How do I solve my dog’s issues as quickly as possible?
Some issues can be resolved quickly. Others may take weeks, months, or years. There is no magic bullet, and every dog and every situation is different. However, repetition and consistency with your training plan will ensure things go as quickly and smoothly as they possibly can.
Of course, people want their dogs to improve as quickly as possible. When people expect their dogs to “get it” right away, however, this can cause some tensions and issues, putting unnecessary and unhelpful stress on humans, dogs, and trainers.
This expectation arises from a misunderstanding (or ignorance) about how dogs learn. Dogs learn primarily through association in a very straightforward way. Examples would be: sit = treat, or walk with no pulling = treats and movement. However, an example of what DOESN’T work would be: pee in house = newspaper smack on the snout.
Why doesn’t this work? Because it is too abstract for a dog, even if it is obvious to us. The dog may associate the newspaper smack to just the presence of waste and not the actual act. They may associate it with another person who just walked into the room at the same time (“That person walked in right as I got smacked, so that must mean person = pain”), some bad weather outside, a particular room or spot, or pretty much anything else. Even if they were to be caught in the act and smacked, they may just think you don’t want them peeing in that one particular spot, so they may try another and another.
All in all, it is easy to see why the connection is not made.
1) It is not literal enough. Even catching them in the act has too much room for abstraction.
2) Dogs learn better when they are shown what TO do, instead of what NOT TO do.
This brings us to the second point, which is that dogs (and people!) learn best when they are shown what to do instead of what not to do. The word “No” does not provide any actionable content for a dog. It is basically meaningless to them. A dog can’t “do no”, but they can “do” an action that you show them.
A dog that is rewarded heavily every time they do to the bathroom outside and gets absolutely nothing when they go inside will quickly associate going outside every time with treats and praise. They have been shown what you are looking for in a very straightforward way, and understand what you want them to do.
So, if you want to help your dog work through their issues as quickly as possible, you should:
1) Be patient
2) Be consistent
3) Practice and repeat often
4) Show them what you want them to do
5) Reward for good behavior, ignore unwanted behavior
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