Become a team to make training more successful

We have all heard the saying “It takes two to tango.” A dance with just one partner willing to learn the steps and follow the music is awkward, but when both partners are invested in learning and working together, the dance becomes fluid and natural.

The “dance” of dog training requires the same sort of teamwork. Most dogs are more than happy to work with their people, but they need partners who are willing to learn about training and follow a few basic principles. That sort of cooperation between dog and human helps build a solid partnership.

Here are six important tips to help you form a better team.

Set goals – You are far more likely to be successful at training if you set specific goals and keep track of your progress. It’s difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment when you’re not clear about what you have been working toward. Obedience trainers incorporate goals into the formal class structure, but if you are home schooling your dog, you will need to write up a specific schedule of training goals.

Work out the logistics before you begin training – Be prepared to train by gathering rewards and training aids before you begin. For instance, timing is critical when you are trying to teach a new behavior, so have your dog’s rewards ready to go in a treat bag or in your hand before you begin. This will help your dog connect the dots between cause and effect much quicker. Also, be sure to have any training aids that you might need, such as a long lead, treat bag or tennis ball. Being successful at training means being prepared.

Be consistent – No one works well when the rules are applied erratically. If you let your dog jump on you most days but reprimand him for jumping on you when you’re dressed up, there’s not much chance that he will figure out what you want from him. Good training happens when you think things through, develop a training plan and then stick to that plan consistently.

Be prepared to adjust your training methods – When you and your dog hit a snag in training, it’s helpful to have a few alternatives in your bag of tricks. Adjust your training style (get more animated, for instance), find a new way to motivate or try a different sort of reward. If your dog is having trouble understanding what you are trying to communicate, try adding hand signals to your verbal commands.

Remember that failure is learning, too – Your dog is learning a foreign language being taught by a completely different species. Give your dog a clear command and allow him time to respond. Trust that he will do his best. Be patient, and allow your dog to fail. This gives you the chance to teach your dog how to be more successful. Think of failure as a training opportunity.

Keep a positive attitude – Dogs are incredibly perceptive to our moods. By working to remain upbeat, you always will put a positive spin on your training methods. Keep it fun. This is as important for you as it is for your dog.

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” – Author unknown

Julie Winkelman is a certified pet dog trainer and a certified dog trainer. Reach her at

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