Consistency is one of the most important elements of effective dog training. Every command needs to have a consistent meaning, and every “rule” you make must be clear and consistent. Your dog needs to know what’s required of them, and what the outcome of each response or behaviour will be. If this is unclear, or inconsistent, it’s both confusing and leads to them pushing the boundaries of commands and rules. Every command and rule must have consistent follow-through, with a behaviour getting the same response each time. If this is maintained, your dog will know what’s required of them and will feel comfortable and confident, which increases the trust they have in you.
They are also much less likely to push the boundaries to see if they will “get away with it”, as they know that it never pays off, and they never get away with it. An example of this is if you want your dog to stay on their bed until invited off it. Many dogs will “sneak” off their bed to a nice sunny spot, or leave it when something exciting happens like someone arriving at the door. If you sometimes let them do this - maybe because it’s cute, or because you are busy greeting the guest - then they learn that sometimes, rules can be broken. This then flows on to other aspects of their training and manners – if they can get away with breaking that rule or command, maybe they can also get away with breaking a different one. It’s also confusing, as they don’t know what they’re actually supposed to do, especially if you sometimes tell them off for something, and sometimes don’t.
Consistency also has to be true across the people handling the dog. Everyone has to have the same rules for the dog, and the same definitions of what a command means. If one person allows the dog in the kitchen and the other tells them off and turfs them back out, how are they supposed to know whether they are allowed in there or not? If creating new rules for your dog as part of their training, it can be helpful to write them down and stick them on the fridge, so every member of the household’s reminded what they are.
One of the keys to reliable obedience and a relationship of trust and respect with your dog is meaning what you say and consistently following through – you will find that consistency in all aspects will have a great impact on your overall relationship, and your dog’s ability to consistently follow commands.