The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Understanding the 'Why' of Training

Understanding the 'Why' of Training

You can run drills all day long, day after day, and you will produce a hunting, obedience, agility or whatever other kind of dog you're interested in producing. It's not until you understand why you're running them and what effect they, and any subsequent corrections or praise, have on your dog that you start to really become a trainer. Plugging along from Point A to Point B and beyond will build a foundation for your hunting dog. It's vitally important that your dog have that foundation to build upon, and it's also one of the biggest problems amateurs have with training.

We get excited to "get to the fun stuff" and skip all the small steps that teach a dog to correctly carry out that fun stuff. When someone says their dog doesn't do something correctly or only does X, Y or Z incorrectly, you can almost always bet that the issue was caused by glossing over or altogether skipping a step in their foundation.

However, just plugging along and running drills, exercises, obedience and applying praise, corrections and the like in a more or less ordered sense isn't what it's all about.

The why is much more important than the how.

When you understand why you're carrying out a task and why you apply positive or negative reinforcement, praise, corrections or any other type of pressure and instruction, the how, when, where and what make so much more sense.

Going beyond just connecting the dots in a training manual allows you to truly understand what's happening in your dog's head and gives you the opportunity to anticipate what your dog is going to do next (before even he knows it) and also to shift gears, improvise or change your training tack altogether.

While it's very advisable to follow an established training program from start to finish, no program can serve the needs of every dog and amateur trainer. And when professional trainers put out books, DVDs and the like, it's a broad-sweeping generalization of how to train a dog using their methods. They can't incorporate every little nuance of training many different dogs and their personal quirks and issues. That's what makes a good trainer: adjusting the program to fit those "problem children" that have issues, whether they're genetic or learned it doesn't matter.

And you can only do this when you understand why you're performing a certain task, what ramifications it has on the dog both mentally and physically, how it fits within the program, when you will use the skill in the future and where the issues might arise by changing the program's sequence or training stresses.

When you hit that level of consciousness, not only you will be living in the moment with your dog but you'll be looking forward and backward at the same time. You'll truly be clicking along in your training. You and your dog will be on the same plane and it will all come together magically. Only, it's not magic.

It's understanding what's really going on from both your perspective and the dog's. It's knowing that the why is more important than the how.