The benefits of using positive reinforcement training with dogs (and all animals) has long been studied and proven to be the most effective and kind way to change behaviors. I'm a firm believer in science over shock, praise over punishment and compassion over correction. When we punish dogs using physical force (shock collars, choke chains, striking, etc.), we are taking away their choices and dogs are highly capable of making good choices, when we set them up to do so.
Positive reinforcement dog training must be done correctly or you will hear "it didn't work". Timing and knowledge go a long way but, when done correctly it is the greatest force on earth.
That being said, do you find yourself saying yes or no to your dog more often? Saying Yes! (or good dog) to your dog on a regular basis has many benefits.
Some of them include:
Letting our dogs know when they’ve done something right boosts their confidence, makes them happy and can change unwanted behaviors. For example if your dog is always jumping on people and you find yourself yelling no, try saying yes, before they jump. Better yet, pair it with a treat in the beginning so the word yes has a lot more power.
Being proactive and communicating with our dogs helps them learn better behaviors and it boosts their confidence. Saying no to them does the opposite. When we say no to a dog we take away all of their choices and we expect them to simply stop what they were doing. But let’s say they were jumping on someone because they were really happy to see them. If we just say no, what is the alternative behavior we want? Sitting? Lying on a mat? Standing? We need to train something else because saying no isn’t an effective training solution. Say yes every time your dog is doing something you want them to do (or before they do something you don’t necessarily like). Say yes when the don’t jump, pull on leash or bark. Teach them other behaviors to do instead of the ones you don’t like and catch them being good. This is what training is all about. Rewarding our dogs when they are good, teaching them alternate behaviors and giving them the chance to make their own choice.
This is how positive reinforcement dog training works. We reinforce (reward) the good behaviors which causes the dog to do more and we handle the negative behaviors by developing a plan to change them into something the dog can do instead. It's about always setting our dogs up for success and building them up.
I meet a lot of people that say “my dog will only come or stay if I have a treat”. My answer to that is: “You may be using the treats incorrectly!”. For the most part, when you’re training come and stay, the treat should not be present. Treats should be in a pouch, in a closed fist and/or behind your back. It should be about the BEHAVIOR of the dog, not the reward. The reward comes later, as a reinforcer. The only time a treat should be visually present is when you are luring (see notes below for definition of lure) a dog into their first sits, downs and during leash training for heel work. For the sit and down, the treat should be replaced by a hand signal ASAP. Other than that, the dog shouldn’t see your treats on a regular basis. Obviously they know you have them but, if you’re using the treat to get your dog to come or stay, I urge you to change that by surprising them instead. For come you have to ask yourself “What can I do to get my dog to come to me?” This means: Am I EXCITING enough, positive and fun? Or am I simply standing still and saying their name? That’s not very enticing. Move your body, say their name in a happy voice and make coming to you FUN. Mix up your rewards between food, toys, praise and petting (surprise your dog with ALL once in a while).
Because food is a Primary Reinforcer for dogs training your dog using treats is a very effective way to change behaviors. Some dogs will even train with their dry food (kibble) which can be a great way to utilize their mealtimes for training. You can also try mixing their kibble half-and-half with treats. If you aren't using your dog's meal for training, be sure you deduct the same amount from their next meal so they don't become overweight.
Here are some ways treats are used in training:
With all of this being said, it’s important to be aware of WHERE the treat is during the training. If you aren’t using it as a lure (see #1 above), it shouldn’t be in plain sight.
If you'd like to see the video that goes with this post, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti6ASuZvjTA
It’s normal and necessary for puppies to bite. Sometimes, they bite anything and everything. Teething is serious business and biting feels SO GOOD to a puppy. It’s important that we address biting properly so that your puppy won’t cause harm and also ensure that their need to bite is addressed and satisfied. Many people wonder what to do when a puppy bites. Here are some pointers.
Tips and tricks for biting puppies:
Satisfying items for teething puppies:
My preferred toys for teething puppies are small rope toys tied on each end – they are also available in fleece varieties. You can even store them in the freezer which will feel so good for a teething puppy. Plush toys are great for chewing (be sure they don’t eat any pieces. A Kong stuffed with goodies can be frozen as well. Other teething type toys for puppies are available at pet stores and many of them can also be frozen. Having a great VARIETY of toys will always help when you are trying to take the interest away from your puppy biting you and on to a toy instead. You might consider rotating toys or hiding special ones for times when your puppy is really biting. This way the toy is “new” and more interesting and likely to be chosen over an arm or shoe. Please be a partner to your puppy and work to figure our solutions rather than punishing them for normal behavior that they are doing to fill their needs.
Deciding what to do about puppy biting is important for many reasons. How we handing puppy biting can shape the way they react to us in the future. If your puppy bites, be sure to handle it with patience and love so you don't make it worse.
**ALWAYS SUPERVISE YOUR PUPPY WHEN THEY ARE CHEWING ON ANYTHING!**
Christine Durrant, CPDT-KA Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant