If you have ever worked along with a trainer, he or she may have repeated countless times, the importance of not repeating commands. The reason for this is that training your dog using the broken record system by repeating “sit, sit, sit” will only teach your dog to respond to “sit, sit, sit!’. In other words, your dog will learn to not listen to the first command, and perhaps not even the second, but may comply readily with the third.
To the owner’s eyes, the dog is being stubborn, but from the dog’s perspective, he is being compliant, according to Gary Wilkes, an internationally acclaimed dog behaviorist and trainer. Indeed, you can almost hear your dog say “But I thought the command was sit-sit, please make up your mind master! I am only being polite and waiting for you to finish the sentence!”
Why Do Humans Tend to Repeat Commands?
It is deeply ingrained in human nature to repeat something when a wanted result is not obtained. If a person asks a tourist “What time is it?” and the tourist does not understand, it is in human nature to repeat the question saying it louder and more slowly, almost as if magically those words assume a meaning. You can almost hear the tourist think “I am a tourist, not deaf!”.
It takes some lip biting, therefore, to stop repeating commands. It helps to train with a friend that is observant and can point out when commands are being repeated since as creatures of habit, humans often repeat commands without even noticing.
How to Train Your Dog to Respond to One Command
So what to do if Rover is responding only to “sit, sit, sit?” The next task is to wean him off this command. This requires some effort from both the dog and handler. Dog owners must be very careful to only ask the sit once. Following is a step-by-step guide.
- Get some high-value treats.
- Let your dog have a treat so he knows what he is working for and is eager to get more.
- Next, ask the sit only once.
- Count up to five in your mind and wait for compliance.
- If the dog does not perform the behavior, make a sudden about-face, walk away and try later.
- If the dog complies say “good!” and deliver the treat.
If the dog continues to not comply at the first command, keep on walking away with your bag of treats. This is called, in the dog training world, “negative punishment”. Basically, you are telling your dog “good things end when you do not comply promptly”. If your dog is food motivated, sooner than later, he will follow you, eager to comply. Now, the next step is to ensure you never again repeat that command.