No Effort Dog Training: Working with Natural Dog Behavior
Training your dog should be easy and fun. Follow these below tips for working with your dog's natural abilities and instincts for easier and quicker learning.
Expand on the Positive
Look for positive behaviors that a dog does without being prompted. Timing is everything, so take this opportunity to give him high praise while pairing it with a word or signal command. For example, if you come in the room and he moves off the couch or bed without being asked, and this is a desired behavior, immediately reward him with a "Good, off" with a pet on the side or under the chin. Any action that he does on his own that is positively reinforced is more likely to be repeated.
Use Visual Cues
Dogs are naturally more visual than they are auditory learners. Pair your commands with hand signals and physical cues. Dogs are very perceptive of facial and hand movements. They can pickup and interpret even the smallest of human gestures. Chances are, your dog already demonstrates this when you point your toe or finger to the floor, and he knows to look for a tasty food item below. Incorporate hand signals with other commands and cues and see how much faster he learns.
Sometimes, the most effective way to train a dog is to do nothing and simply wait. How many times have you felt that you needed to repeat yourself, even though he knows the command? Many times a dog is still processing a request when we have lost patience, repeated the command, or moved on to something else. Don't interpret his lack of response, pawing at the air or even getting a little barky as him not wanting to cooperate. The more you repeat a command the quicker it loses meaning for the dog. Simply remain calm and give it time to process.
Use Natural Instincts
Behaviors that a dog does naturally are the easiest ones to teach on command and modify. For example, dogs automatically look to make eye contact with humans if they are not able to problem solve on their own. With a little bit of praise and pairing this behavior with a cue word, he has already learned the "watch me" command. If your dog is a barker, pair this behavior with the "speak" command so that he can learn to do it upon request. You can then work on modifying how and when he barks. If your dog is a jumper, consider training him on agility or playing fetch with a Frisbee and giving those natural instincts an outlet. Just as important, learn about dog body language and how to recognize the signs of stress. Modify your approach to avoid stress for your dog in training and daily activity.
Work smarter, not harder. Recognize your dog's natural talents and build on those when training. Work with his instincts to please, and you will find that your efforts go further, faster.