There are three basic steps to training a dog to a new command or modifying an existing behavior. First, we introduce the desired behavior. Second, we provide repetition to build confidence and understanding. And third, we add a consequence for non-compliance.
We begin by teaching the dog what we want them to do. In this first stage, we are helping the dog understand what exactly we want from them to do and how we want them to do it. At this stage we are going to begin rewarding the dog for following the instruction.
For example, if we are teaching the command come, we would put the dog on a long cord, say the order come and pull the dog to our left side and have them sit and wait for the next instruction. When the dog does this, we will reward them with treat or praise.
In this second stage, we are building familiarity so that the dog can execute the command with confidence. We are starting to build a long-term association between the command and their performing an action. So when we say come the dog does not think, they just follow the instruction and return to your side.
In our above example, we would keep repeating the come training exercise until the dog knew exactly what they were supposed to do. As well as positive reinforcement, you will start providing mild negative reinforcement such as a 'no' or a negative tone when the dog does not obey. You would notice that many dogs will not follow the instruction promptly and will often dawdle. Other dogs will not follow the instruction when there is some source of excitement like another dog nearby. This is normal and we will address this by adding a consequence in the next stage of training.
We now layer on a correction (consequence) when the dog does not promptly follow the command. The correction gives the dog an additional motivation to follow the order, and teaches them that commands must be followed quickly and without regard to any outside distractions. The dog also learns that to turn off the correction, they just need to follow the command.
In our come example, we keep practicing the come command. But, now when the dog dawdles or explores distractions, we would apply a correction such as a static shock. We would keep applying the correction, guiding the dog to the desired behavior with the leash, until they follow the command at which point the correction is released.
In this third stage, progress is usually very quick. If a dog is not responding, chances are that they still don't understand the command, and you should return to the first two steps.
In the final stage, we help the dog expand their understanding and reliability of the command, by using it in different situations. Here we are trying to make the command robust, so the dog understands that it should be followed in a wide range of different circumstances. We want to test and train the dog in the most difficult conditions, so that when they encounter real world test of their training, when safety may be an issue, we can be confident that they will follow our instructions.
For the come command, we would start using the command when the dog is off-leash. We would start using the command when there are strong temptations such as a neighborhood dog, food, or another family member.