Reinforcement strengthens behavior by either a consequence (negative) or a reward (positive). Now a day’s researchers have found positive reinforcement is the most powerful when it comes to behavior modification. So why do so many pet owners still use the old school approach of negative reinforcement to train their furry family member? I am not an expert but I feel this topic needs to be addressed at least to the point that pet owners will think about my question. Really, I am just a dog lover who needs to get this shortrients to generate results with dog training.
I have recently rescued a very small mixed breed from a shelter. She is about one year old and a true rarity. Most of her shots were up to date at the time of rescue. She has already been housebroken and in obedience classes. She faces the possibility of being put to sleep unless connected to her family. In her youth she was a “runaway” and scared of everything. Now she is fearful of the very things that made her fear in the past, such as a vacuum cleaner.
Does she understand verbal instructions? Yes! She is very smart! But she has no understanding of the motivation behind basic obedience commands such as Sit, Down, Stay, Come or Come here? I ask this simple question so you can move on to the next point of discussion.
Can she sit on command? No! And if she does, is she prepared to do so at the drop of a hat? And you ask yourself, why is she prepared to do a behaviors that she previously avoided?
If you don’t have that answer prepared and implemented, then you should not be in the small puppy training business. You need preparation, far more than just smarts. Being prepared means being able to assess the traits of your subject. Then you can decide if those traits fit with your lifestyle, or if they don’t.
Invariably, if you fully understand the temperament of your dog and evaluate her traits, the solution to the problems you face will be simple. If you don’t, then odds are you’re going to make trial and error errors until you find the best one.
So did she chew on you? Because you “roomed” her to such a degree that she now believes she has a right to hurt you with her teeth, attack you with the same force with which she opens your hand in exchange for a chew toy, or feign an attack with the toy in order to “get even” with you for leaving her alone too long without a chew toy.
Ask yourself, “is she afraid or bold? Is she energized by a nutritious snack or tasty bone? Does she feel frustration, stress, nervousness, eagerness, or franticness?
Understanding the traits of her breed will help you predict the approach that will best suit her. She may be overly timid if she has a herding breed, or overly protective and self-confident if she’s part Rottweiler, Doberman, Belgian Sheepdog, Malamute or Great Dane.
A canine doesn’t discriminate. Accept that your dog will run, jump, and leap; that she loves to play, and that she needs to be allowed to be a dog and scratch on trees which sometimes requires an independent arborist to keep your trees alive. She is genetically programmed to do these things. Being a good pack leader for her, requires you not to let her run the show, but to instead recognize who the Alpha dog in the pack is, and how you can best best communicate and lead with that Alpha dog’s traits.
If you’re not sure of what I’m talking about, watch your dog when she’s interacting with another dog. You’ll quickly learn what attracts her attention and whatetrains her reaction.
Believe me, you’re better off making up your own mind about your dog’s traits before you try to train her. You’re better off doing this before your dog has already learned certain behaviors, instead of trying to change what she’s already learned. Changing the way your dog behaves is much easier than correcting all the causes of her misbehavior.
When you acquire your dog from a reputable breeder, you systematically remove the likelihood of her having a bad habit. You must accept the fact that the way your dog responds to misbehavior, is almost never in any way predictable from her breed’s traits. Behavioral genetics research tends to emphasize the fact that “non-mutts” (or dogs with one or two parents who are not purebreds) tend to have better emotional traits and emotional development, even though their physical makeup might otherwise predict misbehavior.
This is due to the fact that in the past, non-Mutts were more often physically and emotionally neglected than their purebred counterparts. As a result, they suffered greater psychological damage and pursued a much wider range of emotional misbehavior and behavior problems.