(This was supposed to be posted last week, but for some reason never did)Confidence confidence CONFIDENCE. It is the one biggest thing to remember in dog training, and often times the most common mistake. Confidence in yourself, in your dog and your techniques.
Here's a rule of thumb, your dog will do what you expect it to do. So, if you tell your dog to sit when you don't really expect him to listen to you, he most definitely is not going to sit. Dogs are masters at reading our body language, they can tell if we are being serious or not, and act according to that. If you tell a dog to sit in a timid way, eh, he might, he might not, then your dog will be able to tell that you do not mean business and he doesn't have to listen to you because you will not enforce what you are commanding. But, if you go in with confidence, believing that no matter what happens you will get the desired result in the end, your dog will have no choice but to listen to you.
It is easier said than done to have confidence in yourself when training another animal, especially if you are new at it. It is important to take a few minutes before training to envision exactly what you want the end result to look like, and work towards that the entire training session. Use clear, fluid movements and cues for your dog, and believe that you can do it. Say your commands assertively, and don't give up until you get some amount of success. You may have to take a step back with your dog in order for him to be successful at first, but with smaller steps you will eventually get there.
It is also very important to stop what you are doing and take a break if you ever get frustrated.
Many people don't realize the importance of confidence in dog training. For example, they have a possessive dog that growls every time you go near his toy. The owners approach the dog, expecting the dog to growl, and of course the dog growls. A professional dog trainer then steps in and approaches the dog with confidence, and the dog gives up his toy without a problem. (Cue the gasps and 'why doesn't he do that for me?!')
Once again, it's all about the confidence and positive expectations you have. Dogs can read our body language far better than we ourselves can. But luckily they are very forgiving so it's never too late to gain confidence and respect from your dog.