How YOU Can Be More Confident When Training Your Dog

Confidence, and how you feel when you train your dog impacts hugely on how successful you and your dog are. There may be a family member who is able to get your dog to listen better than anyone else in the home. Why is that? Watch their interactions with your dog next time. Usually, confidence plays a large part in this.

Confidence is not bullying. Confidence is trusting in your ability and that of your dogs’. I know that when I ask a dog to do something I trust they will do it for me, not because I am a ‘dog whisperer’ or ‘Dr DoLittle’ but because I am confident in my ability and will follow through with having them do what I ask (even if I have to lower my expectations for a while). This confidence can only come from experience. Yes, I have been working with many dogs for many years, but you can have the same experience with your own dog if you are committed.

Think about the kinds of behaviours you would like your dog to learn and how you are going to train this. Planning to teach your dog a particular behaviour is the first step to confident handling and consistency. Think about the hand and verbal signals for that behaviour and when you will reinforce the behaviour. Time the reinforcement (usually tasty food) so that your dog gets it as soon as he performs the behaviour or part of it. Practice the behaviour when there are no distractions around so that you become more confident at asking your dog to follow. Pay attention to how you feel when you ask your dog to perform, and only increase the difficulty level when you feel confident in your handling ability and your dogs’ ability- trust.

Planning a time to teach behaviours also leads to confident handling skills. It is no good trying to teach your dog to do something when you are feeling sad, stressed, rushed or angry. Dogs are masters at picking up how we feel. They see it in our body language, hear it in our voice, and I’m sure they smell it too. If you’re feeling ‘uneasy’ the best thing to do with your dog is play with him or work on some fun tricks. Tricks are great because it doesn’t carry the same pressure as something you are desperate for your dog to learn. However, tricks still mean that your dog needs to pay attention and follow direction- great groundwork for other behaviours.

When you are working with your dog act confident, please don’t hope that they will do something for you. If they make a mistake it’s OK, that’s how they learn, it just means that they do not get reinforced for it. Take a critical look at why they did not listen, and learn from it yourself. We are supposed to be the more intelligent ones, if we can’t work it out, why should we expect our dogs’ to?

The more success you have, the more confident you will be, the more confident you are, the more success you will have. Take it slowly and have fun- that’s one of the reasons you got a dog in the first place.

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