As humans and the more intelligent of the species, we must learn how dogs communicate in order to communicate with them. The human half of the pair is usually the smarter party, but watching the usual training sessions one can have legitimate reason to wonder.
Dogs understand and respond at roughly the mental level of a human two-year-old, but there the similarity ends. Their senses operate differently – their color vision has a different response pattern to reds and greens, for example, and obviously their noses are infinitely more sensitive – and their minds process information differently as well. Anyone training dogs has to take this into account in order to avoid human frustration and canine misbehavior.
Dogs are pack animals by nature. Descendant from wolves – where even the ‘lone wolf’ is an anomaly – they’re social and function best with active interplay and within a strict hierarchy.
So, set aside half-an-hour per day, an hour would be better, for at least the first few months of training. Start training your dog as soon as possible. Some puppies can be started as early as four weeks old.
Elimination (‘potty’) training details we leave for elsewhere, but all training follows similar guidelines.
Establish your dominance with your dog as soon as possible. Dogs have a hierarchy – there are alpha dogs, beta dogs, and on down to the omega. For a sane household, and a well-adjusted dog, the human (whether male or female) must always be the alpha male of the pack.
Depending on the breed, this will be either more difficult or easier. Like humans, some are simply more assertive than others. The most important training aid is your attitude, followed by collars, leashes and other training aids. You are the “alpha dog” in your house, not your dog.
Physical force is not necessary to enforce your dominance. Sometimes, used appropriately, that will be necessary. Usually, simply being firm and willing to wait for compliance will be enough.
For many, placing them on their backs when young and placing a firm hand in the middle of the chest until they lower their paws – a sign of submission – will be enough. With some, reinforcing this by putting your face close to theirs, emulating dominant dog behavior, can help.
Keep the leash short to discourage your dog to run, and pay attention to you. Allow plenty of time for free running behavior, essential to dog health, but that’s before or after training, not during. At least, not at first.
Start simply by choosing short, clear commands that sound distinctly different: sit, stay, down, come. Use a firm, but not harsh voice. You’re in charge, but not angry. Avoid double-word commands like ‘sit down’ or ‘stay down’. This sounds too much alike and may confuse your dog.
Be consitent with each verbal command by using the same tone, look and hand gesture. Eventually these can separate, but at first it’s essential to provide the simplest, most consistent form of communication.
Just like two-year old humans, dogs have limited capacity for grasping the subtleties of language. Assist their understanding by rigid consistency. Don’t use a single command word to mean more than one thing. The command ‘Down’ can mean ‘don’t jump on me’, or it can mean ‘lay on your stomach’, but it has to mean one thng only.
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