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Training - So where does it go wrong?

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By Sue Williams Bsc, GODT(MT), MCFBA, Chairwoman Guild of Dog Trainers 7 January 2015

I was really chuffed this week after reading a letter sent in by a lady in the January edition of Dogs Monthly magazine. I write feature articles on all aspects of training and am the expert advisor on training and breeding for the magazine. The reader praises my training series ‘Science Led Dog Training’ which was inspired by my popular dog training DVD ‘Science Led Dog Training’.

She says ’ I love the step by step instructions with the distinct and informative photographs of Sue and her beautiful dog, Sky. But the thing that really stands out for me is the fact that most of the training is being done outside, in the real world- not a hall, or confined to the living room’

I was delighted by the positive feedback and it really got me thinking about how and where I train my own dogs. People often seek my help with dogs that perform really well in training class scenarios but once they get home act as though they have never been taught anything. Understandably their owners feel very frustrated because many of the dogs have actually passed tests and won awards in class.

So where does it go wrong?

I view training as ongoing not as something I do at a set time in a set place i.e. a regular dog training class. Don’t get me wrong I do go out with the objective of teaching my dog something. However, I realise that Kali for example like every dog, is learning all the time and every interaction i have with her involves a sharing of giving and receiving information whether that information is conscious or not. In fact the training that occurs in non training sessions is almost more important .It’s imperative that we are consistent in giving our dogs the right messages all the time. It is an easy mistake to relax training and allow behaviours in the home environment where training takes on an informal and more relaxed approach. How easy is it to give in to those appealing eyes begging for food at the table or the wagging tail or bark demanding you play a game?!

Much of Kali’s early training has taken place whilst ive been away touring with my dog display team or llama team. The show grounds have presented ideal high distraction environments, lots of people, dogs and noise. I have used this opportunity to combine socialisation with real world training.

Many dog trainers often talk about initial training with no or few distractions and then building them in gradually. Personally, although I agree in part, I don’t place importance on that philosophy, because real life presents many distractions most of which we can’t predict or control. Therefore by training in all situations I can easily teach a young puppy to focus on me and ignore distractions. As a result as the puppy grows up it will understanding to react appropriately to my commands in all environments regardless of distractions .

Puppy and dog training classes play an important role in the training of your pet. However, remember it is vital that you transfer the knowledge and skills learnt in the classes to the outside world.

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