The biggest secret to training your dog is understanding the method of positive conditioning. All that’s really necessary after that is lots of patience and consistency. Most problems in training a dog come from not understanding reinforcement or from not utilising it consistently.
To use it consistently, you will need lots of patience. You need to appreciate the time and effort required to train a dog. You also need to understand that you need to be consistent every time you are with your dog, not just during training sessions. This means that you also need anyone who interacts with your dog to be consistent also.
Positive conditioning means that a positive reinforcement i.e. pleasing stimulus when your dog performs some behavior will encourage him to perform that particular action again. It’s unfortunate that a lot of owners positively reinforce unwanted behaviors in their dogs. For example, they enter the house, the dog is jumping up on them and they give affection to the dog. Affection is a positive reinforcement and so the dog is being encouraged to jump up on people.
I enjoy watching the Dog Whisperer on TV. One thing I notice is that owners are invariably reinforcing negative behaviors in their dogs without being aware of it. And this is in spite of the fact that they are fully aware of the process from watching Cesar on the program. The Dog Whisperer doesn’t reinforce negative behaviors. He behaves consistently and only give any attention to the dog when it is calm and behaving in a well-mannered fashion. In nearly every case that he helps, most of the problems start with inconsistency on the part of the owner.
Lots of awareness and self-discipline are needed to stop yourself giving affection to a misbehaving dog. Any attention is better than no attention to a dog. This means that, unfortunately, shouting at your dog may positively reinforce the behavior even though your intention is the opposite of that. So, it may be best to respond to unwanted behaviors by ignoring them and turning away from your dog.
Focusing on reinforcing positive behavior is more effective than trying to negatively reinforce unwanted behavior. As the dog is encouraged more and more in positive behaviors, less time will be given by him to negative behaviors which go unrewarded.
Obviously, you may have to stop your dog doing unwanted behaviors For example, if he jumps on the food counter, you can just pull him off.
How do you positively reinforce actions you want to encourage? You reward the behavior by giving a tasty treat or by giving affection. Using small tasty treats is probably the most efficient method. The treat needs to be given as close in time to the action as possible. Because of the importance of timing, the use of a clicker makes the reward process clearer to your dog. The clicker sound is used to mark the behavior precisely as it happens and the treat comes immediately afterwards. However, clicker training is a whole subject in itself but well worth looking into since it will supercharge your training.