My 10 Golden Rules!
I have 10 'Golden Rules' which I try to use when training, they work very well for me when training Bella.
My number 1 Golden Rule
LEAD YOUR PACK - as I have said previously training does not just begin the minute I start a training session, its an ongoing dynamic. Establishing I am the pack leader in a positive way is the biggest favor I can do for my dogs to help them succeed in training. See more about Leading your Pack here.
My Rule number 2
NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE! - Being the leader of my pack is not about being mean or strong or shouting the loudest - its about 'who' controls the 'good' stuff! To dogs, 'good stuff' could be anything from food/toys/cuddling/the sofa/anything they really love! I make my dogs earn access to good stuff by doing something for it – a very simple example is my dogs must sit and wait while I prepare their food, then they are not allowed to eat it until I say so, I can put their bowls of food down and leave the room and they will not touch it until I give them the command, being in control of the food (the good stuff) naturally makes me the leader. Another example is my dogs must sit quietly and have their leads put on, then they must wait in the doorway while I open the door and will not move until I tell them to, they always enter/leave a door way AFTER me, this way I am in charge of the walk (the good stuff) from the very beginning. The list is endless and you can apply this technique to almost every situation if you put your mind to it, it also reinforces my leadership every time I control the good stuff!
I also think that 'territory' control is very important, area's such as rooms in the house, the garden, the car etc belong to me! and I allow my dogs access on my terms.
Lastly on the subject of controlling the good stuff – my personal space is exactly that ... MINE! It is so important to reiterate my leadership by regularly asking my dogs move out of my way (I do not EVER step over or step around), it is a great show of respect if they willingly move out of my way. I never allow my dogs to lie/sit on me or cover parts of my body with theirs if I haven’t invited them to, and I NEVER allow them to push a person out of a space and then occupy that space themselves – that is the ultimate disrespect and is a definate 'I’m the boss' attitude!
This all may seem a bit extreme to the everyday pet owner but by doing all of these things consistently will develop a firm and trusting relationships with my dogs so we can work as a team. Doing all of the above does NOT mean being harsh, forceful or causing stress/pain, it can all be done using positive reinforcement.
My Rule number 3
EXCERCISE - I properly exercise my dogs every day, that means a good off of lead run. An excercised dog = happy and content dog = responsive to training!
My Rule number 4
BOOST YOUR DOGS CONFIDENCE – only a confident dog will perform to their best. I make sure my dogs know they are the best, when they do something well in training I make them feel like World Champion.
My Rule number 5
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG ~ ITS MY FAULT! - if something goes wrong with my training, I always remember it’s my fault, I did not train or handle the situation well. BUT that’s good news! as I can work on that and fix it, the problem would be much harder to fix if it was my dog’s fault. Luckily, they, unlike people, come without judgement and will always give me a second chance. I also remember dogs are allowed the odd off day, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the time they weren't perfect - every good dog can make mistakes sometimes.
My Rule number 6
STRUCTURE TRAINING SESSIONS & BREAK DOWN EACH ACTIVITY INTO STEPS - by knowing exactly what I want out of a training session it makes me focus, it does neither me or my dogs any good just thinking 'oh I will do a training session' then stumbling through 30 minutes of hap hazard training, it does not give my dogs confidence if I am not confident in what Im doing. I make a list of training/tasks I want to teach and break them into chunks so I know specifically what I want to work on in each session. You will be surprised how easy a task is to train by dividing it into chunks and then putting it all together.
My Rule number 7
TRAIN LITTLE AND OFTEN - I get more out of training sessions if they are shorter rather than a whole afternoon etc, I will often do two or three 15 minute sessions throughout the day, this way Bella concentrates better. Doing a long session only creates a negative as Bella can loose interest and get restless, the most we do is an hours class but that is not one to one but in a social environment with other dogs, we do a one to one half hour session with our trainer which is just right.
My Rule number 8
I DO THINGS MY WAY - no one knows my dogs better than I do, so I trust my intuition and do what I think is best for Bella. Yes there are lots of books, websites etc that have training advice and its ok to take parts of each and apply them to your training, but if you find something which works for you then stick at it.
My Rule number 9
ALWAYS END A TRAINING SESSION ON A POSITIVE - no matter what has happened in a training session I ALWAYS end with a positive, so for instance if Bella has been struggling to grasp something, instead of leaving it there and feel disappointed with the session I set her up with something I know she can succeed in, give lots of praise and end it there. Likewise if Bella is doing exceptionally well and picking up something great, instead of pushing my luck for just a bit more, I will end the session while she is on a high, that way she will always remember the last session with a positive association.
My Rule number 10
FUN! FUN! FUN! - whatever you are teaching, be it a trick, a task or obedience - make it FUN! It stands to reason that if I am having fun training Bella she will want to do more, I make training into a game as much as I can .... and Bella loves games!!!
You may be thinking... 'OMG! her poor dogs are not allowed to do anything!' but you would be quite wrong, I love my dogs, I cuddle my dogs, I kiss my dogs, I spoil my dogs etc BUT it is all on my terms – simple! Providing my dogs with clear, consistent kind boundaries and rules is the foundation of my training and they will love and respect me all the more for it.