History of Dogs and Humans -- Dogs have evolved together with humans for about 12,000 to 14,000 years. As a result, they are able to understand us very well. While they don't understand human language, they can read our intent in our voice, our touch, and our body language or posture and movement. They can associate sounds or movements with behaviors, and they can use those behaviors to earn rewards and be in relationship with us.
Dog Social Skills -- Dogs are highly sociable, and they have rituals that they observe to communicate politely and show good manners and respect. For example, properly socialized dogs do not approach one another directly, rather in a "C" shape, they avert their gaze, they use posture and body language to communicate intent, they use timing, appeasement gestures, and of course smell to introduce themselves. Play is also ritualized, with a little practice it is easy to tell when dogs are being playful or serious.
Different Kinds Of Dogs -- Dogs have been bred over time for specific purposes, so we have hundreds of breeds. Those breeds are categorized by 7 groups, which are;
It is useful as a trainer to understand breed-specific characteristics, or at least group characteristics, because this provides clues to personality, preference, and ability of the dog. Researching the history, traits and characteristics of these groups is useful as we work with and observe different dogs.
How Dogs Understand The World – A recognition that dogs don’t experience the world the same as humans is essential to relationship based training, we'll continue to develop this in future sessions. While there are significant similarities between dogs and humans in the function of the nervous system, and they are capable of all of the same basic emotions as humans except for guilt, they do not decode signals the way we do, their interpretation of sensory experience is different, and they do not understand time like humans do. Because dogs don't have human language, clear communication by other means is very important, and they prioritize sensory input differently than humans. Their primary means of obtaining information is olfactory; it is obvious that their ability to detect scent is far superior to humans, how much better is a matter of continual amazement for anyone who runs search dogs.
Dogs have no concept of cause and effect, only "what goes with what" or association of an event or behavior with a consequence. If the consequence happens within about one second (maybe 1.5 seconds at most) of an antecedent condition, including behavior, they will be able to make the connection. But they have no way to connect a consequence with anything that happened a minute or an hour ago.
Context -- It is important to remember that dogs learn in context. Until a dog learns to generalize, a change in context can be challenging for them. Just because a dog can perform a given behavior when you are in the kitchen, it doesn’t mean they know how to do it in the driveway.
Relationship - Dogs understand that they depend upon us, and they look to us to care for them, or advocate for them. We give them food, water, shelter, safety, veterinary care, grooming, teaching and training, and affection or love. In return, they do all of the cool things that dogs can do, like keep us company, protect or watch over us, find missing people, play, pull sleds, help us hunt for food, and more. When they are doing something for us and we in return are doing something for them, they are happier and healthier. Dogs are at their best when nothing in life is free.
Dogs cannot understand a world without rules, and despite appearances sometimes, they do better when they are not the ones making the rules. Dogs have no concept of equality, either you are making the rules or they are, either you have preferred access to resources or they do. Ideally, dogs look to us for leadership. The more confident, assertive, and clear you are; that is gentle, steady, firm, and strong, the better dogs will respond to you.
Training - Effective and humane training is based upon clear communication, and because the dog can't understand human language, we have to do our best at communicating in a way that the dog can understand. Our tools for this are voice, touch, and body language (primarily posture and proximity).
Starting with voice; we have five words:
The dog's name should only be used to convey to him that whatever is said next applies to him. It should never be used to scold or punish, we want his name to sound pleasing to him.
"Yes" is a reward marker. It means "You did what I wanted and no further action is required." It is also known as a release command. With enough practice it is a reward in itself.
"Good" is a continuation marker, it means "you are offering the desired behavior and I want you to keep doing it." It is given in a soothing and low voice, “G-o-o-o-d.”
"Nope" is a No Reward Marker, it means "you didn't do anything wrong, you are not being punished, you just are not offering the behavior I'm looking for so try again." It is delivered in a pleasant and lilting voice, it is not a correction, rather it is guidance.
"AAAANGHT" (I guess that's how you spell it) should be delivered in a loud and severe tone, used only in case of genuine emergency or threat to safety. Delivered properly it stops dogs in their tracks.
As mentioned earlier, if a dog is to attach a consequence to a behavior, it has to occur within 1.5 seconds of the behavior. Sometimes this is hard to do, which is why we use markers, sometimes called “bridge” words.
Give commands one time, your dog definitely heard you, she can hear a potato chip hitting the carpet in the next room. Do not nag your dog, do not repeat yourself, and do not give commands if the dog is in a position to ignore you. If you repeat yourself, the dog learns that your commands are not meaningful or obligatory. If the dog chooses to not comply and gets away with it, he has learned to ignore you.
Rewards – Dogs like to be paid for working, just like people. What each dog finds rewarding will vary, some dogs work for food, some for play, some for toys, some for affection. Some dogs don’t even care about that, and we have to figure out what it is they do want.
Initially we start out by teaching the dog that nothing in life is free, we pay for every good repetition, later we change the reward schedule. Once dogs learn to earn rewards for desirable behavior it becomes a game. Remember that rewards are payment, the reward comes after the behavior is completed. Do not ever bribe your dog, do not ever use treats to “distract’ your dog, this tends to end badly. We can use treats to shape behavior, once the dog understands the behavior we stop using the lure as quickly as possible, usually after just a few reps. Then we use the marker words discussed above in conjunction with whatever currency the dog prefers.