"I Need My Dog to Listen!"
This is a phrase uttered by many pet parents, "My dog does not listen to me!" The problem is not that your dog is not listening to you, it is usually that she does not understand you. It is crucial that you practice the behaviors you want so that when you need them, they will work. This may sound simple and logical but it is so important and often overlooked. Even if I know how to teach a cue, if I don't practice it enough there is no guarantee it will work when I need it. For example, if I did not practice my drop it cue prior to my dog getting something dangerous in his mouth, then asking for a drop in that moment, may or may not work. Likely not. Practicing dropping an item such as a toy and then returning the toy to your canine companion will increase the likelihood your dog will drop something when it is important. Another example is recall. If I did not practice come when called with my dog often, then he may not come if a car is coming. Training is about practicing the behaviors so they will be reliable when you need them.
The flip-side to this is we also don’t want our dogs to practice behaviors that we don’t want to happen. If my dog gets good at barking at the fence at the neighbor dogs, then when I want to teach him that this is not what I want, it may take more time because my dog has practiced it for a time and, perhaps, now enjoys barking at the fence. In order to manage the behavior prior to training, I might supervise my dog outside or look to see if the neighbor dogs are outside prior to letting him outside. Practice does make perfect in both scenarios!