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Start training with your dog today


If you have been wanting to do some training with your dog, but you’re not sure how to go about it, I’m hoping this blog post reaches you. Just like dog owners, dogs do not naturally just know how to offer behaviours for rewards (which is what training is, in a nutshell). We also have to teach them what training is. This is an introduction to start the training journey with your dog.




Dogs, (all animals and humans) repeat rewarding behaviours. Keep this in mind for your counter-surfing, garbage-diving, and plant-uprooting fur friend. We also do not get to choose what is rewarding, they do. Insert a visual of a dog rolling in bird poop here. This is not a reward we would choose, but it is what the dog chooses. We generally reward dogs with food because all dogs eat, some are more enthusiastic than others, but they all eat. Another powerful reward that we often use is playing


with a toy, this can become a bit distracting during training because you cannot do as many repeats as with food, so it might take a bit longer. Depending on the dog of course. Then we can also use touch, praise, getting to sniff, feeling safe, etc.


If I asked you, what would you like your dog to stop doing, I’m sure you can easily come up with a proper list of things. We pay attention to unwanted behaviours because it’s an inconvenience to us. It gets in our way, holds us up, embarrasses, frustrates, or tests our patience. Let’s change the question.


What do you want your dog to do? You almost said that you want your dog to stop… (insert problem behaviour here) didn’t you. What do you want your dog to do? Here, I’ll help you out.

· I want my dog to keep his paws on the ground when guests arrive.

· I want my dog to eliminate outside.

· I want my dog to chew his own toys.

· I want my dog to walk on a loose leash.

· I want my dog to respond to his name when I call him.

· I want my dog to settle down, allowing me to bring the groceries inside.


Focusing on what we want gives us a clear picture of the behaviour we are working towards and it makes it easier for us to recognise that behaviour/s when we see it.


The next question I’m going to ask is, how many times do you tell your dog no? Nag your dog to stop doing something or use some form of punishment to get the dog to stop doing what he is not supposed to be doing? Exhausting, isn’t it?


Now, how many times do you praise your dog for doing what you want him to do? If you look at our list of behaviours above, how often do you actively look for those good behaviours and reward them when you see them? I’m sure it’s not as often as addressing the unwanted behaviours.


Here is your first dog training task:

Make a list of the behaviours you do want from your dog. When you see it, acknowledge it and praise your dog. We have to keep our expectations realistic but that’s it. That’s your task.


Rome was not built in a day; I know there are much more training issues you probably want to get to and work on. In the beginning, you might only see these good behaviours once in a while. But the more you reward these good behaviours, the more often your dog will offer them. By just applying these very simple exercises you are achieving the following:


· Practising a positive reinforcement training mindset.

· Creating a positive relationship with your dog

· Building a reinforcement history that is much needed in dog training and living with

dog.

· Building your dog’s confidence

· Practising patience and kindness.

· Shifting your focus from the negative to the positive.


That is a lot to gain from one simple exercise. Just imagine what you and your dog can achieve if you continue to train.



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