04 January 2013
There are 2 kinds of dogs
I bet you are expecting that I will say it is good dogs and bad dogs, but that's not what it is. The two types of dogs are ones that will immediately test you and those that immediately cooperate. That is a lot like most animals, including people.
Have you ever considered stop and start behaviors in your companions? Stop behaviors would be things like whining, teasing, arguing, pouting, and tantrums -- yes, I grabbed that right out of child behaviors, but your dogs are often doing the same things. Start behaviors include things like bedtime, homework and eating -- if you use praise, simple requests and offer natural consequences all things will likely work out great.
Do you ever find yourself reasoning with a child or a pet? How quickly did you figure out that doesn't really work all that well. (If you haven't had that epiphany yet, trust me and stop negotiating with children and animals. Long diatribes full or words and reasons are not helpful and often push you to think of what the next step(s) might be -- and they are never great. The progress often looks like this: talk-persuade-argue-yell-hit. Wow, that is quite a sequence and it can be avoided.
The better way is to go with a largely non-verbal approach and repeat until they get what you are saying. Now, I'm not talking about shoving them around, just giving patient, gentle and persistent direction regarding what you want to occur. Sometimes dogs (and animals in general) just need the proper direction to become successful.
This is a bit like the treat analogy -- start as a Coca-Cola machine and work toward being a slot machine on rewards. For improving your training relationship you'll begin as a benign dictator where you act as judge and jury -- no need for an executioner. This is really more for safety than any other reason. Just like you wouldn't allow a toddler outside alone to play, your dog won't be allowed to be alone and make huge mistakes. As things improve, your system will be moving to a democracy where they earn and contribute more to their own well-being.
Remember that non-compliance isn't always a lack of cooperation, it may actually be related to a lack of information. Train and explain and your results will be better.