Dog training, at its core, is the application of behaviour analysis that employs the dog’s natural behaviour to alter the dog’s behaviour, either to help it undertake certain tasks or do them effectively, or for it to better perform in modern domestic life. The various approaches used to implement dog training are; positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, praise and persuasion. Positive reinforcement is probably the most widely used method. Positive reinforcement basically means rewarding a dog for good behaviour. It may be done by giving him a treat, letting him know that he has done something nice, giving him a hug, praising him or any other form of reward that reinforces good behaviour.
Rewards can be given as a reward for performing a command correctly, or as a reward for trying a new command and for good behaviour. Negative reinforcement is used when a dog performs an undesirable behaviour or behaves badly. The outcome of this will be a scolding, a loud noise or physical harm. Praise is given as a reward for good behaviour.
In dog training, one of the biggest problems facing dog owners and trainers is using rewards effectively. Rewards are especially effective when dogs are young, but when they are mature they lose their effectiveness because they lose their luster for good behaviour. In dog training if you keep on using treats as your reward, your dogs natural tendencies to please you will be restored and you will have a far happier, more loving dog that enjoys you and obeys you without scolding you. By using treats you are teaching your dogs to feel good about themselves, and it makes them want to perform their best for you.
The dog training teaching book, ‘The Dog Whisperer’ written by Kerry Tuschoff teaches dog training using positive reinforcement in a logical and sensible way that any dog owner can understand. This is a well structured book that is easy to follow and provides you with a logical method to train your dog. The main part of the book is chapter one, which is very helpful in breaking down what you need to do to train your dog, and how to train your dog. This is broken down into five areas. The first three areas are: the initial training, the reinstatement phase and the maintenance phase.
In dog training using rewards as a method, the dog training book explains that it’s much easier to teach a dog new behavior if you use positive reinforcement then consequences. In dog agility this is especially true, because you are not only rewarding the good behaviour, but you are also reinforcing the participants for their excellent performance during a competition. When I was practising, my dogs were always going the extra ten yards whenever I called her over to play a race, even if she hadn’t been given her treat for a good run. It really was amazing to see their reaction when I rewarded their good behaviour.
The dog training book teaches how to use the Leash system effectively and how to maintain the Leash throughout the course of the training session. You will find that there are several different types of Leashes available. I prefer the traditional Velcro style, but I’ve also used buckle collar, halter neck, nylon scarf Leashes and the basic no-bark Leash. The no-bark Leash works perfectly for most dogs and works exceptionally well when combined with the treats that are used during dog training. When I’m out hunting I often keep a supply of treats with me and when I see my dogs getting ready to go on a hunt, I simply give them a treat and they eagerly run after their prey!
The next part of dog training is what many trainers call the ‘Manner Training’. What this entails is setting up the right expectations and rules with your puppy or dog from day one. This means you want to establish early on who the leader of the pack is. Some people feel that it is important to use a leader, however I think that a pack leader would be more effective if used by using subtle persuasion and positive reinforcement. Trainers that are using physical force need to be very careful that they do not harm their puppies or dogs in any way!
The final part of dog training that is often left out by many dog trainers is the nutrition aspect of the training program. I believe that the best way to properly train your dog is through providing it with a healthy diet at all times. Dogs are descended from hunting animals and their diets need to include a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre. By providing your pet dog with these essential nutritional requirements we ensure that they grow up to be strong and healthy dogs capable of running and playing with their humans in the future.