The single most important factor that will influence your adult dog's behaviour is early appropriate SOCIALISATION and effective Force Free Training.
I hear almost daily from clients how similar things are between teaching dogs and children. Yes there are so many similarities but one of the most important differences is Temporal Contiguity. This term refers to the timing of the positive reinforcement that will strengthen a behaviour. If your timing is out the correct association will not be made. Dog's learn by association. Dog's form associations between the two closest occurring stimuli.
Science has well and truly proven over and over in the last two decades that dogs learn when you create a positive association to the correct behaviour rather than a punishment for the wrong behaviour.
Dogs form associations between the two stimuli that happen closest together, "Temporal Contiguity'
For example, Mum has been calling her adolescent puppy and chasing her all over the park for what seems like hours, Mum is becoming more frustrated with every passing minute that her adolescent pup seems to be giving her the proverbial doggie finger and continues running around sniffing and greeting every other living being she can find. Eventually puppy has greeted everyone in the park and decides to return to her frustrated human guardian. The first thing Mum does is point at her puppy and tell her she is a bad dog and puts her on the lead.
Puppy comes to Mum
Puppy is punished immediately after she is with and put on a lead.
Puppy doesn’t understand that your upset because she has been doing the wrong thing prior to that moment, her brain associates the 2 closest stimuli she experiences. She will only associate the negative with what happened immediately before the punishment, which in the case was coming to you, not what you want her to associate your unhappiness with, that she had not listened prior to that moment.
I tell clients all the time no matter how frustrated or upset you are because your adolescent dog has failed to return to you when asked, and you’ve been chasing them around the park, no matter how frustrated you are, you MUST be positive when you finally have them with you. Because a dog’s brain will associate the 2 closest stimuli and form an association of those 2 stimuli.
The association your puppy will make is "I come to mum, I get punished"
The association you need to create for your puppy "I came to mum and I get lots of love, verbal praise and rewards.
This is how the learning sequence occurs for dogs and puppies.
Humans learn differently.
Let’s say a parent has two young children and they’re playing in the back yard, Mum is in the kitchen and sees little Max slap little Charlie. Mum calls Max to come inside to her. When Max gets to the kitchen Mum explains to Max that slapping Charlie was the wrong thing to do and then asks him to go to his room and stay there for 20 mins to reinforce that what he did was wrong. This consequence based teaching approach is actually referred to as a positive punishment, because you have taken something away that the child enjoys (playing in the back yard) as a consequence for the undesirable or incorrect behaviour (slapping his sibling)
This learning sequence is effective in this situation with children because you have the luxury of explanation. You can call your child to come to you then explain to them right from wrong and make the correct association clear for them. This is not a luxury we have when teaching dogs and puppies. So remember puppies and dogs learn by association and they will always associate the two closest occurring stimuli. This is why it is imperative to give the positive reinforcement at the same time or as close too as possible when they achieve the correct behaviour. Clicker training when done correctly is a great way of creating perfectly timed positive reinforcements that strengthen the correct behaviour at the same time the behaviour is achieved and the clicker allows you to reinforce the behaviour at a distance.
Although the basic learning principals are the same for all dogs, It is also important to remember that just like people, not all dogs respond in the same way to a particular way of teaching. I'm sure there are millions of people that never reach their full potential simply because their learning environment was not conducive to their way of learning. Keeping this in mind, there are so many different ways to teach dogs the things we need and want them to understand. It is important that if something is not working that you are able to change tact. So many people just keep doing the same thing and expecting that eventually they will get the result they are trying to achieve. If you identify anything that your dog or puppy is doing that you think may need attention, you must address it as quickly as possible. Time is condensed for dogs, so what may seem like only a short period of time for us as humans, is actually an incredibly long time for dogs, particularly during certain periods in the first three years of age.
The best training tip, is to learn as much as you possibly can about how dogs communicate, so that you are able to recognise and understand what they're doing and why. Understanding is the first step, the next is knowing how to communicate with them so they understand you. There are certain things that we need to be able to use their way of communicating and not ours. For example, if you are trying to gain the trust of a person who is frightened you will generally make direct eye contact and attempt to encourage them to trust you with the words you say and the tone that you say them in. If you want to gain the trust of a frightened or timid adult dog you must do the opposite and completely ignore them. You must have no eye contact and remain disconnected even when they feel confident to get close enough to investigate you. The more aloof and disconnected you are from them, the more they will trust you.
What we consider "problem or unwanted" behaviours in dogs, are almost always created by us and our lack of understanding of how dogs communicate and their needs from the moment they're born.
It is easy for us to identify when a child is frightened or overwhelmed. We have spent our entire lives learning how to interpret and communicate with other people. Not just verbally, but we learn to recognise body language, facial expressions and a multitude of other aspects that allow us to understand each other. So we find it easy to recognise that a child is fearful, and it is quite natural for the majority of adults to know how to adress the fear in a child so they are no longer afraid, and how to make a child feel safe. Unfortunately more often than not people don't recognise that a dog's behaviour may be the result of fear, apprehension or nervousness. If that is recognised most people are unsure of how to address the fear and communicate with them so that he/she feels safe and is no longer fearful.
One of the fundamentals of teaching a puppy or an adult dog is Differential Reinforcement, when he/she gets it right reward the behaviour, rewards can be verbal praise, play, treats and a multitude of other things that dogs love and enjoy, when they get it wrong redirect them.
If you would like a greater understanding of this particular principle I highly recommend,
Doctor Ian Dunbar ( Effective Dog Training - Ian Dunbar FORA.tv )