Tag Archives: rewards

Key House Training Principles to Implement Day One

Simply thinking about house training your puppy could have you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Take a deep breath and don’t fear! As long as you stay committed and consistent in whichever method you choose, the process doesn’t have to be difficult. It can even be fun! Remember, the goal is to instill positive habits in your pet while simultaneously building a loving bond. Understand and expect there to be a lot of setbacks and “mistakes.” Do your best to curb your frustration (it can take up to 6 months to a year to get your puppy fully house trained), get back on the horse and try again. Following these core training principles as soon as puppy comes home will set a healthy foundation for the rest of your training.

  1. Confine Puppy to Defined Space

Whether you decide to crate train or keep your puppy in a gated area, limiting his space is important during this crucial learning stage – not just to save your valuables from getting ruined, but also to teach puppy that he needs to go outside to do his business. Until he develops his “den instinct” i.e., not wanting to go soil his own living space, he’ll need boundaries. Once he starts to understand and make progress, gradually give him more freedom around the house.

  1. Take Puppy Out Frequently

thumbnail-puppy-developmentYou should take your puppy outside first thing in the morning and then once every 30 minutes to an hour. You should also take him out after every meal, when he wakes from a nap and before he goes to sleep. When in doubt, take him out!

  1. Stay Attached at the Hip

Consider “puppy sitting” your full time job for the next several months. Spotting and acknowledging your puppy’s signs that he needs to go are key to the process. Whining, circling, sniffing or barking are all clear signs that he needs to be taken out right away. And make sure that once he’s out, you watch puppy do his business each time to ensure he’s making progress.

  1. Stick to a Feeding Schedule

Feed your puppy according to your veterinarian and breeder’s recommendations and take away the food in between meals to prevent accidents and get puppy used to eating at consistent times. Remember, what goes in regularly, will come out regularly! Leave the water though. Puppy needs to stay hydrated. Just monitor how much he drinks so you know when to take him out.

  1. X Marks the Spot

Take puppy to the same spot each time he eliminates. He will start to associate his scent with the spot and it will encourage him to go.

  1. Give Praise and Reward

When puppy eliminates outside, praise verbally and give him a treat. Choose a simple word like “outside” or a key phrase such as “Go potty!” and use it every time you take puppy out. Repetition and consistency are key. Puppy will soon start to associate the word with the act. A nice walk is another great reward.

  1. Discipline Correctly

Accidents are completely normal and punishing your puppy will only teach him to fear you. Puppies are not intellectually capable of associating anger with wrongdoing. If you catch puppy in the act, clap loudly to alert him it’s not acceptable. Then quickly take him outside by calling him or pulling him gently by the collar. If you find evidence after the act, don’t react angrily by yelling or rubbing the puppy’s nose in it.


Top Three Training Methods: Which is Right For You?

If you ask ten different people on the street their opinions on how to train a dog, you’ll surely receive ten different answers. How you approach dog training is a personal decision, but before you decide what method is best for you and your pup, understanding the thinking behind each is important.

Traditional Dominance Training

The most popular and widely used method employs the philosophy that dogs behave poorly because they are trying to obtain dominance or gain higher rank over their owner or trainer. Traditional trainers will use physical stimulus such as yanking a leash to get a dog to heel or firm verbal commands to grab the dog’s attention away from distractions. Popular dog trainer Cesar Millan’s “wolf pack” method draws on dominance theory and establishing “alpha influence” in the trainer in order to exert dominance over the dog. Good behavior is rewarded with praise and positive reinforcement while bad behavior is punished. While touted as successful by many, critics say the result of dominance training is that the dog’s behavior is suppressed and the dog’s personality becomes more subdued in order to avoid disciplinary action. It’s also important to note that the wolf pack theory has come under scrutiny in recent years based on the fact that dogs are an entirely different species than wolves and that most canine problems are a result of insecurity and/or a desire to seek and maintain safety and comfort – not from a desire to establish higher rank and dominance.

Scientific Training

Many veterinarians and animal behaviorists promote “science-based training,” which is guided by the philosophy that dogs are hardwired to want to “please” their owners. Therefore, science-based training first teaches the dog desired behaviors using rewards and then, when the dog behaves badly, the reward is taken away. For example, if you’re playing a game of fetch and your dog jumps to nip your hand before you toss the toy, the disciplinary action would be to clearly hold the toy away from him so he understands that he will not get the toy if he continues this behavior. Once the dog sits calmly and waits, you toss the toy back and continue the game. This method does not rely on force or coercion, but rather encourages the trainer to “work with” the dog by removing a perceived award so dog learns unwanted behavior is not tolerated.

Positive Reinforcement Training

thumbnail-top-training-methodsThis “humanistic approach” relies strictly on positive reinforcement. The dog is never reprimanded; rather only rewarded for good behavior. Bad behavior is ignored under the philosophy that while you your dog may behave badly at times, they require unconditional love and care. A good example of this method which you may have heard of is “clicker training,” is a method based on behavioral psychology that relies on marking desirable behavior and rewarding it. However, critics argue that only employing positive reinforcement is not effective because the dog doesn’t know which behaviors to avoid. Moreover, this method can often lead to even worse behavior because dogs are confused as to right and wrong. For example, if the dog is continuously barking and the trainer ignores the barking and instead pets or hugs the dog, the dog can easily misconstrue your distraction as encouragement or a sign that you want to play.

Whichever direction you choose, there are a few overarching concepts that apply to any/all successful training – strong communication, positive feedback, exercise, motivation and boundaries. It’s also important to have a plan and set expectations for yourself and family members up front. If any of these methods interest you, research the various proponents and equip yourself accordingly with the skills and knowledge necessary to move forward.