Why Is it important to train my dog?
Training is an important part of any dog’s life, and is important for many reasons. Not only does it provides mental stimulation which helps to keep your dog happy , it strengthens the bond between you and your pet.
Reward-based training is enjoyable for the dog and positively enhances the relationship between the dog and handler. This approach revolves around positive reinforcement – i.e. rewarding behavior that we like. Rewards may be in the form of a tasty food treat or verbal praise such as “good dog!” in a pleasant tone of voice, to be given when the dog performs the ‘good’ behavior.
Reward-based training also involves generally ignoring any ‘unwanted’ behaviors. In this way, the dog is not rewarded for any unwanted behavior. If dogs are not rewarded (i.e. receives no attention or treats) for a certain behavior, then they tend to stop doing it. For example if a dog is jumping up to greet people they should be ignored if they jump up and only receive attention (including eye contact) when they have four paws on the ground. Only when they are standing or sitting should they be rewarded with attention and treats.
Sometimes if owners react to ‘unwanted’ behavior by yelling or getting angry they may inadvertently reinforce the behavior – dogs perceive this as attention and the ‘unwanted’ behavior is simply reinforced. For some dogs, any form of attention/reaction from the owner is better than no reaction at all. For example, if an owner shouts at a dog who is barking excessively, the dog may interpret this as getting attention and thus the barking continues whereas it is more effective to try to ignore this behavior.
Aversion therapy or physical punishment must not be used in training programs. Punishing a dog for ‘unwanted’ behavior can actually make the problem worse.
The best steps for training your dog are to start with a good puppy class when they are young, this helps with training and also socialization skills. That doesn’t mean if you adopt an older dog you can’t go to a training class. All trainers have classes for dogs of all life stages.
For more information about dog training or behavioral issues, a conversation with your vet can set you and your pet on the path to a successful and happy relationship!