Your Guide to Dog Training For Mutual Rewards
In this handbook, we’ll teach dog’s human companions - that’s you - some lessons in cohabiting for dog obedience and mutual happiness, health & wellbeing.
Make Dog Training A Rewarding Shared Activity
Human happiness, health and longevity are the priceless rewards of having a pet dog in your home. Research has consistently drawn links between improved wellbeing and having a pet dog as a companion. You owe it to your beloved pet, to uphold your end of the relationship and reciprocate the rewards. If your dog’s nutrition, water, shelter, health, grooming and exercise needs are met, you’re already off to a great start.
Regular training using consistent, positive reward can be enjoyable and mutually beneficial for everyone involved.Set yourself and your dog up for success by using positive reinforcement to reward acceptable behaviour. Positive reinforcement is when you reward your dog for demonstrating good behaviour. Your dog will thrive on the stimulation provided by regular training challenges and reward. Like people, dogs thrive when behavioural expectations of them are clear and consistent.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Political Leader
Rewards such as food treats, a play, a tummy rub, positive tone and words, a walk or any other activity your dog enjoys can be used to motivate good behaviours.Reward based dog training is not only enjoyable for your dog, but for you and your family too. If dog training feels like a chore for you, chances are your dog won’t respond well either. The goal is simple, make dog training a necessary but joyful time together.
If you are looking for a comprehensive dog training solution, or to correct problem behaviours in your dog, make sure you consult a professional. Your local vet, a good quality dog kennel, a puppy training school or an experienced dog behaviourist or trainer could help. In this handbook, we’ll teach dog’s human companions – that’s you what not to do, and how to make training your dog mutually rewarding for everyone involved.
“A dog has one aim in life – to bestow his heart.” – J R Ackerley, Author of My Dog Tulip
Reward Based Dog Training Lesson #1: Punishment Can Set Everyone Up To Fail
Dishing out negative reinforcement and punishment does not feel good. It is not rewarding for you, or your dog. Punishing your dog can be self defeating. If your dog responds negatively, you’ll respond negatively, and suddenly what was meant to be an enjoyable activity together has become an unpleasant chore. It is unlikely to motivate your pet toward positive behaviours. It is very likely to make you feel like you’re failing, both yourself and your pet. As a result you’re more likely to skip training sessions.
Punishment based training includes aversive techniques, asserting dominance over your dog or physical punishment. There are trainers that are expert in using dominance or aversive methods. These methods are not for novice trainers, and can put you and your dog at risk. Here is why punishment based training of your pet dog is unlikely to motivate good pet behaviours.
Punishment Based Training Can Create Fear And Drive Unwanted Behaviours
- Fear can drive aggressive behaviour: instilling fear in a dog can actually create the behaviours you want to avoid or correct. Aggressive behaviour can be the result of fear, anxiety or frustration. A dog may learn that the only way they can control a situation they are fearful of is through aggression.
- Aversive training or physical punishment can put you at risk: if your pet isn’t responding well to your training methods, and is behaving out of fear or confusion, your punishment based training can escalate – increasing your dogs fear, and putting you at risk of aggressive behaviour as a result.
- Physical punishment can injure your pet: for example, correction collars used incorrectly by a novice can cause your dog throat injury and skeletal muscular damage. Physical punishment can escalate over time. A light smack on the nose might get a puppy’s attention, but you may find yourself using stronger methods to get your dogs attention. Quite simply, physical punishment for dog training is inhumane, when there are humane options available.
- Punishment based dog training can worsen problem behaviour: here is an example. A dog greets friends and acquaintances by jumping straight up at them. She has been ‘corrected’ by being given a kick or knee in the ribs. What does she do? Next time she greets people she jumps at them from further away to avoid pain! Dogs learn to avoid the punishment, not heed the command.
Punishment Based Training Can Damage Your Communication And Relationship With Your Pet
- Confusion can lead to a communication breakdown: for example, by instilling fear or confusion where your dog is punished for failing to respond to a command to ‘drop’, the next time you say ‘drop’ your dog will react fearfully and may not know what to do. Your dog will only be driven to avoid punishment, not to obey the command. A correction collar such as a pinch or prong collar causes physical discomfort to your dog if the lead tightens. Your dog may associate their physical discomfort with the approach of other dogs, causing your dog to act aggressively toward them.
- A relationship based on looking for, and avoiding errors, is an unhealthy relationship: it can feel stressful for both human and dog, where there is too much focus on looking out for, and punishing, errors; and in the dog’s case, avoiding making errors.
- There is no enjoyment in punishment based training: punishment based training is not enjoyable for the trainer or the dog. Neither you, nor your dog, will be motivated to commit to regular training sessions. Consistency of training is critical in making good behaviours habitual. It is unlikely that children would want to be involved when training is based on dishing out negative outcomes. This then puts your children at risk, as the skills involved in punishment based training will be too challenging for them to apply in terms of physical strength, and emotional hardness.
Smacking a dog across the nose, or giving it a kick in the ribs is an antiquated approach. However, sadly we still see examples of this when adults apply learnings from their experience of growing up with dogs, and how their parents or grandparents applied punishment for training.
As a society, and through raising awareness about the inhumanity of punishment based animal training, we have moved on – thank goodness! The good news is, reward based training applied consistently does deliver results.
Reward Based Dog Training Lesson #2: Reward Will Set Everyone Up For Success
With commitment of time, patience and consistency you can help your dog learn and maintain acceptable behaviours through positive reinforcement.Rewards based dog training is a far more positive experience for everyone concerned. From the very beginning, scenarios are set up so that everyone can succeed.
Ignoring less acceptable or non acceptable dog behaviours is part of reward based training.
If a dog that has started jumping up on people, is given attention or a reward when all four paws are on the ground and this is done consistently – consistency is the key here – the jumping up behaviour will gradually diminish and stop.Rewards based dog training requires less skill than punishment based training, which is great because it means the whole family can get involved, and learn along the way.
Rewards include dog friendly food treats, kind words, an encouraging tone, a walk, a play, a favourite toy or even a tummy rub. A positive outcome in recognition of acceptable behaviour is a reward. Here are some tips for reward based training of your pet dog to motivate acceptable behaviour, and make for a harmonious household.
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #1: Consistency Is The Key To Successful Dog Training
- Set aside 20 minutes of dedicated dog training every day: more than 20 minutes a day is absolutely fine, but keep it to no more than 5 minutes each session.
- Reward your puppy or dog every time the acceptable behaviour is demonstrated: consistency is critical. If you reward your dog for obeying to a command such as ‘sit’ once, you must continue to reward your dog throughout the training session. Don’t offer random rewards for doing nothing, this will simply confuse your dog. Your dog will look forward to your training sessions knowing that this is an opportunity to please you, and get rewards!
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #2: Use Food Treats To Reward Accepted Behaviour
- Don’t over feed your dog. Use small portions for reward treats: you don’t have to go out and buy special dog treats. A small handful of your dog’s favourite dry food can be sufficient reward if distractions are minimal. Fresh meat is a real winner, particularly to really command your dog’s attention and set them up for success! A good rule of thumb is, the more likely the distractions, the more tasty the reward needs to be, to help command attention. Here are some examples of motivating food treats for dogs:
- Dried liver
- Dried pigs ears
- If its mid-summer, dogs enjoy the cool hydrating crunch of ice cubes
- Dry dog food with some bacon or liver treats thrown in
- Cheese cubes or grated cheese
- Peanut butter or cream cheese
- Dried beef or beef jerky
- Commercial dog treats, as close to natural as possible.
- Don’t restrict rewards to training sessions: while dedicated training sessions are important, you want your dog to learn that if they demonstrate an acceptable behaviour, they may very well be rewarded at any time! Have treats close at hand. If you’re going for a walk, take a pocketful of food treats with you.
- Use meal time and walk time as an opportunity for reward based training too: meal time is great time to practice a few commands. Ask your dog to perform two or three commands first and then offer them their food bowl, or pull out the lead for a walk.
- Don’t only reward with food treats: food treats should just be one of many ways that you reward your dog for acceptable or expected behaviours. As with children and other loved one, special food treats and toys don’t replace affection, attention and love. We want our dogs to understand why they should do what is asked of them – because we are their source of attention, affection, food and fun.
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #3: Any Attention From You Is Reward For Your Dog
- A calm, but encouraging voice is a great reward: your dog loves to please you. Using short phrases like ‘good boy / girl’ or ‘well done’ in a calm, but encouraging voice is a strong motivator for your dog.
- A pet, a tummy rub or a good brushing can motivate your dog: provided your dog actually enjoys a good tummy rub, or a brush, these are opportunities for attention from you, to your dog. Any physical touch that your dog tries to elicit from you means it’s rewarding to them. You are the source of rewards, and your dog will learn this very quickly.
- A walk or a play is the ultimate reward for most dogs: here is where the mutual reward comes in. Reward your dog at the end of a good training session with a decent walk, or a good play with you and a favourite toy. You’ll benefit from getting outside and exercising.
Keep the words for commands short: one or two word commands, used consistently will help your dog learn what is expected of them. Use distinctly different words, for different commands. For example, if you’re teaching your dog to ‘drop’ (as in lie down), you don’t also want to use the word ‘drop’ or ‘drop it’ for giving back a ball or a toy. It will just confuse your canine buddy.
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #4: Keep Communication Short And Simple
- Keep the expectations simple: when using reward based training, keep it simple. For example, if you ask your dog to ‘sit’ and your dog hasn’t responded, don’t reward them, and don’t repeat the command more than once. Younger children particularly get enthusiastic and are often heard say ‘SIT. SIT. SIIIIT. SITTT,’ excitedly and fast, and wonder why their dog is behaving perplexedly.
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #5: Dogs Are Dogs And Children Are Children
- Dogs will bite: all dogs, regardless of their breed, age or nature, have the potential to bite to protect their selves against a perceived threat. It is important to teach your dog to be gentle when taking things in, or from, their mouth. ‘Gentle’ is a wise command to teach.
- Children can be boisterous and frighten dogs with their inconsistent volumes and play: train your children before you even bring a pet dog into your home. Never assume your gentle pet dog, and your lively children will simply get on without your supervision. Children’s loud and excitable play can confuse dogs, and they may act aggressively in defence.
Reward Based Dog Training Tip #6: Don't Restrict Dog Training To Home
- Take reward based training with you, everywhere you go: your dog needs to be exposed to the entire range of situations, environments, people, vehicles and machines that they may come across in their lifetime. Socialisation is a critical part of training your dog well, and involves applying reward based training outside of the familiarity of your home, family and friends. Keep some dog friendly food treats in the back of your car so they’re always handy.
- Exercise your dog energetically, every day: your dog needs exercise. The more energy your dog has burned off through the day, the more focused your dog will be on training. Pent up energy can become a distraction, and contribute to behavioural challenges.
Reward based training is not an activity that finishes as your puppy graduates from puppyhood! Regular training is a lifetime commitment. A situation can throw prior training, and may call on corrective training to reset acceptable behaviour. For example, your dog being attacked by another dog while you’re on a walk, can transform your well behaved dog, into a fearful, aggressive dog when approaching dogs on your next walk.
For problem behaviours that need corrective action contact your local dog training expert – your local vet, quality boarding kennels, a puppy or dog training school or facility, or an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist.
Your're On Your Way To A Happy, Dog And Human Friendly Home
The fact that you are investing time in reading this handbook is a clue that you will be successful in setting up a nurturing and rewarding environment for your dog. A warm, comfortable and secure home will go a long way to helping your dog demonstrate good behaviours – so everyone benefits! Enjoy your pet. Remember, statistics show you’ll live a longer, healthier life for doing so.
Read Part 1 Read Part 3