Why is it important to be consistent with verbal and hand commands?

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Why is it that one day your dog seems to be a shining example of the well-trained animal—but the next day, nothing! He seems to have stopped responding entirely.

What’s going on? Could it be that he just forgot everything you taught him?

It’s important to remember that dogs don’t learn the way we humans do. They live in the present and don’t have reasoning ability. They learn by watching, repetition, association and routine. In fact, dogs hate it when their routines are disrupted, whether it’s the feeding schedule or time for walk and play. The slightest change will throw some of them off.

What’s probably really going on is that your verbal commands and/or hand signals are not consistent. A dog will not learn a command unless it is repeated and used often– in the same exact manner, each and every time.

The minute you stop being consistent is the minute your dog will get confused—he has no idea what you want him to do— therefore, it seems as though the dog has stopped responding. He does want to please you–and especially loves that praise (and possibly a treat)—but just can’t figure out what you want.

For example, if you have been using an open palm, facing out, for the command “stay,” and suddenly you decide to switch to a different motion—no matter how subtle it may seem to you—such as facing the palm down, the dog will become very confused. This is especially true of those very smart breeds, like Border Collies. They can pick up the tiniest nuance. The same holds true for your verbal commands; if they were once short and to the point, but they suddenly became a description or narration, he will either fail to do the command properly or ignore it completely.

Therefore, when first teaching a dog a command, it is very important to be consistent, and to repeat it often, even when you think the dog has learned it very well.

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