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Positive Reinforcement-Reward Good Behaviour

Training plays a crucial role to ensure a happy and successful relationship between you and your pet.  Puppy hood is the crucial period during which the foundations for a happy, well-behaved pet are laid down using well-structured training schedule. Any training method that you choose, should be based on the principle of Positive Reinforcement which means rewarding your puppy’s right actions.

How do Dog’s Learn:

  • Dogs learn by trying out different behaviors & associating the consequences that arise as a result of the behavior.
  • If an action/ behavior is followed by a good consequence, then it would be repeated; however if followed by a negative consequence, the behavior would be stopped.
  • Let’s understand this more clearly by taking an example, a common behavior most often observed at home – Begging at the table, if this behavior is rewarded by offering food then it would be considered as positive consequence & repeated, however, followed by a negative consequence (in this case, no food given), the behavior will eventually be stopped.
  • Effective training method should work on the same principle and should be a combination of
    • Information- what behavior/action you want from the pet
    • Motivation – why your pet should to do it and
    • Timing – when to reward a good action
  • Positive Reinforcement should aim to reward all the right, desirable behavior, ignore any negative action and distract your pet from an undesirable behavior by getting him to a desirable behavior.
  • For instance, Jumping on guests is an undesirable behavior, which is difficult to ignore. Divert him from this behavior by encouraging him to sit. If the pet is then rewarded for sitting, he will find that sitting is rewarding experience than jumping up.
  • Punishment should not be used as it is a less effective training method & could further worsen the behavior of the puppy.

Basic Thumb Rules of Training

Before you start training, here are a few pointers:

  • Make training sessions fun! Puppies love to play, so if the session is fun- filled, he is more likely to learn and remember.
  • Keep sessions short – 3 sets of 10 minute sessions are better than one 30 minute session.
  • Always end the training on a positive note and reward your dog well.
  • Stop the session if you fell angry or frustrated, as this would impact the puppy, he would turn either intimidated or aggressive.
  • Be clear in your commands & use pleasant facial expressions and body language.
  • Be consistent in your training  and praise.
  • Reward good behavior immediately with a mixture of treats and praise.

It may take weeks of practice until your dog has mastered your commands. It’s important not to expect too much of him too soon. Remember, dogs are not used to human speech, so if you think he’s not understood, keep trying.

Different Commands to Teach Your Pup

  • To Sit

Train your puppy for a sitting posture using treat to lure him to sit down. When the puppy is in standing posture, hold a treat just infront of his nose, then slowly raise the treat up & above his head. The puppy should follow the treat with his nose & push his head back as he follows the treat. This would result in putting his bottom on ground and sitting down. Puppy should be immediately raised by praise & treat as soon as he sits down. Repeat this activity several times till the pup understand what to do. The pup will eventually learn to sit when he sees the treat over his head & the word “sit” will be associated with treat.

  • To Lie Down

Puppy can be trained to lie down by holding a piece of treat infront of his nose while he is sitting down and slowly lowering the treat & placing the hand between his legs, this would lure him to lie down. As soon as the puppy lies down, reward him by praising & giving him a treat. This is a good position for preventing your dog getting into trouble, especially when other dogs come along.

  • To Come When Called

Recall is an important lesson that puppy should learn at an early age, start in a controlled space such as indoor or inside a garden with no distractions. Use the same recall command & practice by calling out your pups name and whenever he comes when you call him, praise him. Once he learns, add the recall command along with his name. Once you are confident that your pup has learnt recall, try the activity in a park.

  • Walking on the Leash

It is important that the puppies learn to walk on the leash without pulling so that the puppy & the pet owner enjoy their walks without getting into a tug of war. You may let the puppy to drag the leash for the first time, then the pet owner should hold the end of the leash & let the puppy feel the resistance. Start the training by making the puppy to walk by your side, you should discourage the puppy to pull the leash by stop walking. Then let the puppy walk back to you. Reward him with praise or treat as soon as he walks back to you. Puppy should learn that pulling should result in stopping rather than going forward.

  • Wearing a Collar

Puppy should be introduced to wear a collar as soon as he comes home and taught to walk on a leash. Try a collar that fits your puppy appropriately, you should be able to pass 2 fingers through the collar. Adjust or replace the collar as the puppy grows.

  • Using a Crate

Puppies can trained by using a crate, but ensure that the crate is comfortable & spacy for the pup. Use a crate in which the puppy can easily move around, lie with his legs stretched and sit comfortably. Try feeding the puppy inside the crate so that he associates crate with good experience. Never leave the puppy in the crate for a long period.

  • Toilet Training

Puppy needs to make several visits outside to relieve himself at the right spot. Every time the pup goes to toilet at the right place reward him with a lot of praise and never punish or scold your pup if he has accidents. Clean the pup as without making much fuss about it. Avoid accidents by frequently taking him outside- after every meal, waking up from sleep, first thing in the morning, before going to bed, after play etc.

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