Training dogs and young puppies can often be a daunting task. Many owners wonder if they're doing more harm than good with training methods often developed out of necessity, rather than sound research and experience. I've complied a short list of some of the basic 'golden rules' of dog and puppy training to help you and your dog get the results you want.
Consistency is a necessary element of your dog's life. Not just as a puppy, but for the duration. Dogs thrive on consistency; consistency of command cues and gestures, consistency of routine, and consistency of care. It is important that your dog understand what it is you're asking of them. This is only possible with consistent behavior from you, the pet parent, and any other members of your household.
Reward the Positive, Ignore the Negative
When your dog or puppy performs with good manners and behavior and you reward her, it makes the dog more inclined to repeat the action. To any animal, actions that result in a reward are actions that are worth repeating. Healthy treats are a perfect way to reward your pup for good manners, but like all things, be sure to use treats in a controlled manner, to reinforce the good behavior you want.
Negative rewards, for a dog or puppy, have nothing to do with scolding, yelling, hitting, yanking, etc. Believe it or not, this expenditure of energy on your part will actually reinforce the behavior you do NOT want, encouraging your dog to repeat it again and again. Instead, don't use your voice at all. Avoid making eye contact with your dog or puppy, and quietly, calmly, redirect your pet's attention to the behavior you DO want.
Shorter is Better!
Dogs, and especially puppies, have very short attention spans. They will also get frustrated in long sessions that require their undivided attention, making your job as the pet parent that much more difficult. Instead, keep the sessions short and if your dog's attention does begin to waver, stop for awhile and do something else for a little while. After a few minutes, come back to the lesson you were attempting to teach initially.
Finding the Key!
One of the most powerful ways to motivate your pet is to figure out what her favorite reward is. Sometimes, it's a particularly delicious treat. For other dogs however, it's a game of catch-the-ball, frisbee, or access to their favorite toy. Even just a big heap of love and compliments on their fuzzy heads are all that's needed. No need to overcomplicate this one, dogs are easy to please!
Punishment Never Works
You may be inclined, due to what you've experienced in the past as regards raising a well mannered dog, to punish your pet's bad behavior. Fortunately for everyone involved, punishment of a pet, whether it be physical, verbal, or otherwise, it simply doesn't work. All that punishment of your dog will do is reinforce what you do not want, forcing your dog to become sneaky and hide the behavior. Eventually, your dog will become fearful of you, reluctant to share your affection, and self-isolating. This is not the path to a trusting, healthy relationship between you and your pet.
One of the most powerful ways to motivate your pet is to figure out what her favorite reward is. Sometimes, it's a particularly delicious treat. For other dogs however, it's a game of catch-the-ball, frisbee, or access to their favorite toy. Even just a big heap of love and compliments on their fuzzy heads are all that's needed. No need to over-complicate this one, dogs are easy to please!
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Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, Decoding the Dog Park, and the Big Book of Dog Training.