Everyone dreams of a family dog that is sweet, gentle, and hopefully obedient. These dog training tips will help you reinforce positive behaviors.
By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Cynologist
Everyone dreams of a 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 essential to remember a few things that will help you reinforce positive behaviors.
Your puppy will learn that your love and good behavior go together by focusing on the positive. When there is an inevitable mishap, your disapproval will make an impact. You want the scolding to be reserved for the terrible behavior. A dog that lives with more disapproval than approval learns to disregard your admonishments and doesn’t 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:
1. Train Your Puppy Often
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 were 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.
2. Vary Your Dog’s 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 cement a lesson, conduct class under many different circumstances. This is especially important for the worst-case scenario when your dog could use your command to save their lives. Ensure 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 treatment for a positive response is acceptable but uses 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 actual concentration is required, the treat can be a significant 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 invest in training. Consistent training will cement your relationship and secure your dog’s devotion.