Investing in YOUR Canine Education

When you start training your dog, you are investing in your relationship together. Building the bond, and teaching them about the world they are in.

So why are you going in blind? I see so many owners teaching their dogs things, but without the knowledge themselves. Watching things on TV, or reading books is very different to applying it in the real world. It seems a very long winded and difficult way to do dog training, when you have other options there to guide you though the whole process.

There is very limited advice for you as dog owners, aimed at education before getting a dog (I’m working on this!). But that is a crap excuse for not get help as soon as you get that puppy, re-home or rescue. There is so much education going on for when you add a dog to your life, such as classes, webinars, Facebook groups and one to one training.

My biggest gripe and why I’m writing this blog is to urge people to get educated in the issues their breed faces, what a dog could have training issues in and understanding the dog is more than an ornament programmed to do what you want. Understanding your dog as a dog.

So many people contact me saying they are struggling with things like recall or lead manners but they are trying to train their dog in a way that doesn’t suit the breed. Training a Spaniel with food can be done, but so many are prey motivated that they leg it off. There is no treat good enough for a recall from a fresh bunny on the move. BUT if you have a puppy you’ve trained on play with you to pent up prey drive, you tend to have a much better chance of getting that recall around distractions. This is because you are controlling the prey they want, be that a ball, tugger or disc. The toy comes through you so why would they go else where?

Some breeds prefer reward from you in the form of eye contact, verbal and physical praise. These might be your more people based breeds such as Doberman, Shitzus and Collies. These breeds can’t always be bribed with food and thrive on consistent and calm behaviour from their owners, calm and confident can’t really happen if you are not sure what you are actually doing in dog training.

Education can come from speaking to other dog owners before getting a certain breed, or meeting breeders who are passionate about their puppies and breed. These people are the people in the know, they live with and own these dogs. They are often very honest and to the point about the breeds good and bad points. They will point you in the right direction for advice, and knowledge.

Seeking professional help is right, but it can be so very wrong if you go to the wrong person for you. Talk to the trainer/behaviourist first, before you commit to anything. Speak to someone who actually knows how to teach, lots of people in the canine world are fantastic with dogs, and have terrible people skills. Call them up and ask questions, ask what they are achieved with their own dogs and clients. Look for real experience and training, instead of a cheap price. This is your future you are investing in, do not skimp on the education you and your dog will be getting.

Dog trainers are training you to train your dog. It is a weird concept, as you call in a plumber to fix the boiler, not to give you the advice on how to fix it as well as a plan on how it can be done, and then demonstrate it. They fix it. Dogs are so different from any other part of the family and household, they need specialist considerations which means a different way of learning for you, as well as the dogs. Think of dog training as learning a new job, your learning new skills and applying them to the job at hand. The biggest issue is the dog has its own mind about things, so its not just applying knowledge but it is also about adapting and building on that knowledge to match your dogs change.

It is TOUGH! Being a dog owner is one of the toughest things in the world. You are there to look after this being that needs you, but also doesn’t understand your world and often not even their own if they haven’t been socialised. These tail wagging, slobbering and bouncy beings are there because we choose to have them, not the other way around. We owe it to them to educate ourselves about how they learn, how they understand the world and how they want to live, instead of fumbling about missing ways of preventing issue that stress us and the dog out.

Go educate yourself as a dog owner, or future dog owner. No matter how many dogs you have owned, there is always new knowledge out there. Investing in your education, is investing in your dogs happiness, as well as your own. There are books, webinars, online coaching, one to one training, classes, telephone consults, workshops, breed seminars, behaviour seminars, experienced owners, breeders, and the internet. While it can be overwhelming to start, it soon makes more sense and broadens your horizons in order to benefit you.

Invest in that knowledge and then apply it. Lots of dog owners think 8 weeks of training is enough to build a bond forever and have a well trained dog, its more like 8 years of hard work and bond building. Once you know what your doing keep applying it daily, re training the things you know to build on and further your relationship. Keep the basics in every training session you do, and apply it to real life.

Invest in your education, to better your future together.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Rewarding or Releasing Behaviour in Dog Training?

A basic mistake in dog training I think all dog owners have made is to reward a dog too early, and accidentally release it from what your doing.  A common and good example I see is on the recall. The owner is calling their dog back, and as the dog is running towards them they shout, “GOOD DOG”, and the dog then runs off in the opposite direction, leaving a very frustrated owner (By now screaming “COME HERE POPPY!!!”) and a happy dog thinking it has done the right thing.

Here is what is going on, so when we get any dog, be that a puppy or a rescue we always start training in some way. Mainly it is the sit, we get them to sit then reward them with the “Good Dog”, then allow them to get up for a fuss, or walk away from what you’re doing. Releasing them from the exercise. You are telling the dog they are doing it right, so creating a learned behaviour, you are also accidentally teaching them that that combination of words means you’re finished now. This comes in to play a problem as the dog is off lead more or working away from the owners even in the home. When your dog is not directly focusing on you for one to one training and is distracted by the environment it is most certainly going to be seeing the “Good Dog” as a release word in order to do what they want, as well as please you. We see it as encouragement as that is how we interpret it.

We are the teachers of our dogs, and we need to get into their head a little bit and understand how they understand us.

Efficient and reliable dog training for any command requires you to put in the basics, and the mechanics for all the training. A good reward word, a good encouragement word/voice, and an actual release word.

To combat the reward word becoming a release, keep repeating the word along side the command. An example would be “Sit, Gooood Dog, Sit, Gooood Dog”, rewarding with longer words than short sounds are slightly less exciting, and less likely to pull the dog out of the position you want them in. Reward them for staying where they are. This elongation of words allows you to encourage the right behaviour from your dog, rather than them moving off every 10 seconds and you becoming frustrated. I sometimes also use a separate encouragement word such as “GoGo” to help maintain a behaviour at speed, like a recall. I am not releasing them from what were doing, but instead encouraging it.

An actual release word should be taught during training and is easy to teach. I do some basic training, such as the sit or down, and once I want the dog to be released from this training. I use a word such as “Ok” and walk away from the dog or throw a treat/toy for the dog to play with away from what they were doing. Do this for short time periods, then build it up over time. It is important that you allow the dog to do what it wants during these periods of time, and call them to re engage when your ready for them. What you are creating is a taught release, so the dog waits for you to release them instead of them deciding to move away. The release command is a consistent signal that you have finished training/focusing, the dog can do what they want. This can be used for training, or on normal walks where when you are walking throw in the “Ok” to allow the dog to sniff the grass, greet another dog or walk away off lead. If your dog doesn’t want to, then they don’t have to.

What I have found both as a professional, and as a dog owner myself that the power of being consistent to these words training has a massive impact not only on your dog, but also on the way you interact with your dog daily. Giving you the empowerment to head into situations and know how to continue your training, and know your dog is focusing on you for the time you need. It greatly improves recall, and focus around other dogs for some dogs.

This blog post is a little intro into the difference and training, rather than a full on guide. Its easier to show the training, then write it down. It is hopefully going to make your think about what your dog might actually know, rather than what you think it knows, or thinks about the words you are saying. No dog is too old to learn the difference between the release word and reward. Rewarding a dog is easy, but pin pointing the right behaviour is hard as dogs behaviour changes from second to second. Consistency is key, and always being 100% sure in your head what behaviour you are rewarding, as well as aiming for as an outcome.

In summary, use a word to reward and encourage the right behaviour, and teach a release word to end the training or interaction, an off the dog a way to do what they want to do. Think dog, and think human. No one wants to, or can focus all the time. Why should your dog?

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB


A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour