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POSITIVE  REINFORCEMENT

 

Positive reinforcement is rewarding your puppy with a treat or praise after he has exhibited a desired behavior.  This reward encourages the puppy to repeat that behavior.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in your mission to make your puppy into a happy, well-behaved family pet.

The key to successfully using positive reinforcement is to correctly time your rewards . The reward must occur immediately after the puppy exhibits the desired behavior.  If you ask your puppy to "sit" and he does so, you must reward him before he stands up again.   If he is already standing when he receives the reward, he will think he was rewarded for standing up.

Consistency is an absolute must.  Every member of the family that works with the puppy must use the same commands.  To help younger family members become familiar with the correct commands try posting them in prominent locations throughout the house.  Remember to keep your commands short and simple: "sit," "stay," "down" (meaning lie down), "off" (means don’t jump on me or get off the furniture), "stand," "come," "heel,” “kennel" (means go in your crate).   You may find other commands that are appropriate as your puppy gets older: "let’s go," “car,” or "walk".  Consistent training means you always reward the desired behavior and never reward undesirable behavior.

Rewards may include treats, praise, petting, a short playtime or a favorite toy.  Food treats should be irresistible to your pet.   They should be very small, soft pieces of food that he can gulp down and immediately look back to you for more.  If you use treats that he has to chew or that break into small pieces that fall on the floor, he will not be paying attention to you.  Bil-Jac liver treats, small pieces of hot dogs, cheese, and cooked chicken or beef all work well.  Experiment with your puppy to see what will get and keep his attention focused on you.   Treats can be carried in a pocket, a treat bag on your belt or in a fanny pack.  Food rewards should always be used in conjunction with a verbal praise reward such as “Good dog!”   Verbal praise should always be delivered in a positive, happy voice.   For dogs that are not highly motivated by food treats, you can use their favorite toy, petting (maybe a tummy rub!) or a special game as a reward.

When you first begin to teach your puppy a new behavior, you will reward him every time he does what you ask.  This sometimes means rewarding him for doing something close to the desired response and then gradually insisting on a more complex behavior.   When you begin teaching your pup to “sit”, you will need to push his rear to the ground to give him the idea.  Reward and praise him as soon as you get his rear on the ground.  As he begins to understand what you are asking of him, you will not reward him until he places his rear on the ground without your help.  Once he knows what you are asking, you can withhold the treat until he has sat in place for several seconds and is consistently watching you for further instructions.

Once your puppy has reliably learned the desired behavior, you should begin using treats intermittently and your praise can be a quieter, less effusive "Good dog."  Gradually reduce the frequency of the food rewards in an inconsistent pattern so that he doesn’t know exactly when he will get a food reward.  By only occasionally rewarding the puppy with a food treat, he will learn that he eventually gets the treat if he keeps responding with the correct behavior. 

Training with food treats does not mean that you will perpetually have doggie biscuits in your pockets.  Your puppy wants to please you and he will soon be happy knowing that his actions can elicit verbal praise and the occasional treat.   Remember to take advantage of all the small opportunities to reinforce your puppy’s good behavior.   There are innumerable opportunities in your everyday schedule to practice your commands and to reward good behavior.  You can use your commands to help prevent problem behaviors as well.  Making your puppy “sit” before going in or out a door or when greeting visitors can help prevent your puppy from escaping into the street or knocking down a small child that’s visiting or it can help with submissive urination.   Don’t forget to reward your puppy for just lying quietly by your feet or for chewing on his own toys.

Punishment has its’ place in any training schedule, but to be effective, it must be delivered in a correct and timely manner.   The only acceptable time to punish your puppy is if you actually catch him in the act of exhibiting undesirable behavior.  If you deliver the punishment too late your puppy will not associate it with the undesirable behavior and he is likely to become fearful and distrusting of you. 

Punishment can be verbal, postural and/or physical.  It is used immediately following a behavior that is undesirable to discourage the puppy from displaying that behavior again.  Physical punishment generally incorporates some level of discomfort for the puppy or dog and must not be used indiscriminately as the dog’s only way to defend himself is to bite.  Scruff shakes and "alpha rolls" are acceptable forms of discipline for experienced trainers, but they can result in bites if the puppy or dog doesn’t perceive you to be his superior.  

You must think carefully before you use any form of punishment on your puppy.  Punishment can sometimes have unexpected results.  I know of several instances where a dog was punished for getting too close to a small child and the result was that the animal became fearful and/or aggressive either to that child or children in general.   Instead of inducing respect for children, as was intended, the punishment instead made the dogs fearful of children and caused them to feel the need to protect themselves when confronted by small humans.   Some of these dogs ended up in shelters or destroyed because they were considered untrustworthy! 

 

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please
E-MAIL ME.    Thanks,

Cindy

Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 20044

Last revised: January 06, 2006