Thursday, Aug. 1st 2019

Doc Sandi’s Dog Training Primer

Doc Sandi’s Dog Training Primer

When puppies come in for their initial checkups and puppy shots, we like to talk to their family about how training is coming and offer some advice if they are having specific issues.  Dr Leonard has trained dogs for competitive obedience and agility since 1992 and put many performance titles on all of her dogs.  This newsletter offers a dog training primer on how to be successful in training your pet (yes, these will work on cats, too!)

  1. Find out what reward works for your pet.  Treats are commonly used, but it needs to follow these rules: A—safe for the animal.  No xylitol, corn syrup, artificial colors, chocolate, grapes or raisins, or other toxic foods.  B—desirable to the point the pet wants it badly enough to purchase it with their actions.  If they don’t like it, they won’t work for it. C—can be delivered in tiny pieces, pea-sized or so.  When training, you’ll be offering dozens of treats during a session.  You don’t want to give them an upset stomach or fill them up on goodies instead of a balanced diet.  Dr Leonard likes organic string cheese, by the way.   If they won’t take treats, a toy can work, but small treats offer a faster reward.
  2. Work when the pet is a little hungry, not right after a meal, so the treats have more value to the pet.
  3. Keep sessions short. It’s better to do five one -minute training sessions daily than to do one ten-minute session.  This will keep your pet eager to work with you and not bored or tired.  Likewise, train when they are alert, not when they are ready for a nap.  Stop before they get tired or stressed.  Training is more fun if everyone is having a good time.
  4. Pets REPEAT WHAT GETS REWARDED. This is worth saying again. Tattoo it on your treat arm.  Pets REPEAT WHAT GETS REWARDED. If doing something gets them something they want, they will do it again.   Such as stealing food off the kitchen counter or browsing for snacks in the litter box.  OR, playing with their own toys, going outside to potty, and sitting quietly when you greet someone at the door.   If you like the behavior they are offering, REWARD it.  They should be rewarded ten or more times more frequently than they have to be stopped from undesirable behaviors. This can only happen IF you are doing your job right and watching for good behavior and redirecting if they head for something you don’t want. 
  5. Pets have a very short attention span of about five seconds. If they do a behavior, say, pooping on your carpet, and then walk away and you discover it ten minutes, or even ten seconds, after they are done, you have MISSED YOUR CHANCE to interrupt this behavior and redirect them to a more appropriate one like going outdoors. This is why continuous observation of puppies when they are up and about is critical.  You MUST catch them in the act and stop undesirable behaviors while they occur in order to make an impression.  A sharp “NO” or “AAAH” or clapping your hands often is enough to stop them.  Then redirect to the favorable alternative.  Then give them a treat when they do the right thing, within five seconds.  This means, if you are potty training, you need to go outside with your puppy and treats and give them a treat immediately after they eliminate in an appropriate location. Waiting until they come back inside (remember the five second rule) is rewarding them for coming inside, not for eliminating outdoors.
  6. Have fun! Get creative. Look for things to reward your pet for.  Many tricks are actually just learned extensions of behaviors the pet does anyway.  Does your pet like to stand on his hind legs?  Teach “dance”.  Does your pet like to roll on its back?  Teach “roll over”.  Does it like to paw at things?  Teach “High five”.  There are many videos online to help you learn how to teach tricks. 
  7. Keep things positive and happy. There is no place in modern training for aversive training techniques like pinch or choke collars, electrical shock, or physical punishment.  Hitting a puppy with a newspaper or rubbing its nose in stool only teaches it to run away from you when you come near.  Training a pet with positive techniques is a great bonding experience and can lead to hours of enjoyment as well as a pet you can trust in public spaces.  If your pet does something you don’t like, then train an alternate behavior.  Does it bark when it sees other dogs while walking? Teach it to sit next to you and look at your face instead.  Does it dig holes in your garden?  Provide a sand pile in an out of the way corner and bury toys or dog biscuits there for him to find.  While some behaviors such as aggression may need a consult with an animal behaviorist, most can be trained or modified with simple at-home techniques. 

Remember, a veterinarian skilled in dog training can often help you with problems that may be disruptive to your bond with your pet.  Be sure to ask about any concerns you have with your pet’s behavior at your next visit.  Also remember, in some cases the vet may want to do an exam or labwork to rule out physical problems before offering training advice.  Some house-breaking or litter box issues may be bladder infections, inflammatory bowel disease, or pain-related for example.  Anxiety when alone can also be treated with herbs, pheromones, or medications but a vet may need to make sure your pet is healthy prior to prescribing these.  We can also help with food aggression, inter-pet problems, chewing, anxiety, and other behaviors you may wish to address. 


Dates of Importance:

We have some changes in our hours and doctor availability this month worth noting.

August 23-26 is a local veterinary education conference.  Dr.  Leonard will be attending all four days so we will not have a doctor available during that time.  Our staff is also attending some of this time.  We will be CLOSED Friday, August 23. On Monday, August 26, we will have support staff ONLY to answer phones, fill prescriptions, and make sales from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dr Leonard will also be out of the office August 30, September 13, and September 20; with similar hours of support staff only.

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