Despite the hope of all of us, there are very few quick fixes in life. If you want to lose weight, most fad diets won't help you long term. If you want to save money for the future, there's very little possibility of that happening overnight. If you want a well trained dog, you need to forget the notion of magic words and create good habits. Truly, making a change in your life is all about the reconfiguration of your habits. The power of habit is strong and with it, we can make immense changes to just about anything in life. The same is true of dog training. There is no magical solution. The person with the well trained dog who listens got there because they created habits to make sure the dog did. Creating good habits with your dog is a key component to getting to the point where you can call them well-trained.
So how do you make habit part of dog training? Glad you asked! Dogs definitely thrive on habit and consistency when it comes to rules. For example, if they know that eating their dinner is only an option once they are seated patiently and then released, they will have good manners at the food bowl. If your habit at mealtime is just to get the food down for the dog and your dog's habit is to get to the food as quickly as possible, you're likely to have an ill-behaved dog when it comes time for feeding.
If it's within your personality type to organize and plan your new habits, you're well ahead of the game by planning before you bring your puppy home. If you're more likely to fly by the seat of your pants, try making small changes and build on them overtime. So what habits should you create? That's entirely up to you. Find areas in your day-to-day life where you would like to see changes. Find things that suit your lifestyle for 'needs' and 'wants.'
'Needs' are things like:
- My dog MUST come when he's called
- My dog MUST be gentle with his teeth when tugging
'Wants' cover things like:
- I want my dog to lie quietly on his bed while we eat dinner
- I want my dog to greet my guests without jumping up
Then decide how you are going to make these things habit for both you and your dog. Now, the key is to make things manageable for yourself. Don't make a goal that's so immense that you won't see quick progress and will end up giving up. Make reasonable goals that will keep you coming back day after day. You'll be surprised how quickly things become habit and take almost no effort.
For example, you might teach your dog patience and manners by working a sit and wait at meal times. Since you have to feed them multiple times a day, this is a great way to train some emotional control. Or when you're out in the yard with your dog, get into the habit of calling their name and rewarding them for good responses. This will build value for turning on their name and it takes very little effort to get in multiple repetitions.
The key is to be consistent and remember that even if you're "not in the mood" to follow through, your dog needs the consistent information and teaching to build good behaviour.
Good habits will create success in your training. It takes very little time to get into a good habit and the benefit is amazing. So, as you're thinking about training your dog, think about the good habits that you can get into that will imporove your life and put those habits into play!
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