Do you have a “stubborn dog” that isn’t responding to your commands? The problem might actually be with how you’re training your dog. If there’s one thing dog trainers everywhere agree on, it’s this: like people, dogs need consistency. Dogs thrive on routine, clear expectations and uniform instructions. Making sure your dog‘s training is consistent is key to their success, and will help you have a happier, more relaxed dog in the long term (which is better for both of you!). Here are some ways you can integrate consistency into your daily life with your pup, from commands to routines to house rules, and why it matters.
Keep Your Language Consistent When Training
There are many words for one thing in most languages, and humans can understand the concept of synonyms. But that’s much harder for dogs, who don’t speak our languages! Dogs learn individual cues, but don’t understand language in the same way we do.
Using more than one word for a cue can be very confusing for your dog. For example, if you have a dog that jumps up to greet people and you tell them “down” to tell them to greet calmly, but also want to use “down” as a command for them to lie down, your dog will have trouble understanding what you want them to do. Even a slight variation in language, like “come here” vs “come here now” can be confusing. The best verbal cues for dogs are short, clear words that you can say quickly when you need them (in whatever language you choose to train).
Verbal cues are more difficult for dogs to learn than hand signals or visual cues, so it’s especially important that we are consistent in this arena of training (whatever training philosophy you use). If you have a dog that responds quickly when you use a hand signal but isn’t responding to verbal cues, it’s possible that you need to make sure that you are using the same word each time and not using the same word for multiple cues.
Make sure that everyone in your household knows what language to use with your dog to prevent multiple words from being associated with the same cue, and be sure that everyone uses the word every time they are trying to train the cue.
Be Consistent in Your Actions to Provide Clear Communication
Whatever boundaries you decide to set with your dog, you should make sure that they are upheld consistently. If you don’t want your dog to be on your furniture, you shouldn’t ever let them up—even when you really want to snuggle. If you let them come up and sit on the couch with you sometimes when you are watching Netflix, you shouldn’t be surprised if your dog decides to hop up next to you while you are working from home the next day!
Consistent boundaries apply to training commands as well. If you want your dog to “hold” a behavior until released—for example, to stay in a sit until you say it’s ok to get back up—you should correct your dog if they slip out of it. Whatever your expectations are for your dog, the best way for them to meet them is for you to hold them to those standards every time you offer a command or cue.
Consistency can provide structure and make your dog less stressed
Consistency isn’t just helpful for making sure your training journey is successful—it can actually help your dog to feel calmer and more at ease. Dogs react negatively to the situations around them—another dog, a car passing, meeting new people—when they don’t feel in control. If they have consistent structure at home and trust in their handler, they will feel less fearful and stressed, even in new situations. This is especially important for nervous, reactive, or fearful dogs, but all dogs thrive on consistency and routine.
Consistency can be very helpful for rescue dogs, who may have had trauma in the past that led to negative behavior patterns, or at the very least have often been forced to adapt to significant change in their lifetimes. “A calm dog is a happy dog” is a common phrase used by dog trainers, and the easiest way to get a calm dog is a set routine. No matter what your dog’s history is, how old they are, or how much training they have had, you can integrate routine into your daily life with your dog. If you’re a new dog parent or considering bringing home a new dog soon, now is a great time to create structure and routine for your pet.
When you create your dog’s daily routine, make sure to integrate training, mental stimulation, exercise, and some “downtime”—dogs need time to decompress just like people. There are many ways to structure your daily routine with your pup, but here are some guidelines we use with our own dogs here at Kono’s Kitchen:
- Try to serve your dog’s meals at the same time each day. Don’t “free feed” your dog and leave out food all day, which can cause weight gain and other issues. Pro tip: use your dog's meals for training sessions!
If you have crate trained your dog (which is a good idea!), make sure that your dog spends some time in their crate each day, even if you are home.
- Offer your dog opportunities to learn every day, whether that’s through canine enrichment activities like puzzles and games or obedience training.
- Train every day with your dog, whether it’s confidence-building tricks, place work, or simply practicing good leash manners and checking in with you on their daily walks!
- Practice consistent impulse control training with your dog daily. Impulse control training refers to helping your dog respect thresholds and boundaries. This might mean training your dog to wait to go outside until you give them the OK, even if the door is open, or making eye contact before you give them their food.
Conclusion: Consistency is Key!
Consistent routines and training pay off in happier, more well-adjusted dogs. It isn’t mean or cruel to hold dogs to the standards that you set for them—it’s actually the best thing you can do as a dog parent. Remember to be consistent in your language and enforcing rules for your pup, and give them the opportunity to enjoy a daily routine that includes exercise, learning and mental stimulation, and of course time to rest and relax. Train your dog with consistent cues and plenty of reinforcement, and you’ll be able to develop a better relationship with your dog over the long run.
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