Training your pet is not rocket science. It is basic psychology. Once you understand that your pet cannot speak your language without your first learning the basics of his language you will progress quickly towards total understanding of each other.
The first three tips involve the three Ps of training. Patience, persistence and praise.
All of us learn better from a patient teacher; someone who will explain the steps clearly, at your own personal learning pace. Animals also thrive with a patient instructor. Frustration is built from lifting expectations higher than the current level of knowledge. If each new cue is fully explained and taught using patience, the student – in this case your pet, will learn faster and have a better understanding of what you want.
Persistence is essential. The moment you give up, your pet learns to take control. Some animals are very persistent until they get what they want. For example, a dog who scratches at the door to get in has learned that you will respond the moment he scratches. You do so because you don’t want your screens torn. He does this because it has earned a response from you. If you merely put in the time, and persistence, required teaching him the appropriate behavior of sitting at the door or even ringing a bell to let you know that he wishes to come inside, then you will have opened up communication instead of responding to an inappropriate behavior.
Praise for a job well done will earn numerous rewards. Animals seek rewards in many forms. Most prefer food. Many prefer toys or attention of some sort. Others seek security. Once an animal discovers that a specific action earns rewards they will repeat that action. Hence, praising your pet the moment he has done something good will enhance his understanding that he should repeat the behavior. Praising often and with enthusiasm will further enhance his performance.
The fourth training tip is to be consistent. Consistency is the key to reliability. Regardless of what is going on around you and your pet, don’t change how you interact with him. For example, you teach your pet to sit and stay in the kitchen when there are no distractions and he quickly learns to do so because it has earned numerous rewards such as verbal praise and food treats. Use the same cues and criteria when answering your front door so that he learns to behave during this exciting situation as well. The moment you regress to trying to hold him back instead of communicate with him, he will also regress and merely become reactive.
The fifth training tip is to learn how to recognize learning thresholds. Animals rarely misbehave due to being malicious, though that can sometimes occur with a wild animal as it has little genetic tendency to be cooperative with humans. Dogs and cats, however, have thousands of years of domestication, which have changed their genetic configurations substantially. When your pet begins to not respond to your cue after having done so for a bit, it might mean he/she is tired, or that there is a lack of understanding. When this occurs, back up to where he/she was responding well, repeat (repetition!) the exercise a few times and then add a small amount of criteria to it. This is termed “regress to progress.” It rebuilds the understanding and returns the training session to a positive outcome.