Dogs are trained the same way as human beings are trained. If you want to train another person, you basically are left with rewards and punishments. The bottom line? We are all, bipeds or four legged creatures, flock to pleasurable things and activities and try to avoid pain like the plague.
Please understand that all creatures basically respond to pain or pleasure. This is not rocket science, nor is it brain surgery.
If you think about it, which would you rather have? Would you rather have a plateful of Snickers bars, Reese’s Pieces and M&M candies, or would you like a nice jug of vinegar? Take your pick. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, chances are, you are probably going to take the bowl of candy.
Well, you’re not alone. This applies across species as well. We tend to run to pleasure and try to avoid, as much as we can, pain or the things that we think cause pain.
You have to keep that in mind when it comes to training. With human beings, the most common form of training is the law.
You have to understand that a law can be expressed in one of two ways. It can say that you “should” do this, you “shall” do this, or you “will do this,” or it would say you “shouldn’t” do this, and if you did, this is the punishment.
Well, guess what? Most of the time, the laws are expressed in the negative. You only need to look at the US Constitution to see this in effect. It generally doesn’t talk about what the government should do, but it focuses more on what the state cannot do.
The idea is that when people do something, they get penalized. They get a disincentive.
Pretty soon, they associate certain behaviors with certain penalties. This association is the foundation or the bedrock of any kind of training. Whether you are using rewards or punishments, once you create an association in the mind of the person you’re training between their behavior and some sort of outcome, you are more likely to either repeat that behavior or kill that behavior.
We all have associations already in our heads. They already exist. If you think hard about it, a lot of the struggles you have in your life can be traced to your attitude regarding situations and people. Where do you think these associations came from? That’s right-training. These did not come out of nowhere.
When we go through something and something good happens, we create positive associations. When something bad or painful happens, the opposite happens. These add up and before we know it, whether we are aware of it or not and whether we can verbalize it or not, these associations end up running our lives.
Associations are powerful.
What happens next? Well, when there’s pain involved, we’re more likely to run away from it, and we are also more likely not to do it again.
Again, this is a fairly basic, straightforward principle. We run towards pleasure and we run away from pain.
The same applies to your four-legged companion. Your dog obviously doesn’t speak the same language as you, but it definitely has the same wiring as far as rewards and punishments go. This is why it’s really important to understand the use of treats.
You have to use treats that are so appealing to your dog that they just can’t seem to get enough of it. They seem addicted to it. That’s the kind of treat you should use when you’re training your dog.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of training you’re putting it through. Maybe you’re trying to teach it to sit on command, maybe you are trying to train it to come on command, or you’re training to do fancy tricks. It doesn’t really matter.
Because when you choose the right treats, your dog will operate on two levels. First of all, it would desire that treat above everything else because this treat, to your dog, is the best thing since sliced bread. It just can’t enough of it. It’s amazing, and it wants more and more.
But the next thing that happens is that your dog starts thinking that going without that treat is the worst thing in the world. That’s right. That treat, in addition to being a reward, can also be a punishment.
Well, put more specifically, the absence of that treat can be a punishment. Do you see how this works?
Well, once those two associations are made in the brain of your dog, you have a very powerful training device in the palm of your hands. You can use the award of the treat to train your dog, and then withhold that treat to punish your dog.
Of course, dogs are like human beings. They want to run towards pleasure and try to avoid pain. Keep this in mind because when you start to get your dog to do what you want it to do, you can always fine tune.
Let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement. So, try to withhold the treat until your dog gets it perfectly right.
You also have to use this pleasure and punishment mix when getting your dog to do something on time. It takes quite a bit of doing, but it is a very powerful way of getting your dog to do what you want it to do.
It’s not really that mysterious, nor is it that particularly hard. You just have to have the right mindset for it. You have to be consistent.
Don’t think that one day you can wake up and throw some treats around and all of a sudden, somehow, some way, your dog is trained. It doesn’t work that way. Get that idea out of your head.
Training a dog is a commitment. It’s something you have to dedicate yourself to.
The good news is that if you’re using the right kind of treat, your dog will be trained sooner rather than later. It doesn’t have to take forever.