Just like people, dogs have different learning abilities. Some dogs learn quickly, some slowly, and some learn at different rates depending on many factors including what you are attempting to teach them.
You should never compare your pup against another of the same age. Even if they are from the same litter, their learning ability can be very different. The most important thing you can do is spend time with your pup and watch how he learns and is developing. Watch for a willingness to work with you; watch for independence and stubbornness. Look for sensitivities; identify what pleases and rewards him after a behavior. Get to know his personality.
In your dog's development, you may reach steps where he seems to be learning very little or even going backwards. Don’t let this frustrate you. On occasion, we have to slow down. Make sure that you continue to be consistent and follow though, and do it fairly and with understanding.
There will be times when your dog will be distracted, times when he will decide not to obey, and times when he will not understand what you feel is a familiar command because of the situation. Believe that your dog really wants to be good and do as asked and help him through it.
Even clever dogs can encounter difficulties which slow his learning down. These can be caused by distractions, the activity you are teaching, and the tools you are using. Unfamiliarity or the attraction of some other stimulus can create learning difficulties – barriers to the retention of what we are teaching. Even dogs that pick up certain commands quickly may have problems with others.
Remember we are always training 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year. It is a fact that if you do something that creates an unwanted behavior, then that behavior will stick for a long time. Good behaviors need repeating many times to become a habit. Be a trainer always. So when you take your dog out of the crate, teach him to wait and be invited out. When going through a door, again he can wait until invited through. When guests come, ask him to sit and wait for the guests to say hello to him. When going for a walk, we don’t keep going with him pulling; we only walk and advance when he is not pulling. Consistency throughout is the secret. There are few formal training lessons, but every activity is training and an opportunity to teach. If you do this as a matter of routine, one day someone will say, “What a well behaved dog.” and you will say “Yes, he was a natural!”
© Martin Deeley 2010