Educating canines

Here Tilley is learning to do a back flip; in her younger frisbee days.

Train: to form by instruction, discipline, or drill

Educate: to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction: to provide with information. To persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way.

I use both of the above terms with regards to teaching dogs. I like the term educate and use it more often when teaching new behaviors. Then when a dog has a good understanding of a behavior that they can perform under normal situations; training takes over. Very much like an athlete that learns a new move and then trains to perfect it. Training is the conditioning that leads to a well proofed behavior; meaning that the dog has a full understanding and can execute it under any environmental distraction.

Dogs learn extremely fast; if you deliver the lesson appropriately. I was briefly watching a training show on television lastnight and upon seeing how she was dealing with a behavior I quickly changed the channel. I make it a point not to watch people who aren't educating dogs correctly. Seeing several things that this trainer was doing which was leading to confusion in the dog had me grabbing for the remote.
Educating canines should be kept simple; clear and uncluttered.

Dogs like black and white; they do not do well with grey. Too much talking and too much touching can interfere with the thought process. Arm waving, talking and touching is often our way of trying to explain to our dogs but it can also be the road block on the way to learning. This is why when you start out in your quest to educate your dog it should be done somewhere quiet without distractions. So if you go to a group training class with your dog it is more for you to learn how to teach your dog. Once you understand what you are suppose to do then the best lessons for your dog will be at home in the quiet.

Once a dog gets the basic idea of what you are asking in a quiet environment then you can move to small distractions and work your way up to big distractions. Let's say you are teaching the sit behavior to your new puppy in the living room. Once your puppy clearly understands this behavior in the living room you must then move to another room. Teaching your dog a behavior and then expecting them to do this behavior anywhere is asking them to generalize. Some dogs generalize well; once they "get" a behavior they can do it anywhere; anytime. But other dogs have a tough time generalizing. "What? I've never been asked to sit at the park, I only know how to sit in the living room." By going back to the beginning of the behavior lesson the dog can "get it" quickly and move on to the present stage of the behavior in each new environment.

As I always state; all dogs are different which means you must watch your dog as they learn. This enables you to discover what will best suit their individual educational requirements. My three all learn very differently; Jessie is an instant gratification gal, show her the food and she can learn anything within minutes. Tilley takes more repetitive work and lots of cheering on from the trainer. Luke is easily over stimulated by touch, talk or body movments; he becomes easily excited so we work very calmly with no touching and quiet praise.

Anyone can educate their canine; but it is always best to educate yourself first. It is very difficult to teach your dog if you do not understand what you are trying to teach them. By sitting down and thinking the whole behavior through you can visualize how best to teach your dog. Your confidence in the knowledge of what you are teaching will shine through in your students ability to learn the lesson. Now go teach your dog something new.

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