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Dog Training Basics: The Myth of "More" in Dog & Puppy Training

Puppy jumping

Have you ever noticed that with a lot of methods or processes, there is this belief that the more steps or the more complicated it is, the better it must be? The recipe with 23 steps and 18 ingredients is obviously better than the one with 3 steps and 4 ingredients. A 500 page book is more engaging than a 250 page novel.

As a culture, we've somehow come to the conclusion that more is, well, more. But more what? Time consuming? More expensive? More work? More rules and restrictions?

But more does not equal better.

And in no place does that prove true quite like working through a dog's behaviors.

Traditional Dog Training

There's a phrase I've always loved.

Eschew obfuscation

I have so many clients come to me with stories of how many other dog trainers they've been through, trying to alleviate a specific behaviors. Each new dog trainer came with a litany of procedures to train your dog.

They come armed with technical terms. Manuals and homework. 8 steps to get your dog to sit. And then 15 more to get them to not jump. And if your dog still jumps, here's a 25 page pamphlet to tell you why you how to solve the issue (for real this time) plus another video about why you're a terrible dog owner anyway, and why did you even let someone in your house to begin with?!

And the shock collars. If your dog didn't listen to you after all that, let's just try -shock therapy. That should cure the jumping. Only now your puppy has taken to twitching instead of jumping, but still, that's progress, right?

I had a lovely couple whose dog was exceptionally excited to meet new guests. To the point of jumping all over them while somehow simultaneously flying through the house like a kite in a tornado. Obviously that dog's behavior was unacceptable, and needed to be addressed. Compounding the issue was that fact that the dog was a Newfie, topping out at about 115 lbs.

dog begging

Jasper wanted to be a "gentle giant", but so far he only had the "giant" part down. Jasper was a sweet dog, but just given his size, was actually quite dangerous, having knocked down several people already, including his owner, who fell down the steps.

Shirley, Jasper's human mom, Shirley, wanted her dog to succeed, and therefore enrolled her in every dog class you could imagine. From successive 8 week Puppy Kindergarten classes to private in-home dog trainers to board and train style doggie bootcamp.

Poor Shirley tried them all (and spent thousands of dollars!). Yet when she welcomed me into her home the first time, her dog still ran full throttle at me and jumped on me.

Shirley immediately laughed and said Jasper obviously needed more dog training, to which I responded, "Actually, he needs less."

Shirley was obviously dumbfounded by my response, as she had literally called me to train her dog. How could less training be better?

Because training your dog isn't was it needed here; giving your dog an answer to their question is (we call that Piloting in the Darwin Dogs world). Let me explain.

The Two Types of Questions Your Dog or Puppy are Asking You

Training a dog should be used when your dog asks questions that are a bit like, "How do I...?" or "What does...?" For example:

A. I'm going to gently push a dog's tush down, and then name that "sit" while giving a positive.

A. I'm going to take the puppy's paw and swipe it across the bells I've hung on the door, and then immediately let them outside and praise them when they potty out there.

A. I'm going to find my dog's favorite toy (ball, or flirt pole) and get rid of their energy.

All of those require training your dog to a specific behavior that they may not stumble upon on their own, and definitely would not be taught to them by another dog.

dog and puppy kissing

Pretty simple. But the dog jumping is asking a "Can I?" or "Is that?" question, or a behavioral question. And those are answered in a more binary fashion with a simple yes or no. For example:

A. No. You may not.

A. Yes. It's dinnertime.

A. No. You are safe.

By confusing training and behavior, you've created an overcomplicated, bloated mess out of a behavior that could have been quickly resolved with a simple, gentle negation (as Jasper's was).

Or more simply, think of how you would answer a preschooler's questions.

Q. How do I write my name?

A. Teach the child alphabet.

That was a training/teaching question.

Q. Can I smack my sister?

A. No. That is unacceptable.

Dog Training Simplified

puppy chewing on rope
"Can I...?"

Now go back and think about how many complicated and unnecessary steps are being assigned to each of your dog's "Can I?" questions that simply needed a calm, gentle answer. Everything from "Can I chew this?" to "Can I jump on the couch?" If your dog is asking about chewing on their bone, then the answer is "yes". If your puppy is asking about chewing on your shoes, then the answer is "no".

How can you tell your dog is asking a question? Just watch them. If they're chewing on your shoe, they're already asking the question, and you would give them a negation. If they're staring intently at your shoe, you know your puppy is about to chew it, so you would pre-emptively negate their "Is that for me?" question.

Dog Training Differently

So rather than the complicated steps of "more" traditional dog training, the banality of constantly waiting to "click and treat" with positive only training, or the shocking reality being e-collars, you can create a life-long bond of trust with your dog by training your dog using communication.

Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.

Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.

Have questions about our puppy training or dog training? Find out answers here.

border collie dog staying

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Puppy Training

Greater Cleveland Area

Northeast Ohio


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