Thursday, July 27, 2017

Focus on the Positive in Dog Training

By:  Robin Sockness, Canine Behavior Consultant

As a dog trainer and behavior consultant, I  always remind my clients to focus on and reward for positive behavior.  I have to remind myself routinely as well,  I am human after all... when training and also when things in life test me or frustrate me, to focus on the positive.  What holds true in dog training holds true in real life.

As humans, we sometimes focus on the behaviors and things we don’t want in our dogs – how to get our dogs to not jump, how to get our dog to not counter surf, how to get our dog to pay attention on leash.  We often don't notice the dog's behavior until s/he has gotten it wrong and then we are quick to punish or correct, missing all the times the dog got it right. How often do we focus on the positive? Not often enough!

How often do we capture the moments when our dogs are just lying quietly and being lovely dogs and we don't notice and reward it? Try to notice how often you reward your dog big time for when he is being calm, gentle and exhibiting the behaviors you want.  What do you see?  How often do you see it?  Capture those moments when your dog spontaneously sits or is lying down in his bed being calm whether you’ve asked for it or not. Reward it!  When you are out walking on leash and your dog is walking perfectly, notice it and reward it!  When your dog sees another dog and is calm, reward it!

Take some time today and focus on the positive.  When it comes to dog training, it's not about perfection, it's about percentages of the time your dog gets it right.  If you look at it that way and reward good behavior, instead of waiting for the wrong behavior to come and punish it, you’ll notice things seem calmer and happier for both you and your dog a great percentage of the time.

Try this:  Ignore an unwanted behavior while also hugely reinforcing the acceptable behavior instead and see what happens!  Instead of working to get your dog to stop doing something, work to teach your dog the behavior that you would like to see him/her do instead…then reinforce the heck out of it!  What is the opposite of jumping on people?  Sitting!  Reinforce those auto sits and watch how fast your dog will repeat them!

What behaviors make you want to reward your dog?  I love to point out and reward automatic sits, automatic polite greetings and automatic settles.  When you focus on what your dog does right and reinforce it, your dog will offer those behaviors much more reliably.

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