Dog training

Dog training is the process of teaching a dog to demonstrate desirable behavior under given conditions.

Several examples include the following:

* Teaching a dog basic obedience commands (as part of obedience training) * Teaching a dog to perform tricks casually or for circus acts * Teaching a guide dog to lead the blind * Teaching a rescue dog to locate victims of a disaster

While the precise behaviors taught in each example vary, the core principles remain consistent.

Canines have innate instincts that favor training in the wild as pack animals. When a dog lives with people, these instincts show as a desire to please a handler, much as a dog would please senior members of a pack in the wild. The handler is simply whoever is currently working with a dog.

Fundamental training

Most dogs, regardless of their final advanced training or intended purpose, live with people and must thus behave in a manner that is enjoyable to be around as well as safe for themselves and other people and pets. Basic obedience is not something that dogs learn on their own; it must be taught.

Classes in fundamental training

Professional “dog trainers” typically do not train the dogs themselves, but rather teach owners how to train their own.

While it is feasible to send a dog to a training school, the owner must eventually learn what the dog has learned and how to use and reinforce what the dog has learned.

Owners and their dogs attending class together have the opportunity to learn more about one another and how to cooperate cooperatively under the guidance of a trainer.

Training is most effective when all individuals who interact with the dog participate in order to ensure consistent commands, methods, and enforcement.

Formal training in classes is not always available until the puppy has received all of its vaccinations, around the age of four months; however, some trainers offer puppy socialization classes in which puppies can enroll immediately after being placed in their permanent homes, as long as disease risk is low and the puppies have received their initial vaccinations.

Generally, basic training sessions accept puppies that are at least three to six months old.

Dog training begins almost immediately after birth.

Dogs who are often handled and patted by humans during their first eight weeks of life are generally far more receptive to training and living in human households.

Puppies should ideally be placed in their permanent homes between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks. In several states, it is illegal to separate puppies from their moms before the age of eight weeks.

Prior to this age, puppies continue to absorb an incredible amount of socialization skills from their mother.

Puppies are innately scared of new things between the ages of 10 and 12 weeks, making it more difficult for them to adjust to a new environment.

Puppies can begin learning tricks and orders as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age; the pup’s stamina, focus, and physical coordination are the only constraints.

It is far easier to live with puppies that have already mastered basic commands such as sitting.

Waiting until the puppy is significantly bigger and larger and has already developed negative behaviors makes training significantly more difficult.

Certain professional trainers, notably those who teach working dogs, detection dogs, and police dogs, are opposed to this notion.

They believe that obedience training should begin when the dog reaches the age of a year or after the prey drive has fully evolved.

Additionally, many trainers believe that spaying and neutering are detrimental to the training process, due to their negative effect on the dog’s predatory drive.


Dog training is fundamentally about communicating.

From a human standpoint, the handler is signaling to the dog whether behaviors are appropriate, wanted, or preferred in which conditions.

From the canine’s perspective, the handler must convey which activities will satisfy the dog’s basic instincts and emotions the most. Without this inner fulfillment, a dog will not perform well.

A successful handler must also comprehend the dog’s communication with the handler. The dog can communicate that he is uncertain, perplexed, nervous, joyful, or excited, among other emotions.

The dog’s emotional state is critical while directing the training, as a worried or preoccupied canine will not learn properly.

According to Learning Theory, the handler can convey the dog four critical messages:

  • Reward or indicator of release

Proper behavior. You’ve earned a prize. For instance, “Free” followed by a benefit.

  • Bridge

Proper behavior. Continue to the next step and you will win a reward. For instance, “Excellent.”

  • There is no reward indicator.

Inappropriate behavior.

Consider another option. For instance, “Uh-oh” or “Retry.”

  • Punishment identifier

Inappropriate behavior. You have deserved to be punished. For instance, “No.”


Consistent signals or words assist the dog to comprehend these messages more rapidly.

If the handler uses “good” as a reward marker and as a bridge, the dog will have difficulty determining when he has received a reward.

Treats, play, praise, or anything else that the dog finds pleasurable can be used as rewards.

Failure to reward following the reward marker reduces the value of the reward marker and complicates training.

These four messages do not have to be conveyed verbally; nonverbal cues are frequently used.

Mechanical clickers, in particular, are commonly utilized as a reward marker.

Hand signals and body language also play a significant role in dog learning.

Generally, dogs do not readily generalize commands; that is, a dog that has learned a command in one location and context may not quickly recognize it in other situations.

A dog that understands how to “down” in the living room may be completely perplexed when requested to “down” at the park or in the automobile.

Each new circumstance will necessitate re-teaching the command.

This is frequently referred to as “cross-contextualization,” as the dog is required to use what it has learned in a variety of different circumstances.


The majority of training is focused on enforcing consequences for the dog’s behavior with the intention of influencing future behavior.

Operant conditioning identifies four distinct sorts of outcomes:

Positive reinforcement modifies the situation in order to improve the likelihood of the behavior being repeated (for example, giving a dog a treat when he sits.)

Negative reinforcement removes something from the circumstance in order to improve the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated (for example, releasing the tension on an uncomfortable training collar when the dog stops pulling on the leash).

  • Positive punishment adds something to the situation that reduces the likelihood of the behavior occurring again (for example, growling at a misbehaving dog).
  • Negative punishment removes something from the circumstance in order to reduce the likelihood of the behavior occurring again (for example, walking away from a dog who jumps up).

The majority of contemporary trainers refer to themselves as using “positive training methods,” which is a different definition of the term “positive” than that used in operant conditioning.

“Positive training methods” often refer to the preference for reward-based training to improve desirable behavior over physical punishment to reduce undesirable conduct.

A good trainer, on the other hand, knows all four strategies, regardless of whether she can articulate them using operant-conditioning terminology, and uses them appropriately for the dog, the breed, the handler, and the scenario.


Positive reinforcers can be anything the dog finds pleasurable – special food treats, the opportunity to play with a tug toy, social interaction with other dogs, or even the owner’s attention. The more rewarding a dog finds a specific reinforcer, the more effort he is willing to exert to receive it.

Certain trainers go through a process of instilling a puppy’s high desire for a particular item in order to increase the toy’s effectiveness as a positive reinforcer for appropriate behavior.

This is referred to as “developing prey drive,” and it is a technique that is frequently employed in the training of Narcotics Detection and Police Service dogs. The objective is to breed a dog capable of working alone for extended periods of time.

While some trainers feel the toy acts as a positive reinforcer for the desired behavior, the prey drive almost certainly operates on a different level than conventional training and conditioning procedures.

This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that positive reinforcers lose their effectiveness when they are given every time a dog performs the desired action; the more predictable the reinforcer, the less reliable the behavior.

However, detection dogs perform best when they are constantly rewarded with a toy whenever they locate narcotics, explosives, or other contraband.

This discrepancy exists because when a dog is trained using the prey drive, the training initiates an innate, automatic sequence that must be completed for the dog to feel fulfilled.

The order is as follows: search, eyestalk, chase, grab-bite, and kill bite.

Thus, when a dog looks for and discovers drugs or explosives, he believes his mission is not complete until he can bite something.

This is the key reason he is constantly presented with the toy.

This is not a true positive reinforcer. If such were the case, it would erode the behavior’s overall reliability.

It’s a way for the dog to complete the predatory sequence.


“Positive punishment” is arguably the least frequently utilized consequence by modern dog trainers, as it must be handled with extreme caution.

Generally, this sort of punishment is reserved for dogs that willfully violate their master.

Not only is punishing a dog that does not understand what is being asked of him unjustly, but it can also make the dog scared or hesitant to work.

Punishments are only given in accordance with the dog’s personality, age, and experience.

While a firm No works for many dogs, other dogs exhibit fear or anxiety in response to harsh verbal corrections.

On the other hand, some dogs with ‘harder’ temperaments may disregard a verbal rebuke and may respond best to physical punishment such as a fast tug on a training collar.

Trainers often advise against using hands to threaten or hurt the dog; if hands are used to threaten or hurt, some dogs may develop defensive behaviors when stroked or handled.

Keeping away from punishment

Keeping a puppy on a leash in difficult situations and in his box or pen when not closely observed avoids the puppy from getting into situations that would otherwise draw a harsh reaction from the owner (such as chewing up a favorite pair of shoes).

When commanding a dog, the most effective voice is one that is calm, firm, and authoritative.

Dogs do not respond well to timid, begging tones or to yelling, which the dog may interpret as menacing barking or scolding.

Additionally, it is critical that the command word and voice tone are constant each time the command is delivered so that the dog may more quickly understand what the owner means

(siiiiiiiiiiiit does not sound the same as sit, for example).

By prefacing a command with the puppy’s name, you ensure that the dog understands that a command is coming, that it is for him (rather than for other dogs, children, or humans), and that he should pay attention.

This is critical because dogs hear a great deal of human speech that is irrelevant to them, and it is simple for them to overlook commands in the midst of the babble.

To reinforce the command, the dog is always rewarded or reinforced (praise and, typically, a treat or toy) for correctly doing the action.

  • This teaches the dog that he has done something excellent.

Not all dogs are trained to respond to verbal commands.

Many working dog breeds are not taught to respond to spoken commands at all; instead, they are taught to respond to a combination of whistles and hand signals.

  • Dogs that are deaf are perfectly capable of learning to heed visual signals on their own.

In addition to speech signals, many obedience classes teach hand signs for common orders; these signals can be effective in quiet conditions, at a distance, and in advanced obedience competitions.

The precise command words are irrelevant; nonetheless, frequent English words include sit, down, come, and stay.

Short, simple words that are easily understood by other humans are normally suggested; this ensures that people understand what the handler is instructing his dog to do and that other handlers have a fair chance of managing another handler’s dog if necessary.

Indeed, dogs may be taught commands in any language or any mode of communication, including whistles, mouth sounds, and hand gestures.


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