Every dog owner must have a good understanding of how their dog learns and the training stages: this way, you can avoid many mistakes, frustration, and confusion.
Having an effective training method that has been proven with experience and science is essential. Here is a division of the four main stages of dog training, as per the manual ABC Practical Guide to Dog Training. This is a training manual written by Steven Appelbaum, the President of Animal Behavior College, the nation’s most considerable animal career vocational school that offers certified dog training, veterinary assistant, and dog grooming courses. Steven Appelbaum is a dog trainer, lecturer, writer, and educator with over 35 years in the industry.
#1 Acquisition of a New Behaviour
During this stage, the dog learns the new behavior, which is strengthened by positive rewards. When this stage is successful, the dog knows that engaging in this behavior brings positive benefits, and she chooses to do it repeatedly to get the rewards.
An example is when you lure your dog into a sitting position using a food treat. You hold a treat into your fist. Then you make your dog smell it and pass your fist over their head and behind to follow it. The dog is lured into a sitting position. Then you say clearly “SIT” once and immediately pop the treat into the dog’s mouth, saying a word of reinforcement for good behavior. This word might be “good” or “yes.”
If you do the process correctly, the dog learns that the word “sit” refers to the gesture of sitting, and it is rewarding to do it. You can move to the next learning stage once your dog sits before you need to lure her with food.
#2 Automation of the Behavior
At this stage, the dog learns to do a behavior without being lured with a food treat.
If we continue with the sitting example, you say sit, and the dog sits without you performing the luring gesture. Every time the dog performs well at this stage, it is reinforced with food and a “yes” or “good” word. The dog acquires the automation to sit every time you utter the word “sit.”
You can move to the next stage of training if the dog performs sitting at least ninety percent of the time at your usual training practice place. This is a place without big distractions.
#3 Generalization of the Behavior
At this stage, the dog learns to follow the command in different environments and perform them by others.
You can start training at this stage by changing different aspects of your usual training scenario. If you have been giving the command in an upright position in front of the dog, you might try to stand sideways, some distance away, or sit in a chair.
During a time frame of several weeks, you might change slightly different aspects of the scenario. Thus the dog learns how to perform the command in any situation with various distractions.
#4 Maintenance of the Behavior
You enter this stage when your dog complies with the new behavior 90 to 100% of the time. You can be sure your dog has mastered and understands the command completely.
If your dog makes mistakes, you must get back to one level. You still need to practice the same command but at the previous level of training. This will allow you to reinforce it without losing it.
The author of ABC Practical Guide to Dog Training advises for every mistake the dog makes to return to the previous stage at least for ten repetitions. If a dog makes a mistake with a particular distraction, you should get back a level by reducing the distraction. When the dog performs the command with a little distraction, try to rehearse the original distraction that triggered him not to follow the power.
Corrections have their place in the learning process. The best is to train how to administer corrections with a professional dog trainer properly. It is essential to use them sparingly but to administer them in the right way. This way, the dog is not damaged in any way – physically or emotionally, and the undesirable behavior is extinguished.
This article explains some basic principles about using corrections in dog training.
Training your dog can be gratifying and bonding without you and your beloved four-legged friend. It should not be a tedious or frustrating process. You and your dog must learn to appreciate these sessions that increase the quality of your communication and companionship.