Monday, July 15, 2013

Consistency is Key! Dog Trainer in Milton Ontario

I can never emphasize enough that the key to training your dog is consistency. Of course, this isn't the only factor involved, but it is such an important one, and one that owners tend to slide on, that I must reiterate over and over again.

If you are consistent in how you handle and train your dog, you are giving them a clear direction and communicating effectively and fairly. If you lack consistency in your training and handling, at best, you are confusing your dog, at worst, you are potentially reinforcing bad habits and possibly causing behavioural issues.

I will give the example of typical demanding type, attention seeking behaviours. If you give your dog attention for whining or barking at you one day, then get mad at it the next, then offer attention the next, correct the next, and so on, you are putting your dog on a variable schedule of reinforcement, which actually increases the likelihood of the behaviour your are reinforcing (however unintentionally), thus causing a bad (and annoying) habit in your dog.

This is one that I find a lot of owners have trouble with on their own, without proper direction. We approach this with ignoring the demands (unless they are over-the-top), which typically extinguishes the behaviour as the dog realizes it doesn't work. When you are inconsistent in dealing with this type of situation, and allow or give in to it some days, the dog figures "I'll keep trying because it works sometimes" - kind of like the slot machine theory (I'll keep gambling because I get a payout every-now-and-then). Owners do struggle at ignoring their dogs because it's second nature to put a hand on the dogs head for a scratch when they whine at you, or throw the toy for them when they are pushing it into your lap during dinner - this leads to inconsistency, and an increase in the behaviour that you are giving attention to.

This inconsistent handling also affects obedience training. If you ask your dog to sit/stay, he does, but then get's up when he feels like it, and you don't address the incorrect response, you are being inconsistent (and unclear) in teaching him first, what the command means, and second, what your expectations are of him performing this command.

Bottom line, to be fair to your dog, no matter how you train, consistency in how you handle him will always result in better response and behaviour.

If you are struggling with your dog and need help to become a better handler, please feel free to contact us and we can guide you on how to become more consistent with your dog

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