How do you train your dog?

How do you train? Do you use treats, toys, praise, all three or neither. Many trainers have multiple opinions on the right methods of reinforcement.

Purely positive reinforcement (PP):
This is the sole use of treats for training. Treats are great in training because they are the primary reinforcement for dogs (R1). Treat training is very effective, quick and of course positive. However using only treats can become a problem because you will have to use treats to get behaviors and people don’t always have treats on them and it can be expensive.

No treat training:
You will hear some trainers talking about no treat training. The theory behind this training technique is using praise like a clicker or the word “good” and that is enough of reinforcement for your dog. No treats just behaviors based on trust and a strong bond. But there is a down side. Training behaviors can take much longer and the duration of the trains will be shorter. Also it requires more work and patience. Not everyone has that time!

Variable positive reinforcement training:
Variable training is the use of multiple primary and secondary reinforcements (R2) between treats, praise , toys, or positive behaviors to train. The benefits of this is one uses treats in the beginning to get the behaviors quickly and once your dog has the an understanding of the behavior you start reinforcing them variably fading the treats. One time with a toy play , next time with love and praise and tactile and the next time with a behavior they enjoy like going for a walk. For example if you want to maintain the sit behavior but you don’t want to use treats every time and you have used toys already. Ask your dog to sit before the walk. Your dog sits and then they get rewarded with a walk. No treats needed and your dog will be able to maintain the behavior. The con is that some people argue that fading treats is a waste of time.

Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT):
This is a whole other form of training where the reinforcement comes from removing a negative feeling. This is used for fear or aggression issues not for sits and downs. For example your dog is afraid of other dogs. So you have a dog come down a street, your dog notices the dog and then the fear kicks in. You ask the helper dog to back up until your dog is comfortable and that is the reinforcement. The removal of the fear. Every time you do this you bring your dog closer and closer and if the improve they get rewarded by the removal of the negative stimulus. This method is helpful to stop undesired behaviors.

No matter how you train your dog, stand by your method. Understand why you reinforce the way you do and know all the different methods of reinforcement. You might realize , like I have, that all these methods have their pros and cons. This is why I use all of these methods in my training. I train with treats, toys, praise the use of a bridge (the word “good”), tactile , bat and redirection training. All to provide the dog and the client with a well rounded training experience.

So next time you have a trainer ask them what method of training they use and why. It is always interesting to hear peoples different opinions on training.


What to do before you get a dog?

Getting an animal is such a great experience. But like anything worth having, buying a dog should take some research. This is how to prepare yourself for your furry addition.

First I always advice people seeking a new dog to consider adoption. There are so many dogs in rescue homes and shelters that need adopting. Many that were abandoned or mistreated that need a nice home. You can get a pure breed or mixed breed there and you would be saving a life.

Now if adopting a dog is something you would consider for a later date and this time around you prefer a dog from a breeder make sure you take precaution.

1) See the parents of the puppy you want to adopt. See if the parents are unruly, hyperactive, aggressive, calm, quiet or loving. The parents are very telling about how your puppy may behave in the future. Family history is important!!

2). Check out the credentials of the breeder. Are they experienced? Do they practice safe breeding methods ( ie unrelated healthy dogs with good health records). Are the parents AKC certified or not? Do the pups look healthy and are they all at least 8 weeks old before bring sold off. This is important because a breeder that cares for there puppies health would allow the pups to ween for 2 months before being taken home. Some people never see the puppy they want or the parents. They just buy online and expect a great dog. Be weary!!

3). Ask about shots and vaccinations. Most breeders will have given the litter their first 2 rounds of shots plus a possible fecal exam. This is important to know so you puppy is up to date.

4) Before getting your dog, set yourself up for success. Have a vet picked out and prepare your house. This is important for you as we’ll as the dog! Have a pen for you puppy to play in with puppy approved toys to chew on and a little bed. If your dog is small you can put pee pads in the pen away from the bed so your dog can learn to pee in the right spot. A crate is also a great idea and crate training for puppies. This is easier for puppies than adults so get them prepared now. You know how your house is set up. If you live in a high rise with your tiny Yorkshire Terrier than pee pads will be a must! If you have a back yard in your house then plan to start training outside even think about a dog door before your dog arrives. This way they dog learns everything at an early age.

5). Finally ask yourself if this is a good time for a dog. If you traveling constantly and never home maybe a dog should be a thought for later.

Dogs are great companions. They give unconditional love and affection but they are not a walk in the park ( no pun intended). Puppies take time to learn new behaviors, new environments and new people. But if you do a little research before your next dog the arrival of your new dog will be much smoother for both you and your new best friend!


How to Train Older Dogs and Puppies

Everyone knows puppies need training early in life. That’s why millions of people go to basic training classes and puppy perfection lessons. What people don’t realize is that when your dog becomes an older dog sometimes you need to treat them like puppies.
Is your older dog starting to pee in the house? Do they seem a little aggressive toward your family or other animals? Lets start treating them as puppies. Don’t get angry and frustrated!

If your older dog has started going in the house, set up a dog pen. They have less space to make accidents and now they are back to basics. Set up their pee pad in the pen to encourage urination in a certain spot.

Older dogs can start being belligerent and just remember that you cannot get mad . By understanding your dog you can learn to adapt to their new age. Set them up for success and revert back to puppy training. Supervision, attention, and comfortable living space that is conducive to their level of obedience.

The better you adapt to your dogs old age the happy you both will become. Now, who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks?


How to Sit

Sitting is a fundamental behavior in obedience training. This should be starting right when you get your dog. There are many ways of starting the process but today we will learn how to use positive reinforcement training to do “sit”.

Bring your dogs favorite training treats and get your dog positioned in front of you. We will use a verbal signal paired with with a hand signal. Say the word “sit” and move your hand with a treat in it from your dogs face back toward their back. Your dog will begin to follow your treat and naturally fall back and sit, the second your dog sits say ” good” and reinforce that behavior. Do it again and again, reinforcing only when they completely sit. That is key because if you say good and they are not sitting they will take advantage of your mistake and do less and less . So only reinforce behaviors when it is complete also reinforce immediately. The probability of a behavior reoccurring is increased by the immediacy of the reinforcing.
Now if your dog doesn’t emit sit we will LRS. It is called the least reinforcing stimulus . It is like a 3 second time-out. All you do is ignore the wrong behavior. So you say sit and he always sits and now you say sit and they are still standing. Ignore that behavior which lets your dog know something is not right and then ask again.

Sit is an important behavior. It is the “gateway” behavior to a world of other behaviors. I personally don’t let any of my dog clients get freebies. Before they go for a walk I ask them to sit whilst the leash goes on. When I come home and the dog runs to greet me I say sit immediately.
Let sit work for you!