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Dog training made easy!

You have a need to modify some dog behavior? First I'd recommend that you click on the button at left which reads behavioral psych, because it will help you heaps and save hours of your time if you can first get a grip on the underlying principle of reinforcement.

Dog behavior, as is much of human behavior, is mediated or controlled by reinforcers - rewarding events 'in the environment' which meet a need, satisfy a thirst or a hunger, or stimulate a memory of the same, for example.

Rewards that are positive have a far greater chance of 'generating desirable behavior', simply because you can hold them back until the dog starts to act in the way that you wish it to. You would then 'differentially reward' the steps, the movement towards the goal behavior.

Punishment is ineffective and is definitely not recommended if at all possible. Why? Simply because it leaves the animal confused as to 'what exactly my Master is expecting of me?' It inhibits action and fails to generate spontaneous behavior that may well be desirable. (While the positive reward helps generate and reinforce the positive action.)

When training a dog you need to signal with a cue -such as a hand movement, a word or voice tone.. then get some behavior generating - then progressively follow thru with a small food reinforcer. Just a taste. A whiff. Plus affection. The dog will soon learn the association between the cue, the desired behavior, and the reward. Be patient. The trick is the rewarding of 'successive approximations' or steps towards what you want.

Social Rewards in Dog Training

As with us humans, dogs are highly sensitive to social rewards such as attention, acceptance, approval, praise and affection. Sometimes these will be sufficient to 'maintain' positive behavior - and play in itself will prove to be highly rewarding, as with exercise, walks, swimming, etc. The key is to keep a positive and active focus, avoiding punishment wherever possible.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons -- to bury or recover bones, dig up prey, to make cooling pits and even as means of escape from a boring environment. But the main reason is that it is FUN. Digging passes the time of day when there is nothing better to do.

We have to remember that it is not always possible to take the "dogginess" out of the dog. However we can have a nice lawn and a dog too, by using a little thought.

You need to observe your dog and try to figure out WHY he is digging. Then find the solution. If he is hot, buy him a childs pool for the yard, or bring him inside in the heat of the day. Is he perhaps digging because he is a high-energy dog without enough outlets for that energy? Figure out ways to give him more exercise and mental stimulation -- a tired dog is a good dog! (See my exercise article.)

Is he bored or lonely? Digging can be a tension-reliever for the dog. Make sure he is treated like a member of the family, and not left outside with nothing to do for long periods of time. Bored dogs will eventually find something to do, which will probably not meet with our approval!

A few dogs never have the desire to dig. (If you're still reading this, your dog probably isn't one of them!) Some dogs can be persuaded not to dig, but you need to be very consistent. While working on this problem, do not leave the dog in the yard by himself. Go out with the dog, and if he starts to dig, go calmly to him and give a firm verbal correction-- "No dig!" Try not to run at him, or you might just end up with a different problem-- a dog that plays keep away. A well-aimed and well-timed "super soaker" water spray might work-- you will need to catch the dog in the act. Be aware your dog might learn only that it is not safe to dig while you are in the yard!

Do NOT scold your dog for a hole after the fact. He will not understand. He might look "guilty" but he is only responding to your voice and body language at the time. 

For some dogs, it seems like digging is very self-rewarding (remember it is an instinctual activity). If you can't stop the digging, you can at least control where the dog digs -- you don't have to give him the whole yard. Confine him to a run or pen when you can't watch him, and provide him with some safe interesting chew items, like stuffed Kongs. 

A good idea for a dog addicted to digging is to make a special digging place somewhere in the yard, just for the dog. You can fence off a section of the yard, or use a child's pool filled with sand. Bury a few treats and toys, then take the dog there, and help him dig, praising him when he digs there. Every now and then hide a tidbit when he isn't looking-- to the dog it will be like playing the lottery!

If your dog has any tendency toward digging, never let him observe you doing any planting or gardening. Many dogs will go right to the area they have seen you dig up.

This is just the beginning of the training section of this site.....look for more to come!

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