As any responsible dog owner knows, training is vital if you want to have a well-behaved pup. In part one of this series, we looked at the essentials of training a dog; the basics of training techniques and strategies, and the commands you need to keep your dog safe.
However, training is not just about teaching your dog to obey commands – it’s also about teaching your dog sustained good behaviour, and many dog owners find this a little more difficult.
The process, however, is essentially the same; offer your pup rewards and affection when they perform the desired behaviour, and withhold rewards when they misbehave.
The biggest difference is that you’re not going to do this only in planned training sessions; it needs to be ongoing, and you need to ensure everyone around your pup is supporting the training by offering the same reactions to their behaviour.
Understanding Canine Behaviour
Before you can train your dog, you have to understand them. It can be frustrating when they’re misbehaving, and it can feel like they’re doing it just to wind you up – but that’s really not the case. Once you understand the reasons for their behaviour, you’ll find it’s much easier to work out how to train them to the behaviour you want.
As specialists in dog training in Surrey, there are several tactics that we use in behavioural training, and you can use the same methods. Depending on the type of behaviour and the motivations behind it, you’ll find different combinations apply.
For example, if your dog misbehaves through fear, in the first instance you may try distracting them from whatever they’re afraid of by giving them a specific command – such as sit – and rewarding them for completing that behaviour instead. Then, in the longer term, you may gradually desensitise them to that fear stimulus by exposing them to it under controlled circumstances and rewarding them when they are able to ignore it.
On the other hand, if they’re misbehaving because they want your attention, because they’re bored or excited, then you may take a different approach; ignoring them entirely and not responding to them until they try a more acceptable behaviour. In the longer term, you may decide to adapt their routine so that they have enough attention, they don’t become bored, and so that they have opportunities to vent their energy in acceptable ways.
Never shout at your dog for barking – they’ll just think you’re joining in! You may want to encourage certain barks – alerting you to somebody approaching your house, for example – and discourage others, so this will require a variety of training tactics. Distraction, removing the motivation to bark, and rewarding silence can all be effective at different stages.
Walking on a Lead
Too many people ignore their dog when they’re walking well and only really interact with them when they’re not – by telling them off for pulling or stopping, you could actually be reinforcing that behaviour. Stop and ignore unwanted behaviour, and praise them when they’re walking well.
House training requires patience, vigilance and preparation. Take them outside when you think they need to go, and praise them for doing it in the right place. Never punish them for accidents in the house – just clean it up and move on.
If your dog jumps up to greet people, you need to get your visitors to help with training. Ask them to ignore the dog until he or she settles down, and only then reward with affection (and, if possible, treats). It can be difficult – but it’s effective!
However adorably they stare at you, don’t feed them table scraps while you’re eating if you’d like to eat your next meal without the same attention. If they behave well during the meal, you can give them leftovers afterwards as a reward, and this will encourage their table manners. Make sure all your dinner guests do the same!
Consistency is a key factor in training good behaviour, and with positive techniques you’ll not only see improvements in your dog’s behaviour, but also strengthen the bond between you and your pet.