Updated: Jul 10
Consistency goes far beyond repeating the same thing over and over again. In order to be consistent, you have to improve communication and handling skills on a daily basis and with every interaction you have with your dog! This means focusing and refining human skills! The more consistent you can be, the more predictable interactions become to your dog, resulting in a more successful response rate.
Owner follow through without frustration, aggravation, and disappointment is one of the biggest challenges in dog training!
Need to get back on track, or improve your game? Here are some concepts to improve the human side of dog training:
1. Pre-select which commands to use for specific behaviors.
Some people may use “here” for a recall, others use “come”. Owners may use “down” to stop the dog from jumping up whereas others use “off”. People confuse the difference between “stay” and “wait” on a regular basis.
Want to keep your dog from losing their mind? Make sure to make a list and define which commands go with specific behaviors. Inform friends, family members, and any pet professionals as to which commands you use in order to limit confusion.
Sit = put your butt on the ground
Touch = bump your nose to my hand
Stay = remain in position for increased length of time while I move around
Come = strop what you’re doing, pay attention, move, and arrive in front of me
Leave It = disengage and walk away.
2. Keep your tone of voice the same.
Many owners will say a command the same way a few times, but then escalate whenfrustration sets in. Changing the tone, cadence, and pitch will confuse the dog. Yes, as humans, we have inflection - but as soon as the command sounds different, your dog will be baffled. Say commands in a calm and natural tone - and stick with it!
3. Keeping commands to the same number of syllables.
Similar to change in tone, owners will stretch, shorten, or alter words based on their level of excitement, frustration, or approval. An owner who is encouraging may lengthen the “down” command to sound like “doooown” while the dog is learning, but switch to a shorter version later on. This can confuse the dog as the words sound completely different. The same goes with “come” versus “come here”, or “Fido come here right now”. Pick one way of saying the command and stick with it. If your dog’s response is less than desirable, then the behavior may need some more practice or trouble shooting to get the results you want.
4. Dogs are better visual than auditory learners…
Which is why the majority of behaviors are taught using both a vocal and visual cue. Ensure to keep hand signals consistent as well - do you list your finger up or the whole hand for “sit”? Do you hold your hand out for “stay” or just show your dog a flat palm for a second before lowering it? Do you have a visual command for each behavior?
5. Do not reward commands for which the dog has performed the wrong behavior.
Owners will eagerly give treats, praise, and attention to their dogs “just for doing something”. If the owner ask the dog to “sit”, but then the dog lays down, it is vital to NOT reinforce the wrong response.
By rewarding for incorrect associations you are simply confusing the dog and potentially creating a frustrating situation in which your dog will throw any behavior at a command. Want to refine those skills? Simply reward your dog for every correct behavior association to a command and stop rewarding your dog for making the wrong decision.Using a short 10 second time-out from training will further help your dog discriminate between a correct and incorrect performance.
6. The Other End of the Leash
Success in training does not just depend on the dog - the owner must be clear, concise, and act with purpose in order for the dog to get it right.
When working with your dog, you will need to practice your own handling skills. This includes: how you hold the leash, how you handle rewards, how you enforce corrections - how you give hand signals, etc. Holding yourself accountable for the skills learned during training will be what sets you apart from other owners. Keep in mind - the dog can only perform as well as the handler can communicate. Understanding consistency and follow through can drastically impact your relationship with your dog.
THINGS TO CONSIDER!
⚠️ There is no place for emotions in dog training; unless, you are celebrating of course! If you feel frustrated, agitated, overwhelmed, or you just don’t
feel like it - use management, take a break, or come back to it at another time! Even dogs have "off" days!
⚠️ Don’t nag others for “doing it wrong”! Help one another by focusing on just one thing to improve at a time!
⚠️ Be mindful so you can work on your timing! Try staying ahead of the dog, and even consider giving commands 1-2 seconds faster than you would normally anticipate.
⚠️ Fast timing vs. fast movement are two different things! Your timing has to be great - which means on time! This does not mean your movements need to become more aggressive or volatile! Your body language is your dog's most useful tool! Take actions with purpose, intent, and ensure you are calm and confident in your interactions.