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Some General Training Guidelines – October 23, 2013

Some general guidelines for a raising a well-behaved dog.

Don’t Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences
It’s okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don’t expect it to understand anything you’re saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup’s name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their “deafness” is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective – they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.

Don’t Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised
It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation. In one case, a dog bit a child and the dog had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear, snapping the end off after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.

Do Not Feed It From The Table
Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them. Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food. This is essential to his good health.

Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting
Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like “Ouch” or “No-bite”). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the “Ouch” and spoil the dog!

DO NOT SUPPLY ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE FOR FREE
One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. “What’s work?” you ask. It’s having the pup “Sit” or “Down” in order to receive food and treats (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.

DO NOT EVER GET ANGRY WITH YOUR PUP
Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.

Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.

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Some Helpful Tips on How Dogs Learn – October 9, 2013

How Dogs Learn

• Dogs learn by the consequences of their actions, ie, reward or ignore
• All consequences have to be consistent and immediate
• Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not
• Dogs don’t generalize – you need to re-teach in new places working up to increasing distractions
• Dogs have a slot machine mentality- helps for good behavior, hurts for bad behavior
• You need to set up your dog for success so he knows what you expect
• This requires observation and judgment for ‘rewardable’ behavior
• Praise and reward spontaneous acts of good behavior

REMEMBER

• Whatever you reward/train now will be the behavior you get when your puppy grows up
• You get what you pet. You raise what you praise.
• Catch your dog in the act of doing something good!!
• Instead of focusing on what you don’t want your dog to do, focus on what you want him to do instead.

Order of Training

• First GET the behavior – no English!
• Use luring, capturing or shaping to get the behavior
• Then add the verbal command when you know it WILL happen
• Eventually use the cue to ‘get’ the behavior
• Quickly remove lure but consistently reward
• Train ‘no reward’ with “uh-uh” or “too bad”

Hierarchy of Difficulty

• Inside with nothing much going on
• Outside in yard with nothing much going on
• Inside with low level distractions
• Outside with low level distractions
• Inside with medium level distractions
• Outside with medium level distractions
• Inside with high level distractions
• Outside with high level distractions
• In a pet store when busy or crowded

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Consistency is the Key to Training – October 4, 2013

We all have our weaknesses: those soulful brown eyes pleading for just one morsel from your plate, the warm head on your lap while you tap away on computer, heavy with the weight of hope and expectation for a game of fetch or at the very least an ear scratch, or the more-empty-than-usual bed when a spouse is out of town that leads letting her sleep with you “just this once”.

Let’s face it, we love our dogs and sometimes that love, our need for connection, our and desire to give back some of the happiness they’ve given us causes us to cave in situations where we’d all be better served by sticking to our guns.

The thing is, dogs don’t do “exceptions”. Instead, they are constantly collecting and evaluating the feedback/consequences to their actions and if something they do works to get them something they really want, chances are they are going to try it again. Period.

If the “rules” you’ve outlined are occasionally (or routinely) broken, they really won’t be viewed as rules through a dog’s eyes. We may be able to comprehend the concept of special occasions but inconsistency in our responses causes confusion in a dog’s mind, sets them up to make mistakes, and causes us to become frustrated or angry because “he knows better”. Guess what? He doesn’t. He just knows that sometimes when he jumps up on the couch he gets to stay, and he hasn’t worked out quite yet why it’s okay with you sometimes and not others. And the occasional reprimand from you is worth it for even the possibility of one more evening curled up next to you in comfort rather than across the room on his bed.

So be clear and consistent when interacting with your dog, determine your house rules in advance, and then take the time to teach your dog what is expected of him rather than just punish him for mistakes (or for not following a rule he’s never been properly clued-in on in the first place).

Boundary training is an excellent place to start your new crystal clear communication. Not only does this make life easier when you are trying to come and go, but also it keeps dogs safe.

Teaching dogs to pause at thresholds rather than push past you and bum-rush the door is another great habit to teach your dog, and NOT because he may take over the world if he goes through the doorways before you. Rather, “Sit” as the default setting at doorways saves lives. It also gives you a marvelous opportunity to reinforce a polite sit and impulse control with a very powerful life reward – “let’s go for a walk”!

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