Training is an important part of any dog’s life, and is important for many reasons. Not only does it provide mental stimulation which helps to keep your dog happy, but when used in conjunction with daily exercise will also help to keep your dog healthy as well. Reward-based training methods whereby the dog is set up to succeed and then rewarded for performing the ‘good’ behavior (positive reinforcement) is generally the best way to go.
Reward-based training is not only enjoyable for the dog but also for the handler/dog relationship. This approach revolves around positive reinforcement – i.e. rewarding behaviour that we as the owner like. Rewards may be in the form of a tasty food treat or verbal praise such as “good dog!” in a pleasant tone of voice, to be given when the dog performs the ‘good’ behaviour that we approve of.
Reward-based training also involves generally ignoring any ‘unwanted’ behaviours or events. In this way, the dog is not rewarded for any unwanted behaviour or event that took place. If dogs are not rewarded (i.e. receives no attention or treats) for a certain behaviour, then they tend to stop doing it. For example if a dog is jumping up to greet people they should be ignored if they jump up and only receive attention (including eye contact) when they have four paws on the ground. Only when they are standing or sitting should they be rewarded with attention and treats, this goes without saying and is a fundamental part of the dog training foundation.
Sometimes if owners react to ‘unwanted’ behaviour by yelling or getting angry they may inadvertently reinforce the bad behaviour that your dog is doing – dogs perceive this as attention and the ‘unwanted’ behaviour is simply reinforced and encouraged. For some dogs, any form of attention/reaction from the owner is better than no reaction at all. For example, if an owner shouts at a dog who is barking excessively, the dog may interpret this as getting attention and thus the barking continues whereas it is more effective to try to ignore this behaviour.
Any form of physical punishment must not be used in training programs. Punishing a dog for ‘unwanted’ behaviour can actually exacerbate the problem and can often lead to a misunderstanding between both the dog and the owner.
We highly recommend that you begin puppy training and socialization as soon as possible. Your puppy can then use this practice and learning when they meet other dogs at the park or on walks as they grow and mature into adulthood. Puppies have a ‘critical socialisation period’ from about 3-17 weeks of age. This is the time when they need to socialise with other dogs in order to learn social cues and how to communicate well with other dogs.
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