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What Contributes to Successful Training?

A few weeks ago a client asked me what makes a training experience successful. I love this question because it helps me crystalize my ideas about how training and behavior modification work best. In my answer I listed three elements of successful training.

I'll start with the trainer because they direct the whole process. A good trainer can work with both dogs and humans, adapting to their learning styles and listening carefully to both members of the training team. (Knowing how to train other species is a bonus!) They will also use their knowledge of how dogs learn to create a solid training plan and structure sessions that build on each other. Positive reinforcement and force-free trainers use the most up-to-date and humane techniques—all of which can contribute to a great experience for you and your dog.

A training plan designed for your dog's needs and your training goals plays another crucial role. Effective plans include management strategies to set your dog up for success by preventing them from practicing the behavior you'd like to modify or change. Plans should also include enrichment options to encourage your dog to engage in species-specific behaviors that reduce stress and lower overall stimulation. Sometimes the combination of management and enrichment can modify your dog’s behavior without more intervention. More often, though, both members of the training team will need to learn new behaviors through well-chosen training games. All training plans should be flexible and easily adjusted to you and your dog.


For me, your participation in the training is the most important element of a successful experience. As you work with your dog you will also strengthen your bond. If you don’t practice between sessions and reach out whenever you have questions, even the strongest trainer with the best-designed plan may fail to help you reach your goals. If you find yourself struggling, let your trainer know! They can help you get back on track.

Next week I'm diving back into my novel for another round of revisions, but I'll return in a few months with more thoughts about training.

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