We are back with more answers about dog training and obedience from Joanne Lekas, owner/operator of Happy Dog Behavior Training out of Waltham, MA.
Mrs. G: Joanne, what is the biggest training mistake that humans make when training or interacting with their dog?
Joanne: Well, the first that comes to mind is speaking to your new puppy in English and expecting him to understand what you want him to do. Looking at him saying, “Sit, Sit, Sit,” will not teach him how to sit.
You must get the behavior first, usually with a food lure, and once you are predictably getting the behavior, THEN add the command just before the behavior happens. Being consistent with this order of things will ensure that your pup will get the connection between the action and the command that goes with it.
The second biggest mistake is ignoring your puppy when he is being good and providing all kinds of attention (even negative) when he is doing things that you don’t want him to do. Reward spontaneous acts of good behavior and these are the behaviors that your puppy will soon chose to do on his own, without prompting from you.
Mrs. G.: How should one go about choosing a training venue?
Joanne: Whenever possible, use personal references and observe a class.
Mrs. G.: What if a dog owner cannot afford classes and/or cannot fit them into their schedule?
Joanne: Other good options are books, DVDs, dog training websites, YouTube and even some TV shows. Look for shows that use positive reinforcement training.
I’m happy to provide reading recommendations to anyone who wants to contact me.
Mrs. G.: What’s your favorite training experience?
Joanne: I love teaching puppy classes. Nothing is cuter than a room full of puppies playing. But mostly I love enlightening and helping new dog owners. It makes my day whenever I get an email telling me of a client’s good progress with their pups or telling me that things have improved since our session.
Mrs. G.: If you had one thing to say to dog owners about dog obedience, what would it be?
Joanne: Be patient and kind to your dog. Don’t try to try to train when you are tired or frustrated. Don’t get angry at your puppy. If you are feeling frustrated, take a break and play.
If he does something wrong, teach him what you want him to do instead. If your puppy isn’t responding to you, consider that you are probably working with too many distractions. Think about how you can make things easier for your pup by starting out in a quiet environment and moving into more distracting environments as they understand what is expected of them
Thanks, Joanne! This has been enlightening and very helpful to our readers.