your hand. Press your hand, with the kibble inside it, against his nose, so that he can sniff the kibble but cannot eat it. Continue to hold your hand, with the kibble inside it against his nose until he makes a motion to eat the kibble (he might lick, nibble, or bite at the kibble). As soon as he does this, immediately say “take it” and give him the kibble as a high-value reward. After a few repetitions, he will learn that “Take It” means “I want what is in your hand.” Once he has learned this command, you can begin using it during mealtimes instead of feeding him by hand.
Whenever you feed him in the future, rather than reaching your hand into the bowl to feed him, simply say “take it” and he will eat out of the bowl, but only after he has taken the kibble from your hand.
Shaping and Capturing
Shaping is a process in which you simplify a more complex behavior into a simpler one, and then build the rest of the behavior onto that simpler step. Capturing is breaking down a behavior into very small components, luring the dog into doing the component parts of the desired behavior, and then allowing him to put it all together after he has learned each part.
For example, imagine that you want to teach your dog to sit. First, you would shape him to put his front paws onto a small platform (maybe just a phone book). Then, you would shape him to put his rear legs onto the platform. Finally, you would shape him to put his rear end on the platform while his front paws remain on the ground. Once the dog has learned each of these parts (and this might take several training sessions that last only a few minutes each), you can capture the entire sit behavior by putting your hand near his rear end and, as he sits down, praising and rewarding him.
If you want to teach your dog a spin, you would capture his turning in a circle one direction, build that up until he is reliably turning in a circle one direction, then capture his turning in a circle the other direction.
Shaping and Capturing are time-consuming and require an enormous amount of patience, but they work very well when you have the time to spend with your dog.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Reaching the animal mind: clicker training and what it teaches us about all animals (K Pryor – 2009 – books.google.com)
- Don’t Shoot the Dog: The Art of Teaching and Training (K Pryor – 2019 – books.google.com)
- Treating alcohol dependence: A coping skills training guide (PM Monti – 2002 – books.google.com)
- One hundred patients treated with osseointegrated transfemoral amputation prostheses–rehabilitation perspective. (K Hagberg, R Brånemark – Journal of Rehabilitation Research & …, 2009 – myhandicap.de)
- The clinical handbook of biofeedback: A step-by-step guide for training and practice with mindfulness (IZ Khazan – 2013 – books.google.com)
- The thinking dog: Crossover to clicker training (GT Fisher – 2009 – books.google.com)
- Should science be taught in early childhood? (H Eshach, MN Fried – Journal of science education and technology, 2005 – Springer)