Pet’s Health

Companion Animal Psychology

What every owner must know when training their dog.
There’s a lot of incorrect dog training advice on the internet, which makes it hard for people with dogs to sort out which advice is good and which is not.

Does it matter? Some of the time, despite using methods that aren’t recommended by professional organizations, you can get away with it. Maybe you will have a well-trained dog or maybe you will muddle along. Maybe your dog will actually be a bit afraid that you won’t notice (people aren’t very good at recognizing fear).

But unfortunately, for some dogs, there will be issues. And perhaps, instead of blaming the method, you’ll blame the dog.

Here’s what one scientist concluded after reviewing the evidence on dog training methods (Ziv, 2017):

“it appears that aversive training methods have undesirable unintended outcomes and that using them puts dogs’ welfare at risk”

Dog training is not regulated and so trainers do not have to be transparent about how they describe their methods. Typically, they don’t call them aversive even if they are.

But there is one piece of information about dog training that will help many people start sorting out the good from the bad. Granted, it’s not the only thing – when it comes down to it, dog training can be quite complicated – but it is a vital thing to know.

But first of all, can you guess what it’s not?

What’s not as important in dog training as some people think

Even though some people still believe it to be the case, dominance, being the pack leader, or being the alpha (however you want to phrase it) is not the most important thing in training a dog. In fact, it’s not even important at all.

One of the problems with dog training based on ideas of dominance is that it can lead to the use of confrontational methods (such as alpha rolls). Confrontational methods risk an aggressive response (Herron, Schofer and Reisner 2009) and aversive techniques may affect the dog-owner relationship (Deldalle and Gaunet, 2014). A review of the scientific research (Ziv, 2017) says these methods are not recommended because of concerns about animal welfare.

Another problem with dominance dog training is that it can mean dogs miss out on fun learning opportunities. And it is simply a distraction from people learning about modern dog training methods.

I won’t go into details here because it’s not the focus of this article. But if you want to know more, including what scientists think about dominance, see my article on problems with dominance training.

So if dominance isn’t as important as people think, what is the thing that matters?


The one thing every dog owner should know

The one thing every dog owner should know about dog training is this: Use food.

It sounds very simple, doesn’t it? And it’s not exactly a secret: Modern dog training uses food.

Use food to reward your dog for doing things you like, such as sit or wait or drop it when you ask.

I’m not saying food is the only reward you would use with your dog. There might be times when you use a game of fetch, tug on a rope, lots of lovely petting, or even life rewards like the opportunity to go chase a critter.

But for most dog training situations, food is the easiest way to deliver positive reinforcement because it is so quick and efficient. And scientists have found that food is a better reward than petting or praise (Fukuzawa and Hayashi, 2013; Okamoto et al 2009).

The reason I wish more people would know to use food is that it would make it easier for people to find a good dog trainer and to weed out bad dog training advice.

For example, if you go to a dog trainer and they recommend a prong collar, well, a prong collar is not food.

A shock collar is not food.

A leash correction is not food.

Yet these are all methods some dog trainers will say are “kind”, “humane”, or even “gentle”, even though from a technical perspective there is no way to describe them other than as aversive (positive punishment or negative reinforcement).

Stuff about relationships and respect and energy is also not food.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of weasel words used to describe dog training and it makes it difficult for dog owners because one thing we can safely say about dogs is that everyone has their own opinion.

But we can see with our own eyes whether these methods use food or not.

So if you go to a dog trainer, or you’re reading dog training advice on the internet, and the advice does not involve using food, think about it very carefully even if it is described as kind.

If you’re using food in dog training, you are avoiding some of the biggest mistakes you can make, and you’re using modern, reward-based training methods (Yay!).

The ways to use food in dog training

There are two main ways to use food in dog training, and they relate to how dogs learn.

We use food as positive reinforcement in operant conditioning, which is when we are teaching a dog to do a particular behavior. The dog does the behavior and we reward them quickly with the food, so that next time we ask for the behaviour they are more likely to do it again. (If they don’t do it, they don’t get the food, and we try again – maybe going back a step in the training plan to make it easier).

The other way we use food is in classical conditioning, when we want to change how a dog feels about something. For example, the dog is afraid of the brush, but we want to teach them to be groomed. Dogs love food, so we can help them learn to like the brush by quickly following every presentation of the brush with lots of yummy food. With a gradual training plan, and being very (very) careful to only work at the dog’s pace, we can help the dog learn to like the brush. (Note that, in contrast to operant conditioning, the dog doesn’t have to do anything – it’s the brush that predicts food).

Those of you with fearful dogs will know that trying to get rid of fear is a long, slow process that may not be completely successful. It’s better to try to prevent fear in the first place, if possible.

What you need in order to use food in dog training

Strictly speaking, all you need is some pieces of food hidden away in your hand. Having it on your person makes it easier to deliver food quickly – although there may be occasions when it’s more appropriate to run to the fridge for it.

Little cubes of cooked chicken are an ideal food reward, but there are lots of other choices. Find something your dog likes and that you are happy with. Kibble is generally not the best idea for training; something that is tasty and adds variety to the dog’s diet will be more motivating.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of training, it will make life easier to get a treat pouch of some sort. You can get one that is literally just for the food rewards, or one that has extra pockets for your cell phone, keys, and poop bags.

You might also want a clicker. For some types of training (when you need to reward fleeting movements) it is essential to use a marker – which could be a verbal marker or a clicker – because it marks the exact moment of the behavior and buys you time to get your food reward out. But for most basic obedience, it’s up to you whether you use one or not. (Some people love to use the clicker, some people don’t. One study found no difference between the use of a clicker, verbal marker or neither (just food rewards) (Chiandetti et al 2016) and this is something we are likely to see more research on in the future).

But really, that’s it. The most important thing is the food.


Some of the technical aspects of dog training…

Of course, it’s not as simple as just using food. But nonetheless, behaviors that are reinforced will get repeated, so if you keep rewarding your dog for a particular behavior (like sit), the frequency of that behavior will go up.

When we talk about technical aspects, we can mean something as simple as the speed of delivery of rewards. It’s important to deliver the reward very quickly (or mark it, if you are using a reward marker such as a clicker), so the dog knows which behavior is the one that earned the reward. Have you ever trained a very bouncy dog whose bottom only briefly touches the ground when you ask them to sit before they jump up and start bouncing around again? If you were too slow, you could be rewarding them for the wrong behavior, like bouncing.

And while we’re talking about speed, another thing you can do in a dog training session if you’re using food rewards is a lot of repetitions (e.g. ten a minute). Of course, it depends on the dog, but if you’ve got the level of the training plan right, that’s what you should aim for (yep, ten a minute – try it! If that’s too tricky, just try to fit more repetitions in than you were doing before).

A few of the technical things we need to get right are covered in my article on positive reinforcement (scroll down to the section on ‘why isn’t positive reinforcement working?’).

Following a training plan will also really help. A very common mistake is to proceed too quickly for the dog, and expect too much of them all at once. That can get frustrating for both of you. If you follow a plan with gradual, incremental steps, you will actually make faster progress.

Luckily, there are some excellent books that will help you get started. If you want to learn more about the technical aspects of how to train a dog, I recommend Culture Clash and Train Your Dog Like a Pro by Jean Donaldson, and The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.

You may also like to find a good dog trainer and take a class or private lesson.

A couple of caveats

By now, some of you are probably thinking “what about no-pull harnesses?” They aren’t food, and they are okay.

They are indeed okay: a study found that dogs on flat collars or on no-pull harnesses did not show signs of stress (Grainger, Wills and Montrose 2016). So a harness is a great choice for walking your dog, and may even mean you don’t have to train loose-leash walking. Where does food come in? Well, the first time (or first few times) you use one, you might like to use food to help your dog like the harness. You could also use food to train your dog to walk nicely on a harness if the harness itself doesn’t do the trick.

And what about those dog trainers who sometimes use food and sometimes use corrections? They are often referred to as ‘balanced’ trainers. Well, they get the food part right, but unfortunately not the other part.

The key is to not overthink the training process and to use treats (or food) as a reinforcement tool.

Katherine Waite May 15, 2017 Pet Owners, Pet's Health Comments Off on Companion Animal Psychology Read More

Your Home is Killing Your Canine

You like your dog. You’d do something in your dog. Nicely your property is probably not the very best place to your canine to live an extended and comfortable life.

Similar to parents typically put toxic things right into a child’s room (like new wallpaper and plastic toys) and marvel why the infant is sick, folks typically expose their canine to issues that may kill them and marvel why the dog is sick or dying.

Canines get sick and die from most cancers. That may be a truth. However do you know that family cleaning merchandise will trigger most cancers?

An instance is bleach. Everybody is aware of that it interfers with breeding canine by altering the sex hormones and by killing sperm. However do you know it could alter DNA to the purpose that tumors develop?

You discover bleach in lots of the family merchandise that your canine is available in contact with each day. It’s in laundry detergents, for instance. Did you launder that blanket your canine sleeps on? Does you canine sleep within the laundry room? Did you spill detergent on the laundry room flooring the place your canine can lick it?

Your canine can be uncovered to mould, particularly within the laundry room. The room is moist and heat and confined. An ideal place for mildew development to concentrate.

Molds produce chemical teams like Ochratoxins, Aflatoxins and Trichothecenes. In excessive concentrations these chemical compounds trigger most cancers for folks and canines. Medical doctors and vets have recognized this for nearly 30 years.

However these toxins are sluggish onset downside makers. Which means that it could take a number of years for the cancers to develop. So your canine might really feel nice up until the second that it’s too late.

The place else do we discover mould in excessive concentrations? Within the basement, after all. Folks very often have a lovely sleeping space for his or her canines in basements.

“Okay, I consider this. What can I do?”

1. Maintain cleaning merchandise sealed in plastic containers.

2. Purchase cleaning merchandise WITHOUT bleach.

3. Clear up all spills instantly.

4. Hold washer and dryer open when not in use. (To cease mildew)

5. Maintain the laundry room door open to air out.

6. Periodically spray the rooms with a solution of grape fruit seed extract or Tea Tree Oil to stop mould progress.

Should you plan to maintain your canine wholesome, it’s important to begin thinking about it immediately.

admin Mar 10, 2016 Pet's Health Comments Off on Your Home is Killing Your Canine Read More

Practice Your Dog With Respect

Correct coaching of your dog ought to start when he’s a pet. The primary 4 months of a canine’s life are essential within the coaching of your dog. That is after they study behaviors that they are going to apply sooner or later.

Socializing your canine is without doubt one of the most vital issues you are able to do to affect your canine’s future habits. As quickly as you deliver your new pet dwelling, it’s best to begin letting him work together with different puppies, dogs and people. Take your dog to parks the place there will likely be different pets and other people. Ask your folks whether it is okay on your dog to go to their dog at their house or yours. Puppies will learn to get together with different puppies and dogs if they’re allowed to play with them when they’re younger. Introduce your dog to new experiences. Give him rides within the automotive, stroll him on a leash across the park, let him hear the vacuum cleaner operating. Assist your pet get used to an everyday routine of baths, brushing , and wholesome meals.

Housebreaking your pet takes quite a lot of persistence. Repair up a pleasant little area or room on your pet. Place his meals and water bowl there together with some favourite toys. You should definitely put newspapers all around the flooring and exchange them typically. When you’re at residence with the pet, let him out of his room for a brief time frame to roam round and play. Return your pet to his room and the newspapers after about 30-45 minutes to assist together with his burglary. Don’t punish your pet for having an accident. It might take as much as six months earlier than he’s absolutely housebroken. Bear in mind, most puppies cannot management their bladder in a single day till they’re about 4 months outdated.

Your pet will undoubtedly wish to chew on issues he should not. Practice him to depart your issues alone by protecting them out of attain and by offering him with a wide range of doggy chew toys. If he chews in your favourite slipper, do not punish him. Merely exchange the slipper with one among his own chew toys. Reward him for enjoying together with his own toys.

Generally, you’ll have to depart your canine dwelling alone. Assist him to really feel snug alone by leaving on the tv or radio for firm. Go away an sufficient quantity of meals and water. Remember to go away numerous doggy toys for him to play with.

You might be having bother coaching your dog. Perhaps he is not responding to your instructions or appears to be ignoring you. Or perhaps the burglary is backfiring and your canine is having accidents everywhere in the home. These could also be indicators of a medical situation. You’ll want to go to the vet frequently to rule out issues like lack of listening to or bladder infections. At all times make certain your dog is wholesome, blissful and nicely cared for.

When you really feel this job is simply too massive for you otherwise you simply need some further instruction or behavioral coaching to your canine,, there are various respected skilled dog trainers and obedience colleges. Perform a little research and ask questions to search out the right school on your dog.

Most significantly, you have to be a accountable proprietor with the intention to prepare them correctly. If you would like your dog to belief and respect you, it’s essential to do the same in return. By no means hit, kick, or slap your dog. Embrace your dog in household outings and games and basic household life. Don’t play aggressive games with them as this will trigger them to behave aggressively. Reward good habits and but don’t spoil your dog. Bear in mind, in the event you observe a number of endurance, love and respect in your dog, you’ll obtain the identical from him.

admin Jan 11, 2016 Pet's Health Comments Off on Practice Your Dog With Respect Read More