When you begin training any cue, you will want to make sure you ask yourself, “what am I trying to teach or convey to my dog?”
This not only shapes what you want to get across, but also how you want to translate what you wish your dog to learn.
Then you will want to ask yourself “how will I respond if my dog doesn’t get it right or if my dog does something wrong?”
Because even if your dog is doing something wrong, you have to look at yourself and see what you’re teaching is not getting across or what are you reinforcing instead.
Blaming the dog for missing a step or doing something inappropriate or unwanted sidesteps your role in what you’re teaching.
Punishing the dog for getting something wrong doesn’t teach what you want instead.
All it does is leave a void of ??????
Then if you follow up with praising something else, this whiplash experience only leads your dog in further mistrusting you.
Just like a child who is repeatedly reprimanded for doing the wrong thing and only receiving attention when the wrong thing happens, this reinforces the child to continue on the path of making choices that are risky, unhealthy and maybe even dangerous.
When that same child receives praise, trust in the adult is not immediately restored. Mistrust pervades. Only after repeated affirmations and acknowledgement of not just doing the right thing consciously by the caregiver, the caregiver must identify those characteristics of good character, responsibility and connection with others will that child start seeing the benefit of making better choices and their larger connection to their world.
On similar levels the same is true for your dogs. Begin seeing what they are doing well and placing the focus and attention on the little acts of what is going well and then take a look at what you are teaching.
If you’re saying “sit” and your dog is just looking at you, some questions to ask yourself are
“how many times did we practice?”
“Was the practice consistent where my dog understood 8 times out of 10 to the cue?”
If no, “what can I do differently to teach my dog with clearer communication of what I’m looking for?”
“Does my dog offer the behavior I’m looking for on his own?” If yes, “how can I use that in training?”
Once you start asking yourself these questions can you begin to see how you can become a better teacher rather than looking to punish your dog for getting something wrong.
Only through your self evaluation will you and your dog emerge with a stronger relationship and one which has been solidified out of love and affection instead of fear and intimidation.