FunNature & AnimalThese are the 3 pillars of dog training science

These are the 3 pillars of dog training science

Good intentions and chaos

It could be that you are looking for information on how to start training your dog.

And almost certainly you are overwhelmed with the amount of information that is on the internet or you receive in the park about dog training.

Do I need a trainer, an educator or an ethologist?

If you are confused and lost before certain terminology or the exposition of different techniques.

Like yes, positive training, traditional, natural, friendly, behavioral, cognitive, instinctive, ethical training… and endless other terms that don’t leave you anything clear…

I invite you, in this article, to simplify and keep what is important, hand in hand with science.

What to do to train a dog?

The best thing you can do to train your dog is to learn first. I do not recommend that you improvise.

Improvising is what most people do when it comes to training their puppies, and they end up paying dearly in the end.

This is so, because modifying behaviors learned inappropriately is more laborious than teaching new behaviors from scratch.

Even, a large number of times, completely eliminating a learned behavior and never appear again is impossible.

What age is the ideal to train a dog?

This is a very common question among dog owners or guardians.

The best thing you can do to have an educated and happy dog is to start training as soon as possible. Even if you start before you bring him into the family, you’ll be saving valuable time.

This is because puppies grow at full speed and during their development there are times when depending on what you want to teach them, they can be a real sponge. Or, on the contrary, they might not be ready.

For this reason, it is convenient for you to know in advance what you can teach and ask for at any given time.

If you want to know more about when to start training your puppy or what to teach him at all times, I recommend you take a look at this very interesting article.

How to train a dog at home?

Obviously, having the guidance of a qualified professional when training your dog is a great advantage. But it does not exempt you from dedicating the time and effort necessary for the education of your dog in your day to day. You will have to train at home and during your walks.

Let science be with you

Both to choose a professional dog trainer, and to guide you when teaching your dog yourself, science has revealed 3 “must to” that you must ensure that they are present . Make sure of that and you’ll be on the right track.

  1. Train based on positive reinforcement: Science has shown that there is an association between the use of aversive training techniques and behavioral problems such as aggression towards the family or anxiety.
    Training your dog based on desirable goals and rewards not only works consistently, but also minimizes the risk that your dog associates negative feelings with everyday situations or with your presence.

    What is considered positive reinforcement?
    A positive reinforcement is one whose application favors the probability and the frequency with which a behavior appears. It’s basically adding something the dog likes. They can be verbal praise, desired caresses, play, attention and of course food.

  2. Consider your dog’s emotional state during training: science has taught us that our dogs’ emotions matter a lot when it comes to training them.
    The brain of our dogs is very similar in structure and biochemistry to ours. He is excited and feels. And it has been shown that a brain that gets excited will better remember what it has learned. Especially when the emotions are intense, like fear or joy.
    But because context plays a big role in learning, when your dog learns based on negative emotions, such as fear, he will tend to avoid situations and lose interest and curiosity in learning new things. You will be, in addition to generating discomfort and confusion in him, greatly limiting his learning potential.

    How to know if my dog has a positive mental state during training

    • is involved in training
    • Actively shows attention and desire
    • Your body language shows no signs of fear, aggression, or anxiety
    • Accept rewards willingly
  3. Individualize learning: if you know dogs, you will know that no two are alike. Obviously they are dogs, and therefore they share instinctive tendencies and bases. However, each individual is unique and will display a unique personality that will clearly set them apart from everyone else.
    This individuality must be considered when training and educating him, adapting the exercises and the rhythm of the sessions, as well as our own behavior towards the dog in front of us.

    How to know that I am going at the individual rhythm of my dog

    • Do not abuse training: in dogs it is true that less is more. It is preferable to leave him wanting to continue training than exhausted and wanting to abandon training.
    • Make an effort to maintain order : prepare the exercise that you will do in advance, as well as the levels of difficulty or steps in which you are going to divide them. Repeat each level or step 3-5 times and make sure he fully understands it before moving on to the next level. Don’t be afraid to go back, if you see him confused, insecure or unstable.

References

Bekoff, M. 2018. Canine Confidential. In Canine Confidential. University of Chicago Press.

Dodman, N. H. et al. 2018. Associations between owner personality and psychological status and the prevalence of canine behavior problems. PloS one, 13(2), e0192846.

Topál, J. et al. 1997. Dog-human relationship affects problem solving behavior in the dog. Anthrozoös, 10(4), 214-224.

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