Coordinating Dog Training with Family Members

By Laurie Darroch

When you take a dog through training classes or train him yourself, it is important to have all members of your home on the same training program in order to reinforce the lessons. Two of the strongest reinforcers for learning and retaining what is learned are consistency and repetition, which is why all family members need to be on the same page with the training.

If you are going to training classes taught by an instructor, it’s a good idea to have more than one family member attend the classes. Although it sounds odd, in reality human companions are being trained at the same time their dog is going through the program. Humans learn the verbal and physical cues with which to train their dogs, and the dog learns how to understand and follow those lessons from both an outside trainer and their human companions. The same cues and words need to be used by all household members for each command, otherwise varied cues and commands may just confuse your dog.

If only one person is able to attend the actual lessons, there are options for learning and teaching at home afterward as well. To reinforce what you learn from a trainer, practice the lessons from each session immediately when you reach home to reinforce them in a different setting. Your dog will learn that the cues are the same regardless of the setting in which they are given. Share the lessons with the other household members and have them practice with your dog as well. Make it a group learning session once you are home.

Being given the cues by other household members helps the dog understand that the words and signals mean the same thing, no matter who is giving them. Again this reinforces consistency in training.

To help you remember the tips and lessons the instructor gives, either bring along a video camera or simply take notes that you can refer to after you get home.

The more both you and the dog practice, the more the lessons will become just a normal part of everyday living and part of the natural routine, and not just a fun excursion and game for the day that is quickly forgotten.

Like children, dogs know who will bend the rules or give in easily. If they think they can get away with something with one person and they can’t with another, they are smart and will go to the person who will give in. With consistent commands coming from every member of the household for things like sit, down, heel, stay and so forth, and for what is not acceptable behavior, such as not jumping up on people or begging for food, your dog will learn to understand those commands as universal, not just limited to one person who may have taken the classes with your dog.

Every dog is different and has different capabilities and learning speeds. Some dogs are quick learners and are willing to follow the cues easily while others may take more practice and patience in order for them to learn and obey the training lessons. Practice and repetition from every family member will work through any style of learning that your particular dog has.

Training your dog with consistency from every family member is a responsible way to make sure the dog will behave in an appropriate manner and make living with your four legged companion a wonderful experience.

Top photo by Andrea Arden
Middle photo by audreyjm529
Bottom photo by John Haslam

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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