This one of those rare and fleeting moments in which I formally write about dog training.  Recently @Mousethedog and @Beezthedog and I were on KeyeTV with @HunterEllisKeye.  We talked about dogs, dog training, and Keep Austin Dog Friendly.  Here’s the link to that video(s):

Here’s a summary of the dog training concepts we discussed as well as my recommended read list.

Recommended readings:

Hunter and Mouse get down and dirty on the floor.

3 Biggest Mistakes in Dogs Training

  • Poor relationship with your dog.  Do you have a good relationship with your dog?  Do you and your dog hang out? Does your dog trust you? Or do you happen to just be your dog’s sidekick and keeper of the food bowl?  Dogs are social creatures, and they develop bonds with other species.  While the degree of bonding will vary from breed to breed and from dog to dog, most dogs want to bond.  Most dogs want to be with you because they like you, find you fun, and trust that you’ll take care of them.  Having a great relationship with your dog is the foundation of having a great dog.  If a dog doesn’t even like you, how can you expect it to do what you ask of it? 
    1. Most of us think that our dogs like us, but that isn’t always true.  Many times, dogs are only attracted to their owners because of the tasty food their owners are holding.  Here’s a test.  If you weren’t holding food and luring your dog, would your dog still be interested in you?
    2. How on Earth do you measure trust in a dog?  There’s no metric way of measuring it, but your dog has got to trust that you are its caregiver and that you’ll keep its needs first.  If you constantly call your dog to you, and then engage it in some activity it doesn’t like, it probably won’t trust you much.  Hint: If I have to do something to my dogs that they don’t like (cleaning ears), I do not call my dog.  I simply walk up to my dog and do the activity.

We put a GoProCamera on Mouse’s head.

  • Poor communication with your dog is second on the list.  Dogs don’t speak English (or any other human spoken language), and they don’t care to learn either.  Dogs do communicate with us through body language, energy, tone of voice, reinforcements, and punishments.  We must use these tools paired with verbal markers to communicate with dogs, and they ought to be consistent.
    1. If you want your dog to stop eating out of the kitty litter box, you can’t tell it “oh please don’t eating kitty litter, oh your are such a naughty dog” in a soothing and low tone of voice.  To a dog, it sounds like praise, and the dog will assume that you are praising it for eating out of the litter box.  Instead, you should put the litter box in a place your dog cannot reach.
    2. If you want your dog to come, but you yell ‘COME RIGHT NOW, YOU HORRIBLE BEAST” in an angry tone, you might not get the results you want. All the dog will hear is that you are upset, and it will not understand why.  If someone was yelling at me like that, I probably wouldn’t come running either!
    3. Dogs can pick up how you feel via mirror neurons.  If you’re anxious, your dog might misbehave as it feels anxious too.  It might start gnawing on things to relieve the anxiety or it might start having accidents in the house.  Make sure that you are in a healthy state of mind when interacting with your dog, because your dog will know if something is wrong.  If you’re upset, instead of training your dog, you might think about sitting on the couch and watching a movie with your dog.  You can’t fake your emotions with a dog.  They’ll sniff it right out of you.
    4. Dogs need to be trained before you can start communicating your desires to them.  It is not uncommon for many people to see a dog perform tricks or activities.  These people will then turn around to their own dogs, give the command to a dog that simply stares at them blankly, and then say something like “my dog is too *insert derogatory term* to do that!”  If the dogs could understand English, they should slap their owners on the hand.  It is not the dog’s fault, but it is the owner’s fault for never teaching the dog that behavior.  You can’t expect a dog to perform a behavior if you’ve never taught it.  It is as if I approached a structural engineer and asked him or her to make a fondant wedding cake.  The chances of the structural engineer having that skill set is probably very low, simply because it has never been taught.  It isn’t fair to ask a dog to perform a behavior if it hasn’t been taught.

Isn’t my little Beez the cutest thing?

  • Lack of motivation. This is one of the biggest mistakes that everyone makes, not just in dog training.  Lack of motivation is a problem in companies, classrooms, social media, relationships, and most of all, children and animals.  Before you ask your dog (or another organism) to engage in a behavior, think about why the organism would.  If you can’t come up with a good reason for why the organism should comply with your wishes, they probably won’t.  I hear requests from companies asking me to “make” people follow them or to like them.  Fact of the matter is that I can’t make people do anything.  Instead of looking at the situation from a “how can I make people do this,” it would be better to ask “how can I motivate people to want to follow me on Twitter.”  If you’re having behavioral problems, always look to motivation.
    1. Two types of motivation – Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from finding joy in engaging in a particular activity.  Doing something because of intrinsic motivation is doing it because you like it.  Extrinsic motivation is doing something for some other outside reason.  The reason why many dogs perform behaviors is because of a cookie, an extrinsic motivator.  Remove the cookie (motivator), and the dog refuses to perform.  It is important to make an extrinsic motivator become and intrinsic motivator, but I won’t be explaining it step by step here.  I will give you an example of how to better understand it.  Most of us, as adults, brush our teeth regularly for intrinsic reasons.  We like the feel of having clean teeth and fresh breath. We are intrinsically motivated to brush our teeth.  However, as children, we were probably taught to brush our teeth for extrinsic reasons.  We might have been rewarded with a bed time story for brushing our teeth, and overtime, we no longer needed the extrinsic motivation.