How you’re training your dog without even trying

Bark magazine recently published an interview in which Dr. Ian Dunbar said, “…too few prospective owners know that dog training is fun, easy and effortless; it’s actually what living with a dog is all about!”  Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to teach your dog obedience cues.  Obedience cues are extremely important communication tools.  They help your dog figure out what you’re expecting him to do more quickly, and they give you a way to talk to your dog in a familiar language and gain predictable responses to your requests. But, what about all the things you’re teaching your dog when you aren’t asking him for a specially named behavior?

Your dog is learning something every moment he is awake. If you’re interacting with him, he is figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, and how to make things happen. You’re constantly teaching him something about the way his world operates, even when you’re not actively training him, and you are constantly laying a foundation for his future interactions with you and other people. These daily interactions you have with your dog are what dog training or even just living with your dog, is all about. [Read more…]

Methods without the madness: A brief overview of the science of positive dog training

For those of you wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to positive dog training, or those of you wondering how on earth it could be this simple, here is a rundown of the learning theory that helps your puppy or dog figure out what is expected of him in this human world.

Positive reinforcement is one of the four quadrants of operant conditioning.  Operant conditioning explains how behavior changes based on reinforcement or punishment that happens immediately after the behavior.  Positive reinforcement is technically the addition of something positive after the behavior.  This is done with the intention of causing the dog to repeat the behavior.  Operant conditioning follows the formula: IF you “sit”, THEN you get chicken.  If a dog sits, and we give him a treat immediately afterward, the treat reinforces of the behavior of sitting.  Since it is something we added to the behavior (as opposed to taking away), it is referred to as positive.  Another example of positive reinforcement could be if a dog does “watch” on cue and is then immediately allowed to sniff his favorite shrub.  The shrub is added to reinforce the behavior of turning and looking to the human. [Read more…]

Is your dog walking you? How to train your dog to stop pulling & walk politely on a leash

Whether your dog already pulls on the leash during walks, or you have a new puppy who you would like to teach to walk politely before a problem starts, the tips in this blog will help your dog become a great walking companion.

As with most behaviors, the most important thing to consider is consistency.  It is important that once you begin training, you do not allow your dog to pull on the leash at any time while he is learning his new leash walking skills since allowing him to pull on the leash sometimes but not others could be very confusing (or worse, he could learn he can only pull when he doesn’t see your bait bag filled with treats!)  The next most important thing to remember is that leash walking does not actually involve a leash.  Of course, you should always leash your dog so he is safe in public, but you should keep in mind the leash is not supposed to be used to physically correct your dog or drag him around.  If he is focused on you and calm around distractions, he will not need to wear a leash for any reason other than safety. [Read more…]