Because the relationship between a dog and its owner is so important, the best person to train your dog is you. But first you need to understand how to communicate with them. As we all know we speak human and they speak dog. We are primates and they are canines. On the other side of the communication coin is that we also need to understand how dogs communicate using their bodies and vocal tones. In addition, we need to understand what they are physically capable of doing and of course we need to understand what motivates them.

To motivate a dog to do something it is physically capable of doing we need to accept that dogs are a predator and an opportunist and every behavior they display is designed to support their survival. There are millions of dogs in the world. Biologists consider the canine species, because of their numbers, to be hugely successful. There are more dogs than wolves and there are more dogs than almost any other animal so domestication has been critical to their success as a species. Yet domestication means dogs rely on us for much of their needs. We humans are in a position of control and power and we are necessary for the ongoing wellbeing and survival of dogs.

If we put all of this together then the only thing stopping us from training dogs to do something they are physically capable of doing is the training mechanics used and our personal training approach and methodology. As with everything else in life, there are many ways to train dogs ranging from whatever the current fad is to scientifically researched and proven techniques. Methods range in their effectiveness as well. Some methods are inhumane, cruel and abusive while others are just plain ineffective.

Having spent considerable time researching and studying psychology while working with pet dogs and their owners, I believe that dogs learn in two ways. The first way dogs learn is from their environment. Dogs are constantly learning on a daily basis in and around the home, whether supervised or not, at the dog park, at their day care or when they are out and about with their owners. Dogs do what works for them and what brings them rewards in their daily life. It is not hard to imagine how dogs pick up and develop unwanted behaviors when owners unknowingly reinforce their dog’s undesirable behaviors (for example if you let your dog go outside after it scratches at the door).

The other way dogs learn is in a formalized learning environment such as a dog training class or during periods when you specifically work with your dog to train them on a particular skill or task. Formal classes actively involve the dog in the learning process.

A dog’s behavior results from three critical and key components – Management of the dog and their environment, training the dog and the relationship that an owner and their pet dog share. It would be pointless to invest in dog obedience classes with a pet dog if the dog is then left unsupervised to pick up bad habits from its environment (such as getting into the kitchen trash). Alternatively, it is not possible to train and manage a dog’s environment correctly if the relationship between dog and owner is lacking trust and mutual respect.

When training dogs we need to ensure that they are actively involved in the learning process. When the dog is actively participating, rather than passively observing, greater learning takes place. This applies to both the dog and its owner. Newly acquired skills need to be repeated frequently in a variety of contexts to ensure they are fully learned. This means the skills you and your dog learn will be effective in and around your home and out and about town. When practicing new behaviors frequent repetition in various scenarios ensures the skill is truly ‘owned’ so the dog can not only generalize its behaviors in new situations but can also discriminate when appropriate.

Most importantly when training your dog remember to positively reinforce correct behaviors. Rewards for accomplishing skills successfully are an effective method to ensure learning takes place. Rewards used when you begin training, such as food and toys, can be quickly replaced by life rewards, such as attention and petting.

When embarking on teaching your dog a new skill there should be clearly defined and attainable objectives. With clear objectives you can easily recognize when a particular skill has been mastered.

I do not condone or use harsh corrective training methods because the results they produce are unpredictable and usually lead to more severe behaviors and can destroy the relationship you have with your pet.

For more information on the DogSmith MTR © and ARRF© Training philosophy and methodology you can contact the DogSmith Training Center at 1-888-Dog-Smith or to find a local DogSmith visit

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