Finally the day has come! You are ready to bring home your new dog home and introduce him to your family and friends. Whether you have just got your new puppy home or you have adopted an older dog, dog training can be an exciting adventure. But it can also be pretty overwhelming—especially if you have never trained a dog before.
At first new dogs are sweet and adorable, especially puppies. Then come the chewed-up shoes, doggie doo piles on the carpet, trash from the can strung out everywhere, or even sleepless nights. A few weeks in and you will begin to wonder exactly what you have gotten yourself into by bringing this new pet into your life. You may feel desperate. Even ready to call in the professionals to help you with your new puppy or adopted dog. But, wait!! Read this.
RAPT Dog Training Method
Before you begin the process of training your new dog, first you need to remember that it doesn’t have to be an upsetting chore. You can make training fun for the dog and for yourself. In order to do so, however, you need to understand a few things about how dogs learn and how to get your dog to respond the way that you want.
One of the best ways to train dogs effectively is a simple method called RAPT: Re-enforced Alpha Positive Training. The RAPT method of dog training puts into practice the idea that the human is the master, or the Alpha, and uses positive reinforcement of good behavior to do so. Although this may seem obvious and simple, it is sometimes a shift in thinking for some people.
Becoming the Alpha
Re-enforced Alpha Positive Training encourages you, as the dog owner, to be the dominant personality — but without yelling and intimidating. A dog owner who uses screaming and intimidation will more likely cause the dog to shut down, disobey, and even become fearful of you or other dogs.
Instead of using your position as the “Alpha” to your dog to wield power, consider your relationship more along the lines of that of a parent and child. You create the structure, instill rules and boundaries, and encourage your dog to live within the safety and convenience of this structure. Just as a parent sets rules so that a child does not run out of control, a dog owner does the same.
One of the most important parts of RAPT is showing your dog that you are in charge. Have you ever observed a situation where it looked more like the dog was taking the human for a walk? The dog leads, pulls, and goes wherever he wants. The poor human being dragged like a screaming toddler is being taken to bed. This typically happens because the dog believes that he is in charge.
Here are some examples of how to help your dog understand that you are in charge:
- Always making sure you walk out the door ahead of him
- Always require your dog to sit at the door and patiently wait until you invite him to go through it.
This reinforces positive behavior in the dog that when he sits obediently, he gets to go for a walk. And he’s happy!
Rewarding Positive Behavior
While teaching your dog that you are the Alpha, also focus on rewarding good behavior rather than scolding bad behavior. This positive reinforcement motivates a dog to learn much more quickly than negative reinforcement.
For instance, if your dog has chewed up the remote control, has pulled the roll of toilet paper around the house (again!), or has been having crate training mishaps, it is much better to find the good behavior to reward rather than scolding bad behavior. (And you’ll also want to get into the habit of shutting the bathroom door to save on toilet paper costs!)
Dog Training Principles
Dogs very much want to please their humans. They seek to earn praise from their masters, while affection working as a great motivator and reward for dogs. Positive reinforcement for good behavior should have these qualities:
- Dogs have short memories. If you wait even just a minute or two to reward your dog for good behavior, he will forget what he is being rewarded for. Similarly, you can only shout and startle your dog when he is in the act of some wrong doing. There is NO point yelling at him later.
- If you tell your dog to “fetch the ball”, he may get confused. Instead, keep your commands down to one word such as “fetch”. Then reward him immediately.
- If you have a rule that your dog is not allowed on the furniture, then you’ll confuse him by letting him jump on the sofa with you when you want to snuggle. Keep the same rules all the time and make sure everyone in your household follows the same rules.
- Instead of correcting negative behavior, simply ignore it and go for extra praise on the positive side. This will help your dog to seek your praise and obey you. You should also be able to wean your dog away from treats this way and only reward with praise.
Training your dog can be a fun and exciting adventure that will certainly keep you on your toes! But it also comes with the great responsibility to teach your dog that you are in charge. You can easily do that through consistency, positive praise, and simple commands. When you teach a dog to obey, not only you will be happier, but your dog will be happier as well. And a well-trained dog? Well, they didn’t get the reputation of being man’s (or woman’s) best friend for no reason!
Practice these RAPT dog training tips and you’ll find a happy, healthy life with your obedient dog.