By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger
Everyone dreams of the family dog that is sweet, gentle and hopefully, obedient. Most of us have the best intentions when we welcome a new puppy into our lives and we have high hopes for a smooth transition. Unfortunately, there are many factors at play in this situation and it is important to remember a few things which will help you to reinforce positive behaviors.
By focusing on the positive your puppy will learn that your love and their good behavior go together and when there is the inevitable mishap, your disapproval will really make an impact. You want the scolding to be reserved for the really bad behavior. A dog that lives with more disapproval than approval learns to disregard your admonishments and doesn’t really take them to heart.
These three dog training tips will help you better communicate with your dog so that you achieve the desired positive response:
Typically we began our puppy’s training right away with the basics like “leave it,” “settle” or “wait” and with a consistent approach most puppies learn quickly. The problems can occur when you assume that they are finished with their training. Imagine if your favorite hobby was something you only did twice a year, you would probably be pretty rusty. The more you practice your craft, the better you will become at it. Your “training” should be ongoing with practice taking place frequently. Use the “wait” command before opening the door to the yard or ask your dog to “leave it”when out on a walk and your dog goes to pick up a dried up worm. Continue to teach them words to associate with actions to avoid using “NO” so much.
Vary Their Training
If you only ask your dog to “sit” before you set their bowl down, they could be genuinely confused if you asked them the “sit” at the dog park. To really cement a lesson, conduct class under many different circumstances. This is especially important for the worse case scenario when your command could be used to save their lives. Make sure they comply with all the words you taught them, indoors, outdoors, with many distractions like noise and activity, and later, when you drop their lead and they are no longer constrained.
Don’t make the mistake of relying on dog treats as a reward for positive behavior. The occasional treat for a positive response is fine but use your hands to stroke and scratch and your voice to use loving and positive affirmations as the primary reinforcer. If you have ever observed agility training or watched field trails, you will note that the “treat” is rarely used. The main reason is that when real concentration is required, the treat can serve as a major distraction. Your enthusiastic and loving response is the best reinforcement for your lessons.
Your puppy will grow into a reliable and delightful member of your family when you spend the time and make the investment in training. Consistent training will cement your relationship and secure your dog’s devotion.
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