Dog Training Fundamentals

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be one of three search dog handlers that participated in the beta testing of a new course for K9 search and rescue instructors at the Manitoba Emergency Services College in Brandon, Manitoba (the home of Canada Task Force 4, Manitoba’s Urban Search and Rescue Team). In addition to completing the existing curriculum at the College (such as the Canine Search Specialist, K9 Evaluator, and K9 Administrator courses), we undertook our own self-directed study.

As part of that that experience I researched and developed a presentation on the fundamentals of dog training. This was a great chance for me to review some of my existing resource material, add some new books, videos, and online courses, and immerse myself in some of the latest thinking on dog training methods. It was also a wonderful opportunity to step back and consider this learning in light of my experience in training my own dogs and in coaching other handlers.

In the end, I didn’t focus on training specific obedience or work behaviours, but dug deeper to look at the core handler skills in each of three fundamental elements of dog training:

  • communication
  • engagement
  • motivation

Once these fundamental and over-lapping elements are in place between a dog and handler, the training of specific obedience or work behaviours will be positive, efficient, and effective.

Subsequent articles will explore each of these three fundamental elements of dog training.