Obedient dogs make the best companions. Time spent training your dog will reward you with a pet that is deeply bonded to you, respects you and is a joy to have around. Training your dog doesn’t mean extinguishing her unique personality, it is simply a means of setting boundaries-something that makes dogs feel secure.
Some owners unconsciously train their dogs to exhibit bad behaviors. Since dogs are social animals, they are interested in doing whatever gets them attention. Positive attention is best, but if negative attention is all they can get from you, they’ll try to obtain that. This is why yelling at a dog that has had an “accident” in the house doesn’t teach her to not do that. All your excitement reinforces her behavior. The best way to let a dog know you are displeased with her is to ignore her.
Positive reinforcement is the key to training your dog. Basically, this means rewarding desired behavior. A reward might be a food treat, lots of verbal praise in a high voice and/or a good pet or scratch in her favorite spot. Rewarding your dog’s behavior accomplishes two things: it makes her want to repeat the behavior to reap the reward and establishes you as her leader. Some dogs are more assertive than others, and will try to become dominant over you. It is important that you remain the “leader of the pack,” and obedience training helps with that. However, even, and perhaps especially, less assertive dogs benefit from training. Following a leader is instinctive in dogs. Training your dog allows her to employ that instinct to follow someone else, and makes her feel more secure.
There are many training approaches within the realm of positive reinforcement. Some behaviors will be captured-rewarded as they occur-while others can be shaped by gently coaxing the dog into the desired action. Most professional trainers recommend using both a verbal commands and hand signals to communicate with your dog. Besides words/signals for behaviors such as sit, stay, and come, you will need a “release” signal. This is a word or sound that tells your dog she’s done something correctly. The release signal is always immediately followed by a reward, so that the dog comes to associate it with something positive.
You have lots of option as to how you go about training your dog. Libraries, bookstores and pet stores offer plenty of “how-to” training books. You can also find a lot of great information by surfing the Internet. If you prefer to have a professional by your side every step of the way, enroll in a basic obedience class. Major pet supply chains, humane societies and dog clubs usually offer classes. These classes are an excellent way to socialize your dog and educate yourself. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to participate in a class, check your community phone book for personal dog trainers. Most will come to your home on a regular basis, and provide in-depth training custom-tailored to your needs.
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