Most responsible pet parents understand teaching a dog basic commands is important for the dog’s safety, and gives you better control of him. Certain breeds like guardian dogs, sled dogs, hounds, herding dogs, or terriers have a mind of their own and can be harder to train for some people who hasn’t established themselves as the dog’s leader. If you don’t have your dog’s attention and he won’t listen to you, training or controlling him will be difficult.
The Right Motivation
Few people will do a job for free, and our motivation is a paycheck. Praise makes you feel good about yourself, and lets you know you’re doing a good job. Like us, dogs also need a confidence booster that tells them their behavior is acceptable. When training a dog, praise may be enough for some, but most canines need an incentive that gets their attention so you can get them to focus on you and listen. They want to know what’s in it for them. Treats meet that requirement, but a reward isn’t always food. A favorite toy, a game of tug-of-war, or fetch works better for some dogs, especially ones with a high prey drive. Not all dogs like treats, but most dogs will respond to cooked chicken cut up into small bite size pieces. It’s a healthier treat than pieces of hot dogs, but if your dog loves hot dogs and you’re trying to get him to focus on you, use what works. Always give praise along with the treat after your dog has completed a command. Eventually, you want to stop giving treats, and your praise alone should be reward enough for your dog. If you have trouble getting your dog to listen, it means you aren’t offering him something rewarding enough. Dogs need a positive attention grabbing incentive. For well behaved dogs that know how to sit or heel and likes to meet people or other dogs, being able to greet a guest who just arrived, after the dog sits patiently while they enter the home, is a positive reward. Only give a reward and praise for acceptable behavior when your pet is calm.
Pay Attention to Distractions
Dogs live in our world where there are distractions around every corner. It can be hard to get your dog to focus on learning, or listening to basic commands, when there’s exciting things grabbing his attention, which makes it hard for him to listen to you. We can’t eliminate every distraction, but you can be understanding of what’s going on in your dog’s environment. If he’s excited seeing a squirrel, cat, rabbit, or kids running around yelling and having fun, give your dog a break. Canines can’t be expected to ignore what’s activated their prey drive any more than we can ignore the wailing siren of a firetruck whizzing past us. Whether you are training your dog, or he is a pro at performing commands, pay attention to what’s going on. Even well trained dogs can be distracted by what’s going on around them. It can become dangerous for the dog, however, if he bolts after another animal and ends up lost or runs in front of a car in his excitement. If you have trouble getting your dog’s attention, find a quieter area to work in when training. Most dogs have a harder time concentrating on you when outside, so start inside where you can control what’s going on. Once your dog has learned how to sit on command, then you can take him outside to begin working around more distractions while you continue to teach him to focus on you. Getting, and keeping, his attention is one way to keep your dog calm when he’s confronted with another dog when you have him out on a walk. Once your dog responds to your commands every time, reinforce it in different environments and situations whenever possible. This way he learns it’s his job to focus on you and not on distractions.
Make Sure Your Dog Understands What You Want
Give a treat immediately after your dog has complied with a command. Treat first, then give praise. The reward you use is how your dog learns to associate the treat with performing a command. If you don’t give him his reward immediately, he won’t understand it was given for doing what you asked. Border Collies may be at the top of the smartest dog list, but they can be easy or difficult to teach because they not only listen to your words, they watch your body language, as well. If you change your tone of voice or gesture in a different way after your BC has learned a command, he can become confused by what you are asking and thinks you’re trying to teach him a new command. Staying consistent with any dog, purebred or mixed, with your tone of voice and body language helps him learn commands. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same word or phrase for a command, tone of voice, and body language. Dog training requires people training, too.
Be Patient, Calm, and Understanding
Your dog isn’t ignoring you on purpose when he’s distracted by something else. Yelling won’t get your dog to listen, especially if an angry squirrel is sitting on a tree limb chattering at him, or he’s hot on the heels of a rabbit or other small animal. When you yell at your dog, in his view, you’re cheering him on, which only increases his desire to continue what he’s doing. That’s one reason why trying to stop a dog fight by yelling only ups the adrenalin of fighting dogs. If your pet ignores you, go to him and block his view so he can’t see what’s making him excited, then redirect his focus on your in a calm and quiet voice. Move him to a quieter area, or take him inside. To prevent dogs with a high prey drive from running after small animals, keep them on leash when not in a secured area. It’s harder to get a dog to focus if he isn’t feeling well. If he ignores you, he could be dealing with a hearing problem, and if he continues to ignore you, a trip to the vet would be recommended.
Keep training sessions short, fun, and positive. If either one of you become frustrated, it’s time to stop and try again later. Your dog can learn anything you want to teach him, including how to listen to you as long as you remain calm, consistent, and understanding. To earn your dog’s respect and trust, you have to respect him.
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