Patience the Other Key Element in Dog Training
Patience enters into dog training in many facets! Patience is essential in so many ways when working with animals, children and other people!
Whereas patience is the most essential element for owners to have in dog training, this is not what this article about! This is about teaching your dog the art of being patient, and that when he has patience it will pay off!
I HATE teaching my dogs to “Stay”! The “Stay” command is so negative and almost always requires corrections and some type of negative training. Although I want this skill and it is critical to good dog training, I try to save the dynamics of the corrections and enforcement of it until my dog is much more mature and I make sure it is at the end of my training regimen.
In the “olden days”, when you attended a dog obedience class or read a dog training book, you were instructed to place your dog on a leash, command or force him into a sit, string the leash tight above his head, give the “Stay” command while shoving your hand in his face and then wait for your dog to make a mistake.
In fact if he didn’t make a mistake, and stayed in that position…how could he learn what you wanted? He HAD to make the mistake of getting up. As soon as he got up he was yelled at, commanded and forced again into the sit position. This “training/frustration dance” went on until the dog finally understood… “Stay” means not to move. But it often took a long time for a dog to understand.
Can you imagine how confusing and slightly scary this must be for your dog? There you are shouting words he doesn’t understand and waiting for him to make a mistake so you can yell at him again, all while having his leash pulled tight over his head and leash correcting him the moment he gets up.
It’s frustrating for owners and for their dogs, and I hypothesize this owner and dog frustration leads to the lack of success in adhering to the “Stay” command. Most dogs have about a 3-5 second “Stay” window before they are done with the command! Owners get frustrated and so the command continues to be pitiable at best!
How Do You Help Teach Your Dog to Stay?
I like positive reinforcement training which is no surprise to you if you regularly read my articles. It is simply more fun for you and for your dog. Positive reinforcement takes out the fear and correction and allows your dog to learn in a compassionate environment.
Instead of teaching my dogs “Stay” in the beginning, I first teach them to be patient. Teaching patience leads to the inevitable successful teaching of the “Stay” command later in training, once patience has been mastered.
Patience as defined by Wikipedia: is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer term difficulties.
Patience, like “Stay” is not fun but it means I don’t then have to enforce a command I have given it just means my dog needs to work more on being patient before we move on to another command or something more difficult.
Like “Stay” I always train with my dog on a leash, but unlike the “Stay” command I am not poised to issue a correction when my dog makes a mistake; actually I don’t even give my dog a command! I am literally just teaching him to be patient and by doing so he will be reinforced.
I give him the “Sit” or “Down” command and as long as he chooses to stay in that position, he continues to get reinforced. If he pops up from the position, I simply ignore him and refuse to give him a treat until he reassumes the position and stays there for a bit longer.
I simply extend the time between treats to ensure that my dog gets the idea. I also want to vary the schedule of reinforcement (read my article on intermittent reinforcement). I don’t always want to force him to do better, and better and better…sometimes I want to reward him at 5, 8, or 30 seconds even if we are working on a minute of more. This type of training should be fun and training doesn’t always have to get more difficult before a reward, sometimes you can reward simple stuff!
Don’t be predictable and boring! Be fun and rewarding! Once your dog gets the idea down you can begin to make it more challenging by jumping up and down or clapping or bouncing a ball; he only gets the treat however if he is patient!
Once he has mastered this idea that patience is rewarding you may begin to give him the command and what it means “STAY”. You have already given him the tools he needs to succeed, so now if he makes a mistake all you have to do is say “nope” and give him the command again.
There is no need for force or harsh corrections, you have already taught him the a mistake just means he won’t get what he wants…i.e. the treat. Sometimes I mark the mistake with a “nope” or “ahh” to let him know the moment he does something I don’t want but I don’t correct or harp on it, it is simply to give him information of where I think he went wrong and that we will be beginning again.
If you have used patience effectively, this has become a game and hopefully one he is really gotten good at! As he is successful add distractions by bouncing balls, running away, or leaving the room. He will learn that no matter what happens, if he is patient and stays when you tell him he will be rewarded with what he wants!
Now get out there and teach your dog to have some patience and show him how fun it can be! Dog training should be fun and rewarding for both of you!!