Dog owners often tell me that they can't get their dog to behave appropriately because the dog just won't listen to them. They claim that their dog is particularly unintelligent, but I consistently find that that is absolutely not the case. So how do you get Fido to pay attention?
Punitive training techniques that center on gaining control of your dog by dominating her into obeying can damage the human/animal bond and cause your dog to mistrust you and essentially switch off. You want to ‘matter’ to her by being the source of good things in her life, so that whenever you need her attention, she will give it to you.
For so long people have been putting the emphasis on their dog’s need to be ‘obedient’ rather than ‘cooperative.’ We issue ‘commands’ rather than focusing on teaching the dog ‘cues’ by attaching these cues to actions or behaviors that we want.
Motivating your dog to learn these cues by using rewards that make her feel good, will go a long way to getting the response you desire, even in the most distracting of environments. Any reward that is used to motivate your dog to learn should be of high value until she is responding reliably. When this has been achieved the high value reward can then be used intermittently.
Even though food treats are a really effective training tool, some dogs are motivated by other rewards such as toys, play, praise, or simply being touched. I have trained many dogs using many different types of rewards: a game of tug, a kind word, or a ‘life reward’ such as asking the dog to sit before opening the door and then rewarding her for complying by going for a walk.
I also like to vary rewards so that the dog never knows what is coming next or use what I call ‘multi- motivators’ such as a food/ toy/praise combination for the desired response.
Whatever you decide to do, a reward is going to make learning fun for your dog, improve her confidence and build up a strong bond between you. Remember the key to cooperation and compliance is trust and motivation and the more exciting and valued you are to your dog, the more she will listen to you in every situation.