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The Gift of Love

Posted by Christina Potter on

Now that your new furry family member has had a few weeks to adapt to his new home, it’s time to discuss different training methods. Remember that the method you choose is up to you and your puppy’s needs, but training is a must for any dog. A 2012 study found that 80 percent of dogs exhibited some sort of behavioral issue. Training your dog will help avoid issues from arising in the first place or, at the very least, help mitigate issues that are already present.

First of all, you must decide if you are more comfortable with positive reinforcement training (rewarding with treats, praise, play, etc.), negative reinforcement training (using e-collars, choke chains, etc.) or a combination of both. I recommend you research the methods in depth, before choosing one. Meanwhile, here is an overview to get you started.

Positive reinforcement training is just as the name states, the dog obeys, and he gets rewarded, while undesirable behaviors are ignored. This method encourages the dog to behave and obey commands in order to obtain a reward, which should be whatever the dog deems desirable. Some dogs may prefer food, while others may prefer play. Dogs trained with only the use of positive reinforcement can take longer to become consistent but will be less stressed and more eager to learn versus dogs trained using purely aversive methods. However, if the dog doesn’t understand that there are consequences for commands not followed, and the stimuli are strong enough, he may have trouble obeying in highly distracting environments.

Negative reinforcement training involves the use of punishment to deter undesirable behaviors. For example, you’re walking your dog, and he pulls. In aversive training, the idea is to punish the dog for pulling, (perhaps by yanking on the leash attached to his prong collar) and the dog will learn to avoid the punishment by not pulling on his leash. Aversive training gets faster results, though it is not without drawbacks. It is unlikely that dogs trained purely with aversive training methods will look forward to their training sessions.

Combining both positive reinforcement and aversive training methods may be just what the doctor ordered. The dog is trained using positive methods, while at the same time he is deterred from unwanted behaviors using negative reinforcement. However, this method is not without problems, either. For example, if positive and negative reinforcers are not used correctly or are used inconsistently, the dog may become confused as to what is expected from him.

After you research different methods, if you are still uncertain about which one is best for you and your dog, please consult with a professional trainer or, at the very least, with your more experienced friends. Remember that the ultimate gift you can give your dog is love and what better way to show your love than to help your dog become a well-balanced and happy family member?

If you enjoy Christina's writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and "Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.

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