Tag Archives: positive reinforcement

Tips to Curb a Dog that Digs


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He’s done it again! Fido’s dug a hole right in the middle of your freshly-pruned row of Petunias. Digging can be one of the most frustrating doggy behaviors, as well as one of the hardest to stop. Below are some pointers to keep your dog’s destructive habit from digging a hole into your brain.

Step 1: Identify the Causes

There are many possible causes of a dog’s digging that go beyond their simple enjoyment of the act. Once you identify the reason (or reasons) for your dog’s digging, it will be much easier to come up with a solution. A few of the fascinating causes for digging include:

• Entertainment—If you’ve seen the wide, gleaming smile of a dog digging a hole in the backyard, you know he has no qualms about tearing apart your garden; digging is just plain fun.
• Temperature Control—In the hot summer months, your dog might find a hole in the ground the perfect spot to cool down. Similarly, getting into a hole he’s dug can offer him more warmth when it’s cold out than staying above ground.
• Escape—High fences or gates aren’t always enough to keep a rebellious dog with a taste for wanderlust contained. Your dog may be trying to get away, at least for a little while.
• Hormones—Both male and female dogs may try to dig their way out of the yard in order to sniff out a mate.
• Burying Objects—Dogs dig to save food, bones and other prized possessions for later while keeping them hidden away from others.
• Natural Instinct—Some dog breeds like to dig more than others; it’s just in their nature. Thick-coated dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows might dig to escape the heat, while earth dogs such as Terriers and Dachshunds were bred to do the very thing that gets under your skin—or lawn.

Step 2: Breaking the Habit

While there are no foolproof solutions to a dog’s digging, there are measures you can take to lessen the behavior. Depending on the cause for the digging, the appropriate solution may vary.

• Keep Him Busy—If your dog resorts to digging as a form of entertainment, he may not be getting the proper attention at home. Prevent boredom in your pup by scheduling daily playtime and exercise.
• Keep It Cool—If your dog is digging because he is hot or because of physical discomfort or distress, make sure you pay attention to him and provide him with what he needs to stay cool and comfortable.
• Get Him “Fixed”—Spaying or neutering makes a dog less likely to wander in search of a mate. Coupled with regular exercise, this can solve escapism, as well as curb hormonal instincts.
• Limit Treats—To get your dog to stop burying his food, don’t give him more than he will finish. If you see him trying to stash a treat for later, quickly take it out of his mouth before he has a chance to bury it. If he reacts aggressively to this gesture, it’s a sign your dog needs immediate professional help.
• Compromise—There’s not much you can do to stop a dog from digging if it’s his natural-born instinct. If he’s digging for temperature control, you can trim his fur in the summer or give him a sweater in the winter. But what if he’s a Terrier with digging in his blood? In this case, it may be best to designate a single spot in the yard where he can dig, rather than him digging holes all over the place.

Step 3: Reward, Reward, Reward

When training your dog, one of the best ways to get your desired outcome is to reward positive behavior. This is called positive reinforcement, and is often more effective than punishment. The same goes for training your dog to stop digging. Instead of scolding your dog for digging, reward him with praise and treats for obeying commands, reacting calmly or digging in the right spot. Hopefully, both you and Fido will dig the end result.

Training Your Dog for the Busy Holiday Season


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As the smells and sights of Christmastime fill the air this time of year, so do emotions of excitement and anticipation. While the holidays are a time of joy for many, the busy schedules leading up to them can leave people overcome with stress and anxiety, and unfortunately our dogs often pick up on these feelings as well. To prevent your restless pup from ravaging the house and misbehaving when guests come over for the holidays, it is important to start preventative training beforehand. Here’s a guide to keeping an energetic or anxious pup in check so the holidays stay cheerful for both humans and our four-legged friends.

Call a Professional

If your dog is still a puppy who likes to play by her own rules, it may be a good idea to enroll her in obedience classes. This may be an especially viable option for those who fear aggressive behaviors from their pooch, which may be triggered when new family or friends come into the picture. If you don’t see yourself being able to train your pup before the holidays, it may be time to call a professional.

Invest in a Crate

A crate can be a very helpful tool in containing an overactive puppy. As soon as you sense your pup getting antsy around guests, it’s time to take a proactive approach by pulling her away from the situation and placing her in a crate. Even if your dog isn’t the type to bite others, new, stressful situations such as a busy holiday get-together may spark behavior you’ve never seen in her before. This is why it pays to have a crate handy, especially for younger dogs whose behavior can be unpredictable. And if you start crate training prior to your event, your dog will be comfortable going in her crate when you ask her to.

Utilize the “Sit” Command
The “sit” command is probably one of the first things you’ll teach your dog to do, and it’s also the foundation of proper obedience. With the right training, this simple command will come in handy to control a jumpy dog who pounces on every guest who enters the door. Now, your guests might not mind if there’s a tiny fur ball scraping at their ankles, but if it’s a larger, more menacing-looking breed who’s practically leaping atop their laps, it may be a cause of concern. Teach your dog to sit when she approaches you, and reward the behavior so she does the same in front of guests. This command also works for when your little beggar comes out during mealtime. Combined with a firm “stay” or “down,” the command can be especially effective. Yet, if you still find your pup pestering your guests for food, then it’s time to break out the crate.

Praise Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is one of the fundamental techniques to encouraging desired behaviors from your dog. By rewarding her with treats and praise every time she behaves favorably, you can, in theory get your dog to do almost anything. Get your family involved, too! Invite willing guests to praise your dog for good behavior such as sitting and staying away. You can even give a small baggy of dog treats to each guest to use when your pup acts calmly around them. And finally, when you reward the positive, you, your furry best friend and everyone she meets will all benefit.

Top Three Training Methods: Which is Right For You?


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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.