Training Tips and Reminders for Raising a Healthy, Happy Dog

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As dog lovers and pet parents, we know all too well that common dog behaviors include predation, having a unique greeting style, digging, chewing, barking, counter-surfing, pulling when walking on a leash, eliminating whenever/wherever, sniffing, rolling in stinking stuff and much more! 

Border Collie sit stay

Here’s the good news… You can learn effective techniques to help your dog develop real-world manners and ‘life skills.’ If your inquisitive canine could use a bit of a ‘behavior transformation,’ remember the following tips: 

  1. Reward behaviors you like and want.
  2. Teach your dog what you want.
  3. Manage the environment to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced.
  4. Try something new.

Now, let’s look at how you can apply each of these tips to bring out the best in your best friend using a humane, force-free approach.

1. Reward Behaviors You Like and Want

One way dogs learn is by the consequences of their behaviors. All behaviors have a function. And animals change behavior based on experiences and consequences of their own actions. That means you can motivate the behaviors you like by giving inquisitive canines something they want – a reward. Reinforcement increases a behavior. Keep in mind, motivators can include attention, activities, toys, games and more; they don’t always have to be food-related.

To apply this concept to your own training journey, I recommend a simple written exercise. Try to list one to three motivators for each of the following three statements:

  • “My dog’s favorite foods are ____.”
  • “My dog’s favorite toys/sports are ___.”
  • “My dog’s favorite social activities are ___.”

(This list can be modified as your dog’s preferences change.)

Pro Tip: The difference between motivation and bribery all comes down to timing. When rewarding behaviors you like and want, be sure to deliver reinforcement after the dog performs the behavior, as a reward, rather than beforehand (that’s a bribe).

Coton de Tulear sitting

2. Teach New/Alternate Behaviors You Want or Refine Existing Skills

Rewards work great to encourage more of the behaviors you want, but what about addressing ‘problem’ behaviors? To turn your dog’s trying behaviors into ones you can embrace, consider what you’d like Fido to offer instead. What do you want your dog to do? What is the target behavior? 

Teach your dog what you want by first developing a training plan. For this step, I recommend a second simple written exercise. Create a “Wish List” by filling in one to three behaviors to complete the following statements:

  • “I love when my dog ____”
  • “I wish my dog would ____” 
  • “I wish my dog wouldn’t ___”

This written exercise can help you establish your dog’s baseline, or current behavior, as well as the goal, or target, behavior. 

Now, you can use your knowledge of how dogs learn and what motivates your inquisitive canine (every dog is different) to refine an existing skill or teach a new skill – perhaps one that is incompatible with the current undesirable behavior. For instance, if you wish your dog wouldn’t pull on the leash during walks, teach or refine loose leash walking, which means your dog is walking calmly on leash while being allowed to explore, sniff, and enjoy the sunshine – within the length of your leash, without pulling, tugging, or lunging

Pro Tip: As you coach your pup through these important life skills, dress rehearsals are a great way to prepare in advance, so you both have a solid foundation when “life happens.” 

3. Manage Your Dog’s Environment

While we’re on the topic of real-life scenarios, let’s discuss the role of management in setting your relationship with your inquisitive canine up for success – and decreasing the frequency of frustrating mishaps. Do your best to manage the environment to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced. Planning ahead can help ensure that the incorrect choice (counter-surfing, digging up your flower bed, chewing your shoes) is nearly impossible to make.

Pro Tip: Managing expectations also falls under the scope of management. It’s important to be realistic when establishing training and behavior goals- for you and your dog.

Cream Golden down stay cafe

4. Try Something New

Finally – and you’ve heard this advice here before – be inquisitive. If what you’ve been trying isn’t working…change your behavior and try something different. Brainstorm. What have you tried? What works? What doesn’t work?  

Pro Tip: Still need some dog training or behavior help? Contact The Inquisitive Canine today to explore a Pawsitive Approach for Positive Results!™ 

Thank you for being inquisitive dog parents!

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