The Art of Training a Puppy
Training is not just about teaching your puppy to obey commands; there is an art to bringing out the best in your dog through training. Training techniques can be used to teach your puppy skills she can use for self discipline -- important for when you are not around to directly observe her behavior -- as well as for bringing out the best in her personality and the potential that is inherent in her breed.
Why do we refer to training as an art? Because through this process, you are raising a dog that can be trusted to respond predictably to any command or situation, responds confidently and without fear to your commands, and is a joy for you and others to be around. A dog that has had the benefit of being artfully trained is a happy and well adjusted dog that is welcome in any environment where dogs are allowed.
Being able to obey simple commands such as “heel,” “sit,” “come,” “stay” and “down” is not the only basis for rating the success of a puppy’s training. She may be able to obey every single command, but if she is doing it out of fear, then her training has not been a true success. You have raised an obedient but unhappy puppy that fears you, and who will respond fearfully, perhaps even aggressively, to other humans and animals.
Building Confidence is Key
Begin your training with an attitude toward building your puppy’s confidence -- both in her ability to do well, and in her ability to trust you. Of course your puppy must be obedient, otherwise a simple trip to the dog park will turn into a nightmare, but obedience begins with an honest desire to please. A dog that is confident and without fear is happy and eager to obey her trusted master.
Some people actually believe that dogs have a natural instinct to please humans, but this is not altogether true. This kind of attitude is not something that a puppy is born with, nor is it something that can be achieved overnight. Just as with human behavior, a puppy will please others because it benefits her directly to do so. Whether it is because she is receiving training treats -- an important part of the training process -- or because she is reveling in the personal attention and praise from you, she is responding in the ways you want her to because she is being rewarded for doing so.
While training your puppy, you should make it obvious both when you are pleased and when you are displeased with her response. There should not be any confusion on her part. Pleasure can be shown by using enthusiastic and encouraging words, such as “good girl” or “good dog” along with a pat on the head. Most trainers use training treats along with praise, but as the puppy grows older, treats may be gradually downplayed in favor of encouraging the dog to respond for the simple desire of pleasing you. In any case, always reward the dog with verbal and physical praise. Dogs respond best to real and open affection.
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