Creating kinder, gentler experiences for pets


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Dog Behavior Library

Basic Dog Training Principles

  1. Don't try to correct behaviors that occurred more than a few seconds ago.

  2. Interrupt misbehavior caught in the act

  3. Give verbal instructions (cue words) and redirection to a positive activity. Do not give physical corrections.

  4. Teach your dog: "That was Wrong, This is Right. "If you say "No" sharply or "Eh-eh" or "Ah-ah" to interrupt the act and the dog stops, praise the dog's attention on you.

  5. What gets rewarded gets repeated so look for every opportunity to reward behaviors you DO want to increase.

  6. If chewing on the chair is wrong, praise chewing on the right chew toy.

  7. Use the dog's name to get his or her attention just before giving a positive instructions but not before a verbal correction.

Try to give any Instruction only once, then insist on compliance. If necessary, go to the dog and gently move his body into position while repeating the Instruction.

Use food whenever you are teaching a new verbal cue, coupled with verbal praise. When the dog has learned to respond to the verbal cue in many situations and locations, then begin to phase out food by only rewarding the best responses (quick and correct).

When you phase out the food escalate the verbal praise. The goal is to link the food treat and verbal praise in the beginning so that as the food is phased out, the praise gets the same response.

Only give food or treats after you have asked the dog to first do something on cue such as SIT or DOWN to "earn" what he wants.

Teach pets to tolerate any experiences that will become a normal part of his life. E.g., being held still for examinations, bathing, brushing, being picked up, moved from food dish, having a chew or toy taken away, etc.  Be sure to introduce these experiences with treats, a jolly voice, and praise. Go slowly to keep introductions a positive learning experience.

Teach pets to accept all humans as trustworthy, gentle, and predictable. The best way to do this is by providing clear communication and instructions combined with controlling all resources such as food, toys, attention and other valuables.

When dogs learn they must earn valuables by learning and responding to verbal cues, dogs become more calm and relaxed about the rules and more secure about how to behave in order to get their needs met.

Progressive gentling exercises and hand feeding also help dogs to relax and trust people to be gentle. Gentling results in a calmer, more relaxed dog, possibly because he feels more at ease with a strong and yet non-violent provider.

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