I have been training horses for the past 10 years or so. In that time, I have also helped train dogs for basic obedience and various jobs like cattle heeling, avalanche rescue, and emotional support. I have spent a lot of time around animals of all kinds have learned a bit about listening to them, communicating with them effectively, and understanding them.
Clear communication with our animals is a difficult thing to explain—often more art than science, more intuition than something that can be codified. In my years as a horse and dog trainer, I have regularly observed people misreading their animals or unintentionally sending them mixed and confusing signals. Indeed, many dog trainers will tell you that their job often requires them to train the human more than the dog.
I want to share with you four fundamental principles that I believe are key in the effective training of dogs (or horses). Rather than get into the specifics of various training techniques (positive vs. negative reinforcement, whether to use treats or not, etc.), the focus of this article is instead to convey four key elements that will help improve communication and understanding with your dog.
In my experience working with animals, I have found these four principles are indispensable.