I saw an article in The Dumb Friends League (www.ddfl.org) newsletter, and thought it was worth sharing. This is a portion of the article, written by a dog named Stan, and talking about some great ways to set up your canine animal friend for success.
”We all have pawtential (See what I did there? My family thinks I’m hysterical…at least I think that’s what they think when they look at me and shake their heads.) We need to be taught good behavior, just like those two-legged human kids who try to ride us like ponies. What’s that all about? We can learn new things all the time. We’re not wild animals, after all.
“Our humans need to set us up for success. We’re always forming associations that influence our behavior, right? Is something pleasant or icky, safe or unsafe, comfortable or painful? If our humans give us treats every time we bark to announce a delivery person, welp, we’re gonna keep it up. We’re smart that way. Reinforced behaviors, whether positive or negative, contribute to subsequent actions. It’s that easy.”
Stan has a point, and it’s not just the dogs who learn those reinforced behaviors. Cats, horses, goats, and hey! Even us human beings! So if you’re trying to reinforce a behavior, make sure you’re rewarding what you WANT, not what is undesirable. Stan goes on –
”I recommend target training, which is super helpful when our humans want us to move, say, off the couch, or come to them. If you’re like me, you may or may not (OK, may) have a challenge focusing. I mean, come on. How are we supposed to ignore rabbits, sticks, or even birds? So, when it’s time for training, we don’t want our humans to take us to the dog park, for example, to work on jumping. There are far too many distractions – the smells alone will have you off in 32 directions – so you should start alone in your yard or the back of a large parking lot at a quiet/off time. You can move to a busier area as your skills progress and you graduate from the yard.
”It’s OK to be treat-motivated. Heck, who isn’t? Your humans should have plenty of high-value treats, such as meat or cheese-based rewards. And, let them know, the less processsed the better – and hey, that’s not just true for them!
”If you’re wondering what our humans shouldn’t do during the training process, I have some tips on that front, too.
- We shouldn’t be punished; doing so will make the problem worse.
- Negative behavior shouldn’t be reinforced. When you only give us attention when we’re barking, you’re basically telling us we should bark.
- Don’t let other humans in our home off the hook. Everyone needs to be on the same training page.”
Stan and his friends at the Dumb Friends League have lots of wisdom. To get more behavior tips and training, visit ddfl.org/resource-library and see what’s there.
Sit! Stay! Good Dog! Thanks, Stan