Last week, Eddie and I took a little vacay to Southern California to visit family. Jack and Bernie had a bit of a vacation too at Howl A Day Inn in El Paso.
If you, the reader, find yourself in El Paso and have some time or are needing recommendations for boarding facilities, Howl A Day Inn is the place for you. Check out their website for info: http://www.howladay.com. They provide exceptional care for all the dogs in their facility.
While spending some relaxing time out in Sierra Madre or we like to refer to it as the ‘Dre, I was amazed by the plethora of out dated dog training methods and techniques still being used. While imbibing on some tasty beers while watching some amazing World Cup soccer games, I saw 4 or 5 dogs with pinch collars. (If you’re not familiar with pinch collars, check out one of my previous blog post about this issue). Not only were people still using or rather misusing this tool, there were neighbors who were also telling their dogs NO!NO!NO! rather than redirecting or asking their dogs for a more appropriate behavior. These experiences highlighted how positive reinforcement benefits the dog and owner.
What is positive reinforcement dog training? I’ll start to answer this using the philosophy statement of Animal Behavior College (ABC) where I completed and obtained a certificate in dog training. According to ABC, “It is our philosophy that creating a relationship built on positive interaction and consistency can often deter future unwanted behavior problems, facilitate faster learning and even solve some existing behavior challenges” (http://www.animalbehaviorcollege.com/training_philosophy.asp). What this means to me, is rewarding behaviors which you want and redirecting and or ignoring the behaviors you don’t want. As I often tell clients during initial consultations, people tend to learn new and recall those things quicker when its paired with a positive experience. Some of my most memorable educational moments were ones where teachers made learning fun and same goes with your dogs. Dogs will go back to giving those behaviors which he finds enjoyable and its the owner’s responsibility in guiding the dog towards doing those favorable behaviors and encouraging them so he continues to do so.
How? A huge factor is identifying what motivates your dog. Dogs are motivated in different ways and finding those things which the dog finds the most exciting as the most beneficial to the owner. Once you, the owner, knows what is the most exciting thing for the dog, you have the key to unlocking your dog’s potential. Then its just a matter of pairing those motivators with appropriate behaviors.
One example of a unwanted behavior which can become an appropriate one for the dog is chewing. As science discovered, dogs chew to feel good. When chewing becomes an issue for owners is when the chewing is perceived to be destructive. All the dog is doing is acting out what he innately knows how to do. More often than not, as humans, we tend to say “No”. When we do so, we are expressing our displeasure with whatever is going on. When the dog hears “No” he doesn’t rationally associate chewing on this shoe or this piece of furniture as inappropriate, he sees his owner with an angry face and an angry tone in her voice. Often, us saying “No” actually reinforces the dog to continue the unfavorable behaviors since we are giving him attention and essentially marking that particular behavior for the dog. A more pleasurable experience for the owner and dog is to redirect the dog to a chew toy when the dog is chewing on something he shouldn’t be and giving praise. Its also important to praise the dog whenever the dog is chewing on his own toys. If the owner remains 100% consistent in redirection when the dog is chewing on something he shouldn’t be and praise when the dog is chewing on his toys, the dog will be conditioned to chew on only his toys. Until this becomes second nature for your dog, managing the issue is a necessity. Try positive reinforcement dog training, you’ll for sure see faster and more reliable results.