I am not a qualified dog trainer, the training techniques I use are based on what I have experienced over my life of owning dogs, learning from my dogs and through attending training with my own dogs.
I ONLY use reward based positive reinforcement training and never use any form of force or aversive training techniques and I never do anything that will cause Bella any pain or distress.
The particular type of positive reinforcement training I am doing with Bella, training her assistance tasks, the training is carried out by myself under the guidance of a specialist dog trainer.
We currently train with Keith at - The Dog House - an indoor arena training centre, Bella and I do a group class twice a week purely for socialisation and so I am able to work and train Bella with lots of distractions, we also have a weekly lesson with Keith and he has been invaluable in helping Bella progress.
THE most important training technique is for me to remember to work as a TEAM!
Lead your pack!!
I believe training your dog begins way before you start teaching commands! You need to take the lead from day one! Basically, in a dogs world there is no democracy! In a dog pack mentality, a dog has no problem at all being controlled by the highest ranking member of the pack (which should be you by the way!), a confident/pushy dog may occasionally try to push the boundaries or negotiate terms but generally they are much happier knowing exactly who is in charge - and if they see no one is in charge they will see it as their right to fill the position of leader, its just innate, they know someone HAS to be the leader – BUT leadership doesnt come naturally to all dogs, and an unconfident or nervous dog forced into thinking it has to be in charge will, without doubt, find the situation stressful - which in turn can lead to all kinds of behaviour problems.
Life is easier for them AND for you if you make sure they know you are in charge and your leadership is clear and consistent from the start making them feel safe. I believe the trick is to 'think' like a dog and you are halfway there! ha!
Establishing myself as a leader that Bella will look up to, that makes her feel safe and confident and most important that she wants to work with, is the single most important thing I can do for Bella. It also takes an understanding of how dog behaviours develop.
To establish myself as leader doesn't mean using force, aversive techniques, causing pain or distress - I use some 'Golden Rules' which if used consistently will re-enforce me as pack leader.
Click for more info on my Golden Rules for training
I only use reward based, positive reinforcement when training Bella, I also use a combination of training techniques called luring and shaping and techniques based on motivation through play, praise and reward - all part of a positive reinforcement approach - Ill explain more about these in the page getting the behavior you want
It is important when I'm training Bella that training is done in as many different locations as possible, with as many different distractions I can think of (using the three D's), it will ensure that Bella is de-sensitized to a variety of situations and it gives her confidence to be able to work for me in any situation. It is also important that Bella has the chance to problem solve and think for herself to work out how to get past a difficult task. So I will set her up for a success and help her achieve her task. There are specific puzzles that can help teach dogs how to problem solve but by observing Bella generally, seeing how her behaviours develop and watching how she approaches training has given me an insight how the thought process works for her. Although it is essential to be consistent, that doesn't mean being predictable. Dogs are smart enough to predict what you are going to ask them to do next if you do the same sequence of training each session, so I don't practice commands in the same order every time. I do not have a problem with Bella making mistakes as it gives me an opportunity to do a correction and teach her something.
I personally think its important to have a release command when training so it gives a clear cut communication to Bella that the task is done.
One thing I will say about training in any situation, is if I feel I am getting frustrated at all with Bella, or losing my patience – I break the session and get Bella to do something that I know she can carry out and be successful, that will just mentally move her out of the negativity and give her confidence, it also gives me a break and time to re focus.
And lastly on the subject of training in general - make it fun!
For more on my Training Techniques see these pages ...
10 Golden Rules
Getting the Behaviour you want
the Three D's