In this article, you’ll learn the principles behind puppy training (tips) and, hopefully, how these can be applied in a practical sense to train a puppy in the quickest, easiest, and most effective manner.
“Constant commanding of your dog has the tendency to destroy the control you seek to establish. I would therefore strongly stress the following: – Command your dog as little as possible, but at all times insist that your commands are instantly obeyed, as the sheepdog is quick to take advantage of any relaxation of control”. James Moore
Dog Obedience Training
Basically what we want is to create situations in which the puppy learns that it gains from obedience, and loses out from disobedience. However, it is a very complex situation with a huge array of variables.
It is all about balance – the stronger a dog’s motivation to do something we don’t want then the stronger the motivation we must create not to do it. Or we must simply get the puppy into the right habit by the repetition of what we require, in a controllable situation.
This is where breeding also plays a role. A very excitable, aggressive, rough dog, if it is also very hard in nature, will require considerable motivation to mend its ways.
A wellbred dog, calm, steady, and with great natural ability, will pose fewer problems. A soft dog lacking in heart will pose a whole different set of problems and isn’t worth bothering with.
When training, ask yourself, ‘Does the puppy benefit more from doing what I want, or from what it wants?’ Then, In order to achieve the first aim quickly and easily, that is, real control, a commanding system must have the following attributes:
- Enable us to tell the puppy specifically what we want it to do.
- To be clear, with no overlap or contradictions between commands.
- To help prevent the puppy from breaking commands.
Puppy Training tips: Do dogs want to please?
A statement you often hear in relation to puppy training is that “dogs want to please“. First, let me say that this statement is wrong; puppies do not naturally want to please. They want to do what they want to do, what their instincts tell them to do; they want to please themselves.
So to say that if only the puppy understood what you wanted, then it would comply, is wrong. A puppy may well understand what you want but doesn’t do it simply because it has better things to do.
However, in many situations, it is true that the puppy simply doesn’t understand. Many times when a handler blames a dog for being “pig-headed” or “stupid” and so on, it is simply that they haven’t been clear enough when training it, and it doesn’t understand what they want. In fact, this is most often the case. Usually what the handler needs is a mirror, and he will see the problem.
Poor Handler vs Good Handler
The puppy does what it does (or what it doesn’t do) in response to the command because that is exactly the way that it has been trained and handled (or mishandled), or allowed to do. It is nearly always the handler who is at fault.
When a handler can handle soft dogs, but not hard dogs, and particularly at a distance, it is a sure sign that they don’t really train their dogs but simply intimidate them, and this is less effective the harder the dog is, or the further away it is.
The hard dogs show your shortcomings up more than the soft ones, and it is from handling those that I have learned the most. don’t blame the puppy. always consider what you have done wrong if you ever want to develop into a good handler.
Most poor handlers tend to punish their puppy when things aren’t going well, but in most cases, this will probably do more harm than good because the punishment is being used incorrectly.
In most Puppy Training Tips: Timing is crucial
‘Timing’ in the handler is very much like ‘short cover’ in the dog. A dog with very great short cover adjusts instantly to the sheep’s tiniest movements, with tiny movements of its own. Likewise, a good handler can read the dog’s every thought, and respond quickly and with great tact.
The poorer handler takes much longer to pick up on what the dog is doing or thinking, and so responds much later, and generally has to make a bigger response.
If you respond late to correct a dog you can also end up correcting something completely different to what you think you are, and the same when rewarding it.
Therefore you must be completely in tune with your dog, in order to ease the pressure at exactly the right time or to bring more pressure to bear, in order to effectively train it.
One example is if you tell a pup to “sit down”, and then you want to call it off the sheep. You say ‘here’ whereupon it might look at you, but then look away again at the sheep. When it looks away at the sheep you should growl at it to correct it for thinking about going after the sheep.
Then when it looks back at you repeat ‘here’ in a normal way, to let it know that this response (looking at you instead of the sheep) is a step in the right direction.
By the way, you give the command you tell the pup in effect that it is “getting warmer” or “getting colder”, and so you are explaining what you want, and correcting what you don’t. Timing is crucial.
The Puppy should initiate action
When teaching something new, it is most important for quick and effective results that the dog initiates the response, not the handler. A simple example is in teaching a dog to sit. Most people push the dog’s rump to the ground while saying ‘sit’ over and over again. The dog eventually learns, but relatively slowly.
Instead, what you should do is apply enough pressure to the dog’s rump so that it is uncomfortable and is pushing against your hand to hold itself up. Then hold that position until the dog sits down by itself. The dog will then learn rapidly because it sat itself down, instead of just being pushed to the ground.
The same applies when teaching the dog to jump up on to a bale of hay, or onto the sheep’s backs. Don’t drag it up there, or throw it up, muttering “get up“.
Rather, put it on a lead and hold pressure on the lead towards the bale of hay, and maintain that pressure until the dog jumps up itself. Start on a low object and work your way up.
The same principle applies in many other areas, such as when teaching a dog to cast. Some people like to say that you “give the dog a choice” or “ask its permission“, but that is only playing with words because you only give it one viable option.
In fact, this is an important principle for good, fast, effective training – you set up a situation where the dog has only one viable response.
The better you do this, and the more obvious you can make this one option, the faster and more easily the dog will learn and understand what you mean.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Many positive reinforcement advocates claim that positive reinforcement training (titbit training) is faster than other methods.
In fact, this is not due to the positive reinforcement, but because means of causing the dog to initiate the movement are utilized.
That is, the trainer sets up a situation where the dog is likely to sit, and then rewards it. So it can be faster than simply pushing a dog into certain positions by force.
But my methods are even faster again, because not only do they cause the dog to initiate the movement, but also they do not give it any other option.
Therefore the dog will understand what we want far more rapidly, and we get to control. Positive reinforcement alone will not give control.
Gradually work up
When training, it is important to gradually increase the puppy’s abilities. If you try to get it to do something that it thinks it cannot do, then you can put it off trying even lesser things.
If you tried to teach pups to force by working cows and calves, you might put them off working cattle completely.
So start small, and gradually work up. If you want to teach a dog to jump a six-foot fence, start at one foot, and work your way up. To cast a kilometer, starting at 10 meters, and gradually work up.
Teach more to achieve perfection at less
However, sometimes you can go against the above rule with good effect, because generally if you have trained a pup to a certain stage it will probably not be perfect at that stage, but it will be at a lesser stage.
So if you have taught it to cast a mile it may be reasonable at that, but at half that distance it will be completely confident and competent.
Also, if you have it experienced enough to force cows and calves it may not be 100 percent confident about that yet, but it will be with less demanding stock.
This is one way of increasing a dog’s confidence and ability quickly, provided you are sure that you are not going to ruin it. So to get a dog confident casting 100 meters well, by simply casting it 100 meters, can take some time.
But if you go straight out to 500 meters (even if it doesn’t do it perfectly), then when you come back to 100 meters it will think, ‘There’s nothing to it.’
Best Puppy training tips:
It takes some tact and understanding to know how far you can push this principle, but it can be very useful in quickly training a very well-bred dog.
The same applies to gain control. If you can control a puppy in very trying conditions (such as having it remain to lie down while you work a second dog) it will be easy in less demanding conditions.
Another good example is with “sit down“. Most people only teach the pup to “sit down” for very short periods of time and have trouble holding it for longer periods.
But if you teach it to stay lying down for half an hour to one command, it will make it much easier to control for shorter periods of time.
There is more to say about Puppy training tips but an important point to realize is that it is remarkable how little work you have to do to make a big difference in a dog. Often by simply giving it only one or two lessons in something you can change it drastically.
Many people don’t even try because they envisage weeks or months of hard work to achieve something, but this is mostly not the case. One lesson can make a huge and lasting difference.
Some things require some repetition, but many things do not, at least not to give the puppy the basic idea. For more Puppy training tips see this article: How to Teach the Heel Command to your Dog