KUSA - Training dogs can be rather frustrating for pet owners, but we have 10 timeless training tips that can help anyone.
Behavioral changes can take time
Plan how to manage the behavior while you change it.
- Block the front window to stop barking until you teach your dog to perform a different behavior instead, like running to you or going to his bed.
- Crate or contain your dog until he is fully housetrained and has outgrown being destructive.
- Only give him treats you can take away easily while you teach him to 'give' by trading his prize for your more valuable prize.
- Use a longer and longer leash to successfully reinforce the 'come' command in each practice session rather than letting him off leash prematurely which ill-advisedly gives him an opportunity to 'run' instead of 'come.'
Set reasonable rules and be consistent. Your dog will relax knowing how to get what he wants and knowing what he can't get.
- Upon entering the kitchen, your dog can expect to receive a treat if he lies down and stays calm. This prevents and re-trains counter surfers.
- If he comes right in from the yard when you call him, he receives lavish praise and loads of attention.
- Sitting politely makes his dinner appear.
Cues and Commands
Dogs have to associate a new word with a behavior and recognize that it always means the same thing. The following steps are helpful:
- At first, when he sits on the floor, you name the behavior saying 'sit'. This is true for 'down', 'stay' and every other cue.
- After practicing this, you say the word 'sit' gauging whether he has learned its meaning and will respond appropriately.
- Once he repeatedly sits every time you tell him to, ask him to 'sit' in many different places until he can generalize that no matter where he is asked to 'sit', it means the same thing.
- If he does not sit when asked, he does not fully understand. You will need to continue to teach him through naming and generalizing exercises.
English as a Foreign Language
Dogs don't naturally comprehend English. Help them understand through the precise, concise use of meaningful words.
- Instructive: 'leave it', 'wait', 'fetch.'
- Confusing: 'stop – no - leave it – no – don't!', 'can you wait there?', 'get it, get it, fetch it, get it'
Ignore and Reward
Ignore undesirable attention-seeking behaviors when possible – they will go away. Watch for and reward desirable behaviors consistently – they will increase.
- If your dog jumps up once for attention, completely ignore him. If he continues to jump, leave the room (and him).
- When he automatically sits in front of you or a guest, he receives the attention he is seeking.
- If he is lying down calmly, say quietly 'good boy' to show him that you noticed.
Know Your Dog
Take the time to get to know and appreciate your dog as an individual who has a personality, preferences and dislikes.
- Assess whether he is adequately socialized to enjoy a dog park, or is more relaxed meeting and playing with one dog at a time.
- Notice whether walks allow him to explore and smell, or arouse fear and elicit defensiveness. Perhaps he prefers to play with you in his own backyard?
- Do children make him nervous and desiring distance, or does he revel in their polite company?
Managing Multiple Dogs
Yours, Boarding, Fosters or Playmates
- If you live with multiple dogs, afford them each comparable levels of affection, attention and access to resources, just as you would your human children. Without a reason to compete within a household or to deal with a bully, dogs can relax and get along.
- Keep introductions low key and one-on-one, if possible, slowly but surely building a sense of familiarity, safety and belonging.
- Encourage calm separation periods throughout the day to prevent overstimulation.
Attorneys, Dentists, Mechanics, Teachers and Dog Trainers. Each has expertise to help you remedy questionable or deteriorating situations before they become irreparable!
- Call right away with your question – you may not even need an appointment.
- Consult to find out if the problem might go away on its own – usually this is not the case.
- Seek out effective protocols for more complex behaviors like separation anxiety, PTSD, and escaping.
- ALWAYS get in contact if there is growling, nipping, guarding of food or toys or territory, extreme general discomfort, uneasiness between resident dogs, or any signs of aggression.
A puppy is a baby of another species. Commit to teach him everything he needs to know about living in the human world before he gets too big to handle or too unruly to be easily trained.
- Housetraining can be based on a dog's natural inclination to keep his living space clean. Three simple rules will ensure success: he is either outside going to the bathroom, he is in a c rate or confined, or he is leashed to you so he can't wander off and make mistakes.
- Do socialize – provide experiences which build a positive association with your dog's environment.
- Do not traumatize - don't expect your dog to handle scary, unfamiliar or stressful situations.
Accept that most dogs have strong drives linked to their survival which may result in behaviors we find annoying such as barking, digging, chasing or escaping.
- Suppressing or punishing these natural inclinations can result in neurosis and aggression, as well as additional undesirable behaviors.
- Help them satisfy their drives through physical exercise including walks and games, mental stimulation like training, bonding time together or designated digging areas.
- Recognize that certain breeds or mixes have tendencies like herding, retrieving or guarding. Acknowledging a job well done, or offering guidance otherwise, results in a win-win team effort rather than a win-lose confrontation.
FREE handouts are available by email to further explain most of these tips. Let us know at MishaMayFoundation@gmail.com which ones to send to you.
POSITION STATEMENT: The Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
- recommends that veterinarians NOT refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it.
- emphasizes that animal training, behavior prevention strategies, and behavior modification programs should follow the scientifically based guidelines of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, desensitization, and counter conditioning.
- recommends that veterinarians identify and refer clients only to trainers and behavior consultants who understand the principles of learning theory and who focus on reinforcing desirable behaviors and removing the reinforcement for undesirable behaviors.
Lorraine May contributed to this article
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