Dog Training: Does Your Dog Suffer from Owner Impairment?

When dog training your dog, have you ever wondered why your dog might be slow to learn new commands? Does your dog show a “slow or no response” to a recall (come command) from the back yard when you’re in a hurry to leave the house or when calling your dog to you out of group play?

Has your dog got you thinking, “My dog can’t learn” or “He’s just not all there” or “He’s got one loose brick in the chimney!”

Before you go “blaming your dog,” have you ever considered that it might not be the dog training as much as your dog might be suffering from owner impairment?

Dog Training: Does Your Dog Suffer from Owner Impairment?

What is owner impairment?

In my 30 years of “owner training” there are numerous mistakes I see owners make that, if corrected, could drastically improve their dog’s training. Some mistakes can easily be corrected with teaching, while other owner issues have more to do with the owner’s personality.

Let’s take a look at 5 problem areas that could take you from “mistakes to mastering“   your dog’s training – starting with your personality.

Keep training fun and motivate your dog: Dog owners with a very conservative personality find it difficult to come “out of their shell” and animate themselves with their tone of voice and body language.

Your dog will focus on you much more if his perception is, “You’re fun!” Use short words like a fairly high-pitched and enthusiastic “Yes!” or “Good!” to praise your dog for a job well done but not to the point of distraction.

Try not to constantly pet your dog after each sit or down as physical petting tends to distract many dogs from their work.

Always remember that keeping your dog’s attention, especially around distractions,   requires excellent use of your tone of voice, eye contact and body language. That’s what really counts.

Practicing in the house will benefit you before you take your training to the streets for a better mannered dog outside. You, not the squirrels, need to be the center of his world.

Being able to light up your personality in this manner is as critical as implementing other good, sound dog training principles that can drastically improve your dog’s performance.

Remember, you want your dog to know that you “hung the moon” in his world. You want to be the center of his attention. That’s how you want him to look at you.

Train using high value food treats: Many dog owners just get treats off the shelf at a big box pet store that may be chocked full of artificial preservatives or boring milk bone cookies.  Using high value food treats is critical to keeping your dog’s attention – especially around distractions. Boring milk bone cookies that crumble and take time to eat just don’t cut it. They slow the training process down and may not work to keep your dog focused on his job at hand around distractions.

I’ve trained with fresh Pet Deli lamb loaf, fat free turkey hot dogs, grilled chicken and freeze-dried liver just to name a few. Any of these work well.

But just as important as using high value food treats to learn is properly weaning your dog off food treats.

Too many new puppy or dog owners continue to use food treats after their dog learns his commands. So how do you wean your dog off high value food treats? See my example below.

Example: Once your dog learns to sit (and this should only take a day or two) immediately begin to wean him off treats. You do that by continuing to praise every time he performs what you ask for, but begin treating every other time, every third, fourth and fifth time without him seeing the treat in your hand.

Continue to praise for a job well done and shift to toys as a reward – like a game of fetch or tug immediately after performing a half dozen repetitive sits and downs or right after a timed sit/stay.

You may have to briefly go back to using food treats when adding new distractions in your training environment or when training in new locations. You should be able to wean your dog off food treats more quickly because he already knows the command.

Always keep your training sessions short and end on a high note. You can certainly see why ending training with a fun game can lift your dog’s spirits and keep him looking forward to the next training session with you – because you’re fun!

Train your dog on leash: Yes, on leash in the house. Most dog owners do not work and train their dog on leash when teaching new commands or behaviors in or around the house. Leashing your dog sends a strong message of control, keeps them in the classroom and prevents jumping (with foot on the leash) while working on stationary commands like sit and down.

Distraction-free training at first: Many dog owners train their dogs with the television or stereo on and kids running around the house. While this may be “the norm” at your house, it makes more sense to begin training your dog in as distraction-free of a location as possible.  This will set your dog up to succeed – not to fail.

After your dog learns his commands, then he should be gradually introduced to distractions at a distance at first where they can successfully perform known commands. Once they have accomplished this then begin working closer to distractions.

Scheduling your dog’s training: Many dog owners become too busy to stay involved in their dog’s training. As a result they tend to only train when it’s convenient.  Getting a new dog or puppy is a commitment in time and responsibility which should include dog obedience training.

To make sure you are consistent in training your dog every day, make up a training schedule and record your dog’s progress. Train at the same time each day. This will provide your dog with an expected dog training routine.

You will find that your dog is more motivated if you schedule your training when he’s been crated for a while and just before mealtimes. If you don’t crate your dog, then train right when you come home prior to feeding time. He will be motivated to want to be with you and train with you.

Schedule 3 obedience training sessions each day and keep them short. Train 2-3 minutes max with puppies and 5-10 minutes with older dogs. That will do the job.

Remember, training gives your dog a job, a purpose and sense of working for you. It also will significantly reduce the chance of dog behavior problems surfacing. Add in good dog nutrition and plenty of exercise and all will be right with his world.

So, come tell me on Facebook what you think?  I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog.  Did you think the fix would be this easy?

Remember:  “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog.  Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.