One of the greatest obstacles facing humans when it comes to training or communicating with dogs is not skill, rather patience. People think that the dog should immediately understand what it is the human wants the dog to do. If the dog doesn’t get it people either think the dog is stupid or give up.
People often ask me,
“What is the secret to a well trained dog?” The answer is: “Patience.”
Training a dog involves being more stubborn than the dog and staying with it. Dogs learn through repetition, as do all animals. Then, once the behavior is starting to take shape, it needs to be repeated over and over again until it becomes ingrained.
See: online dog training
If we look at the basic behaviors all people want their dogs to do, they are quite simple. They want the dog to COME when called, STAY with them and not do stupid stuff. Yet they expect these behaviors to just appear. In order to get a dog to come to you, he has to feel either he’ll be rewarded for doing it or punished for not doing it. Now, if he feels he’ll be punished for not doing it, he’s determination will not be as bright as if he feels he’s going to be rewarded. Think of a boss that you enjoy working for versus a boss that you fear. In either case, the communication has to be clear. We don’t ask for a behavior and then don’t enforce the dog’s decision.
Once a behavior is setting in to the mind of the dog, it must be repeated over and over again.
We want to teach our dogs to love their captors; I call this the Stockholm Syndrome of Dog Training.
If the dog we are taking as our captor – per se, learns to love us, he will always want to listen to us and do what we want.
Dogs are taken away from their mothers and families at an early age and made to live with a completely different species. Yet for thousands of years this bond has resulted in the successful domestication of dogs and the transformation of wolves into family pets. Think about it, a creature that can rip your face off is now licking your face because they love you.
Watch this video and see the crude basics to this relationship. This is basically the domestication of the wolf into the dog by man in 3 minutes.
Where the baboons succeed over humans is in the patience they exhibit when “domesticating” the dog to live with them. It seems harsh to take a puppy away from its mother, yet this is exactly what we do and have done for thousands of years. This is what has created the dog. Baboons can take a feral dog away from its mother and train it to stay with the baboon family and humans can’t keep their domesticated dog walking on a loose leash.
The baboons give the dog no choice, no clicker, no option. At times the interaction is tough and crude, but it works. The dogs enjoy their new partners and these two species work, live and play together. I believe that our method of working with dogs can be a bit more refined, but corrections are corrections and praise is praise. There is little room for error when you see how the baboons work with their dogs early on. This sets a clear picture for the future of the relationship. We can learn from this. Most of the work of dog training is done early on so that a mature dog can enjoy a balanced life and not be nagged into obedience.
I’ve often said that nature is cruel, but it is also immensely fascinating. Watching something like this really breaks the ape-wolf bond down to the simplest basics. The communication is different, but the bridge can be gapped. If people can learn from the baboons in this video that all it takes is patience and perseverance almost any dog can be trained.
One thing that I’d like to add to this is reinforcement. This is where most people fall short. They think once the dog is trained, he’s trained. WRONG! If you learn Spanish and go live in France and never practice Spanish, you will forget it. Similarly, if you hire a fitness trainer to get you into shape for 12 weeks and then you go back to your old habits of eating bad and not exercising, you will fall out of shape. It is the same with dogs. Once the dog understands the basics, he needs constant reinforcement. A few minutes – a few times a week can suffice, but the time is important. I talked to a potential client yesterday who told me she has no time to train the dog; she wanted to send the dog to a board and train. I asked if she would continue the training after she got the dog back. She said, “Why? He’ll be trained then… I have no time to train a dog.” My question is, “Then why did you get a dog?”
Dogs are sentient beings that have emotions and feelings; they evolve and adapt but need guidance every step of the way. If you do the hard work early on when the dog first comes to live with you (irrespective of age) then you may end up with a happy and balanced dog provided you use occasional reinforcement to keep the dog up to par with the relationship. Boundaries are important in our relationships with people as well as our relationships with dogs. Set these boundaries fairly and enforce them until they become second nature to both you and your dog.