Dogs Are Place-oriented
You should understand that a dog is a pack animal and that it is a creature of habit. With this understanding, you are better positioned to effectively train your canine friend. Now we move on to place-orientation and association.
Place-orientation simply means that your correction or praise must occur in close proximity to the event that took place.
I believe that praise is straightforward and self-explanatory. Most people do not suffer from providing enough praise for their dog. What generally happens is that the praise is not provided at the correct time and the power of association (discussed later) is lost.
When we discuss corrections, open your mind so that you can think of corrections in a very simple manner. It is true that there are varying degrees of correction; however, there are not as many as you may think. Initially, you need to realize that there are verbal, physical and electronic corrections.
Verbal corrections are words, whistles and tones. Essentially, think of verbal corrections as any correction made by you making a noise. We train our dogs to respond to a verbal command the first time that we say the command. If you watch people with dogs, you will see that they routinely will give the command more than once. This trains the dog that it does not have to comply. When the person says the command the second and third time, you will notice that the tone of the command and body posture of the owner change as well. This is why tone and physicality (body language) are also corrections and why we train for compliance the first time that we give a command.
It does not matter if you are for or against e-collar training as long as you are open-minded and willing to educate yourself regarding the proper use of an e-collar. Most people that are against e-collar training are uneducated on properly utilizing an e-collar and think that they are doing the dog a favor by not using it. It is not the tough dog that needs an e-collar; it is the soft dog that needs the e-collar.
The e-collar is only ONE training tool in a trainer’s arsenal. It is NOT a quicker way to train a dog. It is the trainer that makes mistakes USING the e-collar, NOT the e-collar. We have seen MANY dogs that were trained by those that are “anti-electronic training” and often times they are hand-shy, afraid of the lead or check cord and so forth. Prior to e-collars, dogs were shot with live ammunition or slingshots, kicked, and thrown. We still see “professionals” that pick dogs up by the ears and hindquarters and throw dogs…yet they are against the e-collar as a regular training aid. If I sound a little too passionate about electronics, I make no apology. You as the reader should draw your own conclusions if e-collars are for you or not, but make an informed decision.
Defined Places Instill Compliance
Now that you are comfortable with various types of corrections, we can use the dog’s place-oriented characteristic to our benefit. Once your dog knows a particular command (we will use sit), we give the command. If the dog sits immediately, you can praise your dog (verbal, a treat, or touch). However, if the dog moved from where it was when the command was said, YOU MUST PUT THE DOG BACK TO THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS WHEN THE COMMAND WAS SAID. If you praise or correct the dog at a spot that is different than where it was when you gave the command, the dog cannot make the association that the praise or correction was for/for not sitting when you gave the command.
I will try to illustrate it another way so that everyone is clear on its meaning. The dog is at Point A when you say “sit.” If it sits at Point A, you can praise it at Point A. If the dog moves to Point B and sits or doesn’t sit, you must put the dog back (for now just pick the dog up and put it back) to Point A and make it sit. I would not praise the dog and I would not say “sit” again. The physical act of picking the dog up and putting it back to Point A is a correction.
We are using place-orientation in conjunction with the way that a dog learns (association). The canine learns EVERYTHING through association. Association is the linking of a new item with a known item. One of the items must already be known and we link this known item to an unknown item so that the new (unknown) item becomes known.
Let’s use the prior example of “sit.” To teach sit, we use a treat. Initially, we push the puppy’s butt down and give it a treat. After enough consistent repetitions, the puppy starts to sit whenever it sees/smells the treat in our hand. We now have a cue (known item) that we can link to something else through association. In this case, we are going to teach the dog to sit on the verbal command “sit.” For association to work, the new item (verbal “sit”) must come BEFORE the known item (the treat).
Tell your dog to “sit” and hold out the treat. If you have done the appropriate number of repetitions with the treat, your dog should sit when you hold out the treat. It is important that you understand that your dog DOES NOT know the “sit” command at this point. He sat because of the treat. If you do this exercise a number of times over a number of days, your dog will start to sit when you give the command because it has ASSOCIATED the command with the treat and he anticipates that the treat will follow the command.
This is a very long way of explaining how to teach your dog to sit. However, it is extremely important that you truly understand what a dog is and how it learns. We will use association to train every command that we are going to use. A word to the wise here; once your dog is sitting on command, switch to only giving the praise (treat) some of the time. It will keep the dog upbeat and attentive, as he will be “looking” to sit in an attempt to please itself and get what it wants (the treat).
If you truly understand what a dog is (pack animal, creature of habit, place-oriented, learns through association), you are well on your way to training your dog to do whatever you want. The object is not to make your dog sit for any extended time. All you are doing is teaching the verbal command so the dog knows what it is. Compliance to the command will occur later. The studies show that there is no more critically important time in a dog’s life for learning than between weeks 7 and 16 of its life. By the time a puppy is 16 weeks old, the dog is almost entirely programmed as to its ability to learn. Older dogs can learn new things; however, they will never reach their full potential as if their mind had been opened to learning between weeks 7 and 16.
Put the learning process in place between weeks 7 and 16 and the trainability of your dog will be greatly enhanced. Use association this month to teach any of the commands that you are going to use later in your dog’s life (kennel, sit, here, heel).