Training Time

Family Fun & Activities, KIWI, Parenting | February 16, 2015
KIWI

Smart advice for improving your dog's behavior

Getting your dog to come when you call is an essential command, yet training is about more than obedience and safety—it’s about opening up channels of communication and bonding, says integrative veterinary practitioner Jennifer Pearson, DVM, of Colorado Springs, CO. “Training gives you a way to tell your dog what you expect,” Dr. Pearson says. Plus, as Shelley Brown, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Arvada, CO, notes, training leads to a relationship based on understanding rather than frustration. “Without training, the dog doesn’t understand the rules and expectations, so behavior problems occur.” Follow this chart for our dos and don’ts of dog training.

 

DO

DON’T

USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.

Both Drs. Pearson and Brown agree that positive reinforcement is the best training model to use. “The philosophy is based on the idea that when your dog does something you want him to do, you reward it,” says Dr. Pearson. When he does something wrong, the reward is removed and the behavior is ignored. A reward could be a treat, praise, play, or affection.

TRY TO DOMINATE YOUR DOG.

This training technique focuses on the owner getting the dog to submit to him. But Dr. Brown advises against it: “Old punishment methods, such as yelling at, rolling, and striking the dog often lead to a fearful dog,” says Dr. Brown. “So while you may get the dog to avoid certain behaviors, it comes at a very steep price.”

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP.

Dr. Brown recommends starting with a professional training class so you learn the basics. If that doesn’t work for your family, she suggests these books: Before & After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar, How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Dr. Sophia Yin, and The Dog Whisperer by Paul Owens.

THINK IT’S TOO LATE.

The old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” just isn’t true. “It may take longer to train an older dog because her habits are formed,” says Dr. Pearson, “but don’t give up.” If the pet’s behavior is especially worrisome, like aggression, work with your vet to find a behaviorist or trainer in your area.

BE CONSISTENT.

“If you only show your dog what is expected once a month, it’s very hard for him to learn,” says Dr. Brown. “Mixed messages are the biggest cause of training failure.”

DIVIDE UP TRAINING DUTIES.

It’s best to have one person in the family lead the training, says Dr. Brown, but everyone should know the commands and methods so training is consistent.

USE TREATS WISELY.

“Some people think that if you use food, the animal won’t listen unless you have a treat,” Dr. Pearson says—but that’s not necessarily so. The key is to vary the frequency of treats. When you’re first teaching a command, give one each time. Once she understands, give it only once in a while. This keeps her on her toes!

JUST SAY NO.

Never tell your dog “no” without showing her the correct behavior, advises Dr. Pearson. For example, if your dog is on the bed and isn’t supposed to be, say “no” and then direct her to go down and praise her when she does. If you just reprimand her, the dog won’t learn what she should be doing instead.

 

YOUR PESKIEST TRAINING PROBLEMS—SOLVED!

NOT COMING WHEN DISTRACTED.

Pick a toy or treat and pair it with a call that you use only with that reward. The dog will learn that the signal means he gets a treat after he comes. “The key is finding some- thing powerful enough to overcome the distraction,” says Dr. Pearson.

JUMPING WHEN YOU GET HOME.

Dogs jump because they’re excited to see you. As the dog jumps, spin your body away so it knocks her paws down, says Dr. Pearson. Once her feet hit the ground, ask her to sit and then reward her with an ear rub or treat.

SCRATCHING DOORS OR CHEWING ON FURNITURE.

Providing toys, exercise, and socialization can help deter this activity since it often happens when your dog is bored or pent up, says Dr. Brown. When you catch him in the act, say “no” and then give him a toy to chew on, says Dr. Brown.

BARKING AT THE MAIL CARRIER.

“Start by directing the dog with a command— ‘no’ or ‘no bark’— and then give her a treat when she stops,” says Dr. Brown. As time goes on, the dog will listen to what you say without needing the incentive of a treat.

For more articles on growing families the natural and organic way, visit kiwimagonline.com

 
 

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