The key components to successful dog training are positive reinforcement and timing. Remember that math teacher that spoke in a soothing monotone? Algebra is boring enough and it certainly should not be presented as a lullaby. Or that grumpy English teacher who made you despise Shakespeare. Why art thou so boring? Look back at your worst and best teachers back in childhood. Who did you learn from the most? That enthusiastic and slightly insane Chemistry teacher made oxygen interesting with the bunsen burner.

The point is this: Make training interesting for your dog. And you can do that with your energy, enthusiasm, and creativity.

elliot wise mutt
● Remember that positive reinforcement is not just about receiving food. Your happy voice and encouragement is a very powerful tool– in fact, more powerful than dehydrated liver because your praise uplifts us. Your voice shows us whether we did something correctly or incorrectly. Your smile and enthusiasm rubs off on us. It marks the negative and positive actions, so your voice must be distinctly clear. Praise us like we are are two years old with a giddy, happy voice. Use a firm, stoic tone when we are in the wrong. Often, we can’t tell the difference between right or wrong because your voice all sounds the same. Monotone “Good boy” is useless. Lift us up with your voice.

● If you are going to use treats, use them strategically. If you’re reinforcing commands he already knows such as sit, you don’t need to use treats. You’re teaching him only to do things for food. Sitting only for food is not a dog that knows how to sit. Treat training should be reserved for new or more challenging commands. For complex tasks or new commands, use high value treats– something they never had to keep the lessons interesting. Get creative with how you dispense it. Put peanut butter on a spoon and let them get a quick lick. Change which pocket you place your treats. Make us wonder where it comes from. Make it fun for us.

● Say the command only ONCE. “Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. Sit. SIIIIIT. SIIIIIIIT!!! SIT!” is only teaching us to ignore you. Command with conviction– believe that we will do it. Don’t ask us to do it, make us want to do it with your strong leadership.

● Praise us the moment we do things correctly. Not two seconds later, certainly not ten seconds later. We live in the moment. Only what happened here and now makes sense to us.

● Keep training sessions short and sweet. We get bored easily. Daily, take a few minutes to reinforce commands and incorporate new commands very briefly. Basic commands should be a part of our lifestyle– such as we don’t get fed unless we sit. Each lessons does not have to be a grand lecture session. Make us look forward to the brief sessions with you– not dread it.

● Be patient with us. Don’t forget that I am a dog, and you are human. We are trying our best to understand YOUR language. Set us up to succeed– your markers should be clear, and the tasks should be easy.

● We are sensitive creatures. We need correction to understand what is wrong, but do not demoralize us with excess or unfair punishment. When you are frustrated with us, we get frustrated and tune out. If we are not listening to you, it’s not because we are stupid. Your method is simply not working, but we are totally willing to learn.