When you think of a dog that is pleasant to live with, you may think of the following things:
- No pulling on the leash
- No jumping
- Good with children of all ages
- Trustworthy - won't bite
- Good with strangers - but still protective
- Leaves things alone
- Comes when called
- Doesn't run off
- Safe around other dogs and cats
- Social and friendly
- Lovable (of course)!
When your dog does not exhibit these behaviors it can be frustrating. Lets take another look at that list and consider what a dog actually is and how it behaves normally.
A dog is an animal that chases, bites, digs things up, runs around and is often territorial. All things that do not fit very well in our human lifestyle! So when we expect that our dogs do not do these things, we expect the unnatural. When you look at it that way it doesn't really seem fair to the dog does it?
If we take a different approach in training and first realize where dogs are coming from; then let them know that we understand them; and finally teach them what we would like them to do in order to fit into our lives, everything will be easier. Dogs do not come pre-packaged and ready to own. There is work involved, it is work that will take some effort on our part but will result in a lifelong companion that is truly a part of the family.
Our training method at the NHSPCA is known as Positive Reinforcement. This method is based on scientific theory that states if an animal is reinforced for a behavior it is likely that that behavior will be repeated. Reinforcement comes in many forms, but for dogs it generally fits into one, or all, of the following categories.
We begin training with small pieces of food that motivate your dog to pay attention and realize that there are benefits to listening. Food is a wonderful motivator and helps get you and your dog on the right track for fast, fun, eager learning. Later we lessen the treats and add other types of reinforcement such as praise and play time.
Many people have questions or reservations about training with food; they are concerned about their pet gaining weight or begging at the table. This won't be a problem as the size of the food treat is very small and the treats are used for training only. In our classes we will use hot dog pieces or cheese mixed with small sized dry dog food (kibble). We suggest you start preparing your training treats the night before a class, by class time the kibble will be softer and take on some of the taste and smell of the hot dog, therefore making it just as scrumptious to the dog.