We all love our dogs, but we know they’re not perfect. It stresses us out when they do things like steal food from countertops, jump on visitors, or ignore our commands out in public.

Enrolling your beloved canine in dog training courses is an excellent answer to these undesired behaviors. However, there’s also a harsh truth that comes with wanting your dog to change: your dog is being trained all the time, whether you realize it or not. 

woman continuing dog training at home

We are training our pets to have certain behaviors when we do things like feeding them under the table or giving them attention after bullying the cat. Even ignoring certain behaviors, like scratching at the door, can be a form of unintended reinforcement unless the right countermeasures are taken.

Like it or not, our dogs learn many of their behaviors in the home setting. If we wish to correct these behaviors, we must realize that training cannot begin and end at obedience school.

Dog Trainers Try to Work With, Not Against, Your Dog’s Intrinsic Motivators

Breakthroughs in dog training research have taught us that the old methods used a few decades ago were not as effective as we hoped. One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen is that negative reinforcement — teaching your dog to avoid certain behaviors in pain of punishment — causes measurable stress to dogs. This stress not only affects their well-being but can lead to further undesired behaviors.

“Dogs trained with unpleasant actions often associate those aversives with the trainer and the training process,” explains the American Kennel Club (AKC). “These dogs don’t look forward to learning, they don’t want to try new things, and their bond with their owner is eroded.”

Instead of using these aversive methods, your dog trainer will attempt to uncover two things:

  1. What motivators cause your dog to exhibit undesired behaviors
  2. What alternative motivators can be used to encourage different, desired behaviors

Fortunately for us humans, most dogs seem to have an instinctual need to please their owners, and many dogs also seem to enjoy having a particular “job” to do. In addition, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that isn’t motivated by the prospect of a tasty reward. Combining these three things, your dog trainer will strive to “re-code” your dog’s learned behaviors to encourage alternative behaviors instead.

Because of these factors, a dog owner must understand what motivates their dog and how to tap into that motivation to see desired behaviors. Yes, it’s much more complicated than input training practice/output good behavior, but the fact remains that dogs are always learning. If they learn that their old methods of receiving food, attention, stimulation, etc. no longer work, their best choice is to work towards having behaviors that do result in these rewards.

As the AKC puts it, “a secret about dog training is that most dog trainers don’t train dogs. They train people. Your main job as a trainer will be to teach your clients how to do the training for themselves.”

For this reason, pet owners should consider pet training classes as the formal start of a new training period. From this foundation, both dogs and their owners can strive to forge a better relationship together through gradual but noticeable behavioral changes.

Dog Training Requires Practice

Dog owners should think of dog training as a way to get professional input. The dog trainer can analyze the animal and prescribe a range of at-home changes to make the desired behaviors more likely to occur. Dog owners, then, are tasked with continuing this training regiment so that the dog can continue to evolve.

“A trainer won’t be with you 24/7, so you should also incorporate obedience training (basic cues like “sit” and “touch”) into your daily routine,” suggests New York Times’ Wirecutter, “such as practicing good leash manners for 10 minutes a day during your dog’s afternoon walk. The routine also bolsters good training habits, much like learning a properly seated dumbbell curl from a personal trainer.”

After all, practice makes perfect! Over time, your dog will not only get better at fully understanding the behaviors expected of them, but they will also be more likely to perform them promptly and on cue.

Consider Dog Training as an Investment You Want to Pay Off

Finally, recognize your own role in helping your dog understand that the behaviors enforced by the trainer are also desired in the home setting. Dog owners drop off their animals at training hoping to accomplish a goal, but that goal can’t be achieved when the dog is being taught that the exact opposite behaviors will provide the expected rewards at home.

Compare it to a parent-teacher relationship: both parents and teachers will ideally be working together to help the child be an exemplary student. However, if parents are encouraging their children to avoid homework or exhibit undesired behaviors in the classroom, the teacher’s job will become all but impossible.

Work with, not against your trainer. Make sure that every penny you spend on training works towards mutual goals shared by you and the training facility.

Also, make sure to have conversations with your trainer about what they learned about your dog during the class and what you can do to reinforce desired behaviors. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to ask! The best training is tailored to your dog and your own personal goals. 

You may also need to consult your vet in some instances in case an undesired behavior is the result of an underlying medical problem. By coordinating with professionals in this way, you can help both you and your dog have a happy, healthy, and rewarding life together.

Work With Certified, Experienced Dog and Puppy Trainers Near You

With dog training at Greenlin, you can help improve your relationship with your puppy or adult dog. Bring them to training so they can learn basic commands, and learn the keys to successfully encouraging the behaviors you most want to see in the home. Help your dog prepare for situations like visitors, the vet, or public outings while preparing for situations that tend to be the biggest triggers of undesired behaviors.

With dog training and puppy training available at five convenient locations in Central Pennsylvania, Greenlin is here to make life even better for people and their pets! Give us a call or come on by to discuss your options for booking training sessions and starting the journey towards better behavior together.