Friday, April 15, 2011

Positive reinforcement training to tackle all the nagging dog behavior problems

What is positive reinforcement training?

My Lab Diego
May be you already know what positive reinforcement is, but I am sure there are people who have heard this term an awful number of times but still don't know how it actually works, so this is for them. If you know it, you can simply ignore it.There may be a lot of technical definitions for positive reinforcement as it is part of operant conditioning in psychology, but I don't want to sound technical here. I want to keep things simple for you.

Positive Reinforcement training is the act of rewarding a desired behavior offered by your dog in the form of treats, pats or even toys. When you reward a desired behavior your dog is more likely to demonstrate that same behavior more again and again, and since the reward positively reinforces a desired behavior it's known as positive reinforcement training. But as you are rewarding the desired behavior you must also ignore the undesired behaviors offered by the dog and eventually the dog tries to offer only the desired behaviors you want. Do you see the power of positive reinforcement already?Yes, dog training has come a long way and gone are the days when you would spank or hit the dog to get a desired behavior from it. It will do no good than creating a dog that is scared of you and hate seeing you. Do you want that kind of dog as your pet?

Positive reinforcement training has long lasting effects than aversive training method or negative reinforcement where the dog offers a behavior to avoid a negative condition like loud noise or a leash pop from you. Positive reinforcement training is all about rewarding a behavior that you want from your dog and Clicker training is one of the most popular positive reinforcement training method used by dog trainers around the world.

Watch this amazing video on Clicker Training

These are some of the nagging behavior problems that most pet dog owners usually face, including me !
  1. My dog starts to whine, howl or bark as soon as I leave it alone in the crate.
  2. My dog hates being groomed, bathed or clipped
  3. My dog is barking at other dogs while taking it for a walk
  4. My dog is scared of seeing other human beings or animals when I take him out for a walk.
  5. My dog that is jealous of a new arrival(a baby) in the family
    I will just discuss the first point here in this post, rest in the upcoming posts. 

    1. Crate training your dog comes in handy when you don't want your dog to hang around freely in your living room or kitchen when you are not around or when you are sleeping at night. This is good for both the pet owner(you) as well as the dog. Crate is a place where your dog feels secure and safe and can call it's own. No matter how well trained your dog is, it's not a good idea to let him take full control of your home when you are not around.  

    It will take some time for your dog to get used to the confinement of a crate and it can bark, howl or whine as soon as you leave him alone in the crate. So you might find the initial stages of crate training a bit nagging and challenging. So you must be prepared to show a great deal of patience towards your pooch until he's fully crate trained. 

    You can make use of a Clicking sound coupled with a treat as reward. This is more effective than just treats or only the clicker. In positive reinforcement training, perfect timing is everything and a clicker is the best device for that. You can get a clicker at any pet store or any other local store nearby.

    Here is a video on Crate Training. Please watch it

    Follow these easy steps to fully crate train your dog:
    1. Do not leave the dog in the crate for a long time initially. Come back into the room in a few minutes while the dog is silent and click it and offer a treat or praise it immediately. 
    2. Then you must gradually increase the duration of  your dog's stay in the crate, but never forget to treat/ click the moment you get back into the room. This way you will reinforce that behavior of your dog - staying silent in the crate for the duration that you have set. It will definitely take some time for your dog to get used to long hours. So be patient!
    3. Never slip into a negative reinforcement or aversives after some time when you get annoyed or lose patience. If the dog is inconsistent and doesn't stay silent in the crate for the duration you have set, don't reward and ignore him, but never intimidate it. Because it can do more harm than good.
    4. Over a period of time you will have a fully crate trained dog. That's for sure. It might take weeks or even months sometimes or it might happen even faster than that. It all depends on how consistent and patient you are at the training. So never give up and be at it till you accomplish your goal.

    Also do check out this helpful and informative FAQ on Crate Training in one of the dog forums I frequent, you can check it out, it's really informative.  

    Thank you for reading my post ! If you liked it please do not forget to share it with your friends and also  leave your valuable feedback as a comment. I will be discussing the remaining behavior problems in the upcoming posts. Till then, Happy Petting !

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