What can they be? Different “professionals” would say different things. Trainers who style themselves as positive-only would certainly mention treats, a clicker, maybe some kind of splendid leash with magic powers (if only…)! Those at the punishment end of things (I like to think of them as dinosaurs: failing to adapt to environmental change will inevitably lead to extinction) will sell you cans of stuff to spray, things to shake / throw, and devices designed to inflict pain (to your new BFF. Really???)
But in fact my list includes none of these things. It’s not actually to do with which tools you use (although the right ones can be tremendously helpful). It’s to do with you.
The 3 things you need to train your dog are:
Consistency, congruence, kindness.
1. Be consistent. Your dog learns from the outcome of each experience. The more consistent you are, the easier it is for your dog to learn what you want (not what you don’t want). You not only need to be consistent yourself, but also across the whole family: no “one rule for me, one for you” thank you. Your dog’s training is not the place to try and prove who wears the trousers. Collaborate!
2. Be congruent. You want your dog to pay you attention. Well then put down your iphone and pay attention to your dog. You want your dog to come running back to you enthusiastically? Get enthusiastic about the dog coming back. This is a relationship and like any other relationship you get out what you put in!
3. Be kind. We all make mistakes. Your dog will make mistakes. I’m kind of hoping you wouldn’t electrocute your kids for messing up? (If you’re considering it, please seek professional help!) Well, the same applies to your dog. It is NOT NECESSARY to frighten or hurt you dog in any way to get him / her trained (and in fact, it’s very likely to cause worse behaviours due to the associated stress and anxiety). Be understanding, rational and empathic: we all have a bad day once in a while…