The Importance of Dog Training
No matter what their age or habits, there is never a bad time to train your dog! Training can help build a positive relationship, teach life skills, increase sociability, avoid problem behaviors, and enhance loyalty and companionship. Training your dog is essential to a happy, healthy life for you both.
There are several options when it comes to training your dog. Here at Run Those Dogs we recommend and use reward-based training. This positive reinforcement training is all about training your dog with treats, toys and praise.
February is Dog Training Education Month. In it’s honor, we’ve put together this list of the ins and outs of reward-based training.
After your dog has completed the proper, desirable action you’re after (sit, lay down, etc.) the reward must occur immediately. As you know, dogs have a short memory when it comes to connecting cause and effect. If your dog sits on command, reward with the treat for the sitting action right away every time until the skill is mastered.
If your reward isn’t immediate, you risk confusing your dog. For example, if you say sit and the dog sits, but then stands up to accept the treat, there might be confusion as to which action is being rewarded. So be very clear and don’t give up. Use of a clicker to mark the correct behavior and improve the connection between the correct behavior and the treat is another way to really cement the learning for your dog.
Simple is Better
Commands should be short, easy and consistent. The most commonly used dog commands are:
- Watch me
- Down (which means “lie down”)
- Off (which means “get off of me” or “get off the furniture”)
- Heel (which means “walk close to my side”)
- Leave it
In the end, the words and hand signals you choose are up to you. But for success you must use the same verbal and hand cues each time for your dog to have the best chance of understanding and following your requests. Training is most successful when the humans agree on the words chosen, hand gestures you’ll use, and even the way you stand or hold the leash during training.
Keep it Up!
There needs to be a consistent use of the teaching, training, and use across time and across family members in the home. It is important to always reward the positive behavior and make sure all two-footed friends are on the same page as well.
The most important aspect of training is to be consistent and don’t give up. Incorporate just a few minutes of deliberate training every day. If you feel frustrated or that you’re not making progress, look at how you’re approaching it and make sure your dog isn’t confused. You’ll succeed if you are persistent and stay positive, keeping your eye on the prize of a well-behaved and happy dog that can spend time in public and with family and friends.
Types of Rewards
Some dogs might not be motivated by treats and that is okay! Another option could be praise, petting, a favorite toy, or playtime. Some dogs might also get tired of the same old treat and that’s why it’s recommended to keep a variety and know which your pet loves the most.
If you choose a food reward, consider healthy treats that are nutritious so that you won’t have to worry about the extra calories or detracting from your dog’s dental health.
When to Give Treats
When you begin training reward the successful behavior every time. Once you feel your dog has successfully learned the behavior, switch to intermittent reinforcement. Four out of five times the behavior is completed the dog earns a treat. Then three out of five, two out of five, etc. However, always reward your dog with praise verbally through a happy tone and pets.
Be careful when decreasing rewards. If you decrease the rewarding too fast your dog could become frustrated and confused. But also be clever when you are rewarding because your dog will catch on to the pattern if you create one.
At Run Those Dogs we reinforce good leash manners on every outing. To help correct stubborn behavior issues, we often refer to Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0. This guide for owners and pet sitters teaches how to help dogs and puppies who need some extra TLC.
Reward-based training is a tricky game, but it’s well worth your efforts for the positive mindset it creates for you and your pet. We at Run Those Dogs highly recommend it because it creates a sense of support and a happy lifestyle that brings you and your pet together.