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Training mode is a hoax! Want to know why?
Think about this for a moment - training mode would be the time you strap on your bait pouch, get out your clicker and set out to train your dog. Okay, so we know that practise makes perfect, which means it is important to set out to train skills that you might not encounter in day-to-day life, but that can't be the only time you teach your dog. What about the rest of the time?
Dogs are Always Learning
Dogs are constantly learning! From the time they are born, they start learning from their environment. They figure where the comfortable spots are, where the heat is and they figure out a good source of food. As they grow and their senses become heightened, they learn from their littermates, from their mother and from their human caregivers. Their brains are fully developed by 7 weeks of age and have an nearly limitless capacity for knowledge. They learn about body language as they grow with their littermates and they learn about rules from their mothers.
Once they're old enough, they head off to their individual homes where they continue to learn. They learn what brings them value and they learn to avoid unpleasant things. Now here is the tricky part, because this is the point that we come in and upset the cart. We want them to fit into our world. A world where they can only chew certain things, where they shouldn't jump up on our guests and where they must come when they are called. So how do they learn all of that if you only teach them during "training mode," what happens the rest of the time? What happens when the doorbell rings unexpectedly and the puppy jumps on your guest? Do you allow it because it's not "training mode time?" No! You need to fix it - and truly, you need to know that EVERY moment is a good moment to train.
Dog Training Time is Only Part of the Equation
Dog training is not enough. It's only one half of the equation. There are two major facets to bringing up a well-mannered dog. The other, equally important thing is management. Management is all about controlling your environment and setting your dog up to have success. We are lucky to have many amazing management tools at our disposal. We can crate our dogs when we are at work or sleeping so that they don't have accidents in the house, or chew the baseboards or furniture. We can keep a leash on them so that when they have "puppy moments," we don't end up having to chase them down to stop them from running off with that pair of socks. Finally, we can use every day moments to reinforce good manners and good behaviour.
So often in classes, people ask us to help them with a problem, but they tend to limit the solution to "training mode time." For example, they want their dogs to come when called. Great! A good recall is really quite easy to teach. The hard part is dealing with distractions and the environment and making it consistently understood for your dog that coming when called is an ALL of the time thing. You can't let them ignore you when you aren't set up to train the recall. They'll only learn that it's optional. You must set up your scenario so that you can have success all of the time. That means limiting freedom and using a leash or long line whenever the dog is out of their crate.
If you want a dog who listens all of the time, you have to create that perfect scenario all of the time. Consider every moment of the day to be training mode time. Take the opportunities you get to reinforce good behaviour and stop bad behaviour. If you're set up for training mode all the time, your dog will learn to consistently listen and follow the rules all of the time.
As always, Happy Training!