The Three Pillars of Successful Long-term Dog Training

"When an owner sets out to train their dog, they usually have certain behaviors they want their dog to learn-such as teaching their dog to sit, walk on a leash, or to stop jumping on them. While it is important to know what you want your dog to learn, long-term success in training your dog requires you to understand the three pillars of successful training. Think of your training program as a three-legged stool: the seat is your success and each checkpoint is a leg. With even just one leg shorter than the others, you put your success in jeopardy of falling over.

Pillar One: Your dog is having fun

Have you ever had a job you did not enjoy but had to go to anyway? How would you have felt if you had fun on the job? Your dog's job is to do what you tell him to do. If his job is fun, he will be motivated to do it more often. He will want to learn-and he will learn faster. This is true whether you are teaching him to sit or catch a Frisbee. Conversely, a dog that is not having fun can become bored, distracted, confused, scared and/or other things. The less fun there is then the shorter this pillar and the greater the likelihood that your training will fail. A good trainer teaches you how to make training fun for your dog. (He will also help you understand that your dog is always on the job.)

Pillar Two: You are having fun

If you dog's job is learning to do what you want him to, yours is to teach and manage him. Unless you happen to enjoy being a dictatorial Ogre Taskmaster, you probably want to have fun with your dog instead of barking commands and giving corrections. That kind of training makes for a long day for both you and your dog. Training must be fun for you, too. If it is not, it becomes another job you dread going to. And when you dread training your dog, your training becomes far less successful-and that is if you defy the long odds and stick with a training program. Make sure your trainer teaches you how to have fun, too.

Pillar Three: You and your dog are learning

You and your dog have to enjoy training but, of course, you both have to learn, too. This pillar is the easy one to manage because while the mechanics of training may be a bit daunting at first, they are easy to remember. It is also why this pillar is so often the one that unbalances a training program. It is easy to become so focused on the mechanics that you forget to make it fun for you and your dog. A successful long-term training program is one that is a fun learning experience for both you and your dog. Check often to make sure your program is balanced."

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