Saturday, January 23, 2016

Training Your Dog Should Be Fun!

In honor of Changing A Pet’s Life Day on January 24th and also in honor of Dog Training Education Month which is coming up in February, we here at Mickey’s thought it would be a wonderful idea to spread the word about Positive Dog Training.

Did you know the #1 reason dogs are relinquished to the shelter is because the dog is untrained? The dog jumps up, barks at everything, pulls on leash, isn’t potty trained, doesn’t like people, doesn’t like other dogs; the list goes on and on. This could have been avoided with some simple obedience training.

Why does your dog need to be obedience trained? The reason is very simple. A trained dog is a good dog. A dog with obedience training is less likely to be destructive in the home, less likely to run away, less likely to bite someone, and less likely to be abandoned in an animal shelter.

Many people don’t realize that all dogs need to be obedience trained. And many more don’t want to do the training because they think it’s difficult or boring or they don’t have time.  I’m here to tell you about a training method that is easy, effective and fun for both you and your dog.

Positive dog training is based on two concepts. The first is ‘associative learning’ which is the idea that if two things tend to occur at the same time, we begin to expect one when we see the other. The most famous example is Pavloc’s dogs who would salivate at the sound of a metronome because they associated the sound with the appearance of food.

The other concept is ‘operant conditioning’ which is the use of consequences to modify behavior. By rewarding the desired behavior and ignoring any unwanted behavior, we can increase the desired behavior and almost entirely eliminate unwanted behavior.

What this means is that positive dog training helps the dog associate a stimulus (like a sound) with a desired behavior (like “sitting”). First your dog learns what you want him to do, and then he learns the command for doing it. To do this, you need to use a lot of positive reinforcement by using praise and positive actions or rewards to teach your dog right from wrong. The key is to determine what motivates your dog and use that motivator as a reward upon correct performance. You can use treats, toys, physical affection, verbal praise or a combination of any of those.

Traditional dog training methods typically attempted to teach the command and physically force the dog to do the desired behavior. They often use methods that include devices such as choke collars, prong collars, or electric shock collars. The idea is to use pain to force the dog to do a specific behavior. Punishment and coercion often lead to aggression. Positive dog training methods, however, rarely, if ever, result in aggressiveness or related undesirable behaviors.

As positive dog training methods are emerging more and being accepted by more trainers and pet owners, it is becoming clear that is has many advantages over the traditional method. For example, positive dog training activities tend to have better timing and are more specific. This combines to accelerate training and focus on the desired behavior. And as your dog learns to look to you for leadership, the bond between you will strengthen. The use of pain is not found among positive dog training methods. Pain is not required for learning; in fact, pain can actually lower your dog’s ability to learn by increasing his stress.

Now I know it’s all well and good to explain to you what it is, but what you really want to know is how to use it. Let me go over how you will implement positive dog training and what tools you will need in order to do so properly so that you can start building a path to a happier life with your dog!
The most helpful piece of dog training equipment you will ever own is a dog crate. They come in many different shapes and types, but the size is the most important part. The dog crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. Your dog crate will be an invaluable piece of dog training equipment for both house training and obedience training.

You are also going to need a leash and a collar. A leather leash is recommended, but a nylon leash is ok as well. Just be careful if you have a puller as nylon leashes can leave burns or cuts on your hand. Stay away from leashed made of chain- the noise they make will be confusing during the training process and can also cause harm to you or your dog if he’s a puller.

Just like the leash, a leather collar is recommended. The leather will give you a great deal of usability and sturdiness, not to mention greater comfort for your dog.

And of course we can’t forget the training pouch to hold treats (or toys if your dog is more toy motivated). You can also get a clicker to help in your training endeavor. Clicker’s sometimes makes it easier for some people because they can click quicker than they are able to get words out.

When using positive reinforcement, it is important to reward your dog immediately upon responding correctly to the cue. For example, if you tell your dog to “sit” and he does so, you need to immediately let him know he did a good thing by telling him “yes” or “good” (or clicking if you use a clicker). Then you promptly give him a treat (or let him play with his toy). Remember, the reward must be something that your dog really loves so make sure you try a few things before buying a bunch of something only to realize your dog isn’t partial to it.

While you are training your dog to respond to new cues, you will want to reward him every time the correct action is performed. However, once he has successfully mastered the cue and is performing consistently without hesitation, it will no longer be necessary to provide rewards each time he performs the specific action. Simply reinforce him verbally that he was correct by telling him “yes” or “good”.

The two biggest things with positive reinforcement is consistency and timing. Be consistent in your training methods and be sure everyone in the house is taught to train your dog the same way so that there is no confusion. Use the same words and hand signals each time you train the cue and be sure to reward your dog right away when he gets it right.

Last but not least, have fun! This should be fun for both you and your dog. If either of you is not having fun, then you’re doing something wrong. Accept the fact that training your dog will take time and patience but eventually your consistency and persistence will pay off.

For training treats, toys and other supplies, check out this link: Dog Training Supplies
Visit for all your favorite dog training treats, dog chews and great dog training supplies. Use code TRAIN for $3 off your $25 order.

If you have any training specific questions, feel free to email them to Heather at to get training advice from a Certified Dog Trainer.