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Training Your Dog

Did you bring a new dog home? Whether it’s a puppy or rescue you want to have a plan for training. Read our 3-3-3 Adoption Rule Blog for the basics you’ll want to start with when bringing your dog into the home the first time.

There are different methods of training. The two main categories that exist are correction based and positive reinforcement based. Correction-based training, using punishment to teach a dog a behavior. Rewards might be used to teach the initial behavior, but once the dog understands what is expected, failure results in a physical correction. These trainers use corrections like yanking a leash when attempting to get a dog to heel or using an electric collar. Positive reinforcement is force-free, the dog is never reprimanded. Dogs get rewarded for desired actions whereas unwanted behaviors are ignored. Trainers who use clickers and only positive reinforcement without applying any negative reinforcement would fall into this category.

Here at UKUSCAdoggie we believe in the positive reinforcement methodology of dog training. Some trainers to look into are Brandon Mcmillan of Canine Minded. Another is Emily Larlham at Dog Training by Kikopup on Youtube. Now let us break down positive training into the basics.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Like people, dogs will repeat behaviors they get rewarded for. A simple training example of positive reinforcement is when your dog gets a treat when he sits, your dog will learn and will sit again in the future. Positive reinforcement training can be very effective but it takes time, practice and accuracy. Training with a positive enforcement rewards based training is fun. This style of training builds the human-dog bond, and encourages a love of learning in dogs.

Rewards

Choose a high value reward from your dog’s point of view. Keep in mind that rewards are not always food. Recognize what you dog enjoys. A reward can be praise, a toy, or a chance to play a game. What your dog loves most will make great positive reinforcement. The more difficult the training challenge, like facing a distracting environment, the higher value the reward should be. Save the low value food for when you can get away with it and use the high value play or treats for the most difficult tasks.

Frequency of Reinforcement

The rewards you offer your dog are in conflict with “rewards” in the world. How often you give rewards should be frequent so that your training sessions are more exciting than the stimulation the environment gives. An example is teaching your dog to “heel.” You need to be sure you are rewarding your dog often enough to compete with distractions in the world. Sights, sounds, and smells, can all reinforce the opposite of a heel. Making sure you start with a high frequency and you can work to be less frequent as long as your dog stays interested in you.

Timing

The speed at which your dog gets their reward can have an impact on training. If there is lag time in your treat delivery, your dog can be confused about what he is being rewarded for. Deliver your rewards quickly after your dog has performed the behavior you want to reinforce. Using a “marker”, like a clicker, when training allow for better precision with your training timing. A clicker mark can be used at the exact moment your dog is doing what you want to reinforce. Since every click is followed by a reward, your dog will understand what behavior he is being rewarded for.

These are just the basics. Seek out professional help from a certified trainer or with group classes to progress in training. There are also a wide variety of video training tools at your fingertips online.

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