If I had a dollar for everytime one of my clients asked, “How do you make it look so easy?” – I would be in a different industry by now. But it’s a valid question. How do professional trainers make it look so easy? Oftentimes, the answer lies somewhere between years of experience, and education, but that’s not always the case. There are tricks.
Here are some simple things you can do to improve your relationship with your dog.
1.) Achievable Goals: Each time you interact with your dog, you are teaching it something, positive or negative. Remember that, and have a goal to accomplish with every training session. All advanced training is built on small building blocks that shape complex behaviors. If you want to have an obedient dog off-leash, start with an obedient dog on-leash. Professional trainers know how to set goals and create a curriculum to make your training successful – but there’s nothing to stop you from creating your own curriculum, based on the goals that you have for your dog.
2.) Train Yourself: The internet is an open door to education, and a lot of it is free. For meatier topics, including theory, psychology, and methodology we reccomend books, like Karen Pryor’s Reaching the Animal Mind, the Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and the now infamous Monk’s of New Skete’s (revised) book on puppy training, The Art of Raising a Puppy. Most professional trainers have industry experience on their side: they interact with so many dogs, that recognizing patterns in dog behavior becomes second nature. They read hundreds of dogs and can quickly tell what type of training your dog needs: but that doesn’t mean they don’t also read books. The importance of training guides, emerging research, and classroom studies should not be underestimated.
3.) Know Your Dog, Know Yourself: Is your dog afraid of loud noises? Are you impatient, or a perfectionist? In the beginning, keep your training sessions short, fun, and productive, and set your dog up to succeed by training in the safest, most comfortable environment possible. As the two of you advance, you can start adding more distractions and obstacles. Professional trainers have a broad expertise on dog behavior, but you know your dog the best. Use that to your advantage, especially if you have decided to undertake the task of training alone.
4.) Use the right tools: There is an expression, a carpenter is only as good as his tools, and in a way, that is true. Can you train with cheap leashes, and flimsy collars? Yes, but you shouldn’t. Cheap equipment breaks, often at the worst possible time (ask me how I know.) At the very least, we recommend a correctly-fit training collar and a Quality Training Lead. The extra money spent on quality gear will not only look better, but will last much longer.
5.) Train Often: The ultimate secret to dog training, is consistency, constantly. The reason that working with a professional often produces better results is not inherently that you are working with a professional — but that you are working. Professional trainers work their dogs often – weekly, or more. They produce snappy, flashy obedience, in part due to skill, but largely because they are always working. If you want a well-trained dog, the best thing you can do is start training! Have a goal, and work toward that goal constantly, and you will get results.