#1 training tip for all dog parents
Reward behavior you want repeated.
#2 most important tip: do #1 often, and with rewards your dog really likes!
Positive reinforcement Positive reinforcement and clicker training have improved the lives of millions of dogs in recent years, but some people may still be wondering “What’s the problem with using punishment? Don’t we have to punish the dog, so he knows what not to do?” A better approach is to ask what you WANT your dog to do and teach your dog to do that instead. The problem with physical punishment and reprimands is all the potential unintended consequences. Dogs punished for fear-aggressive barking behavior may stop barking, but their emotional state will often get worse, leading to even more undesirable behavior down the road. Dogs trained with fear and punishment are more likely to be aggressive. Dogs trained with positive reinforcement will of course be happier dogs. We all work harder to earn rewards than we do to avoid punishment.
Clicker training basics Critics of clicker training sometimes protest; “My dog isn’t food motivated!” All living things are food motivated! The only dogs that are never food motivated are stuffed animals. You may need to use better treats (low cal. peanut butter/chicken breast) or wait until your dog isn’t full, but food is a universal motivator. You can also incorporate some nonfood rewards into your training, like play and/or verbal praise. Verbal praise may not be as rewarding as a piece of chicken breast or a little peanut butter, but it has zero calories, costs nothing, and you never run out, so we can afford to be very generous with verbal praise!
Rover feels your pain, and happiness too! Dogs will often mimic their owner’s emotional state. Using our “happy voice!” with our dogs can help improve their emotional state. Stern reprimands can worse their emotional state and be easily misunderstood. When people impatiently reprimand a dog for barking, the dog’s reaction is often; “Wow, he’s just as upset as I am, this IS scary!” Teach your dog to do something else instead, something fun!
What kind of collar should I get for my dog? When picking out a dog collar you’ve probably seen a few, like choke and prong collars, that look like medieval torture devices. I would not recommend those! Choke collars and prong collars are designed to prevent pulling by painfully choking the dog if she pulls, but this can cause more problems than it solves. A simple flat collar is usually fine. For dogs that can slip out of those easily because of the shape of their head a martingale collar is appropriate provided it’s affixed properly and does not choke the dog. It’s also important to remember to take it off when you aren’t walking your dog as it can get caught on crate doors or other objects. Martingales and slip leads are often used for dogs that are a flight risk because they are secure but using them as training tools can create more problems than they solve. A comfortable, properly fitted harness is recommended for longer walks, as it doesn’t apply direct pressure to the neck.
Give your dog a hint! Treat delivery tip: When you are walking your dog on leash and they are walking politely, deliver treat rewards right by your leg at the dog’s level. After enough repetitions your dog will learn to spend more time there, because that’s where good things happen. If your dog jumps up on you to greet you at the door, wait until they have all 4 paws on the floor and deliver a treat right on the ground, so they know that staying on the ground keeps them closer to where the treats happen. If your dog doesn’t like their crate, hide some treats in there when your dog isn’t looking, and they’ll eventually use their nose to find the treat, and then get rewarded for walking in to the crate all on their own. Treat placement can be a great way to let your dog know where you want them to be.