Fall is a great time to use those back to school vibes to shift focus to your pet.
Are there behaviours that you would like to see change?
Do you crave a closer bond with your pet?
Do you just want to show off your pet's cool tricks?
Training is the key to these great goals.
Training isn’t all about sitting well and coming when called. Training creates opportunities to fully engage with your pet and learn to read them, as much as you are working at getting them to listen to you.
There are numerous benefits to training
- Teaches your pet boundaries
- Offers enriching challenges
- Stimulates the mind and expands their knowledge base
- Builds attention span and their emotional connection with you - some serious bonding opportunity here!
- Safety! This is a big one. Having a pet that listens to commands can save them from many of life’s dangers. Every dog should know how to Stop, Sit, Leave It, and Come. In an emergency a good ‘Stop’ command could save their life. Teaching your cat safe house behaviour keeps them out of trouble too…so cats…if you are reading this one's for you too
Positive vs. Aversive Training
There are many, many different ways to train a pet and you will find each trainer has their own special approach. Regardless of their specialty you should be able to find out if their style is based in positive reinforcement or more reaction based, physical corrective/aversive approaches. While there are a lot of trainers that use ecollars or prong collars, at Pet Grocer we strongly feel that a positive approach creates better opportunity for learning and gets better long term results. And don’t just take our word for it; science has shown the difference between more reactive training versus getting your pet ready to learn and change behaviour before reactions are necessary. This proactive behaviour modification has some proven science to support it. Let’s imagine a dog sees a child and reacts with aggressive behaviour. You react and give a punishment (i.e. a shock, a strong yank, etc.) the dog dislikes the punishment and stops. So why is this a problem? Over time this dog will learn to do just enough not to receive the punishment. It doesn’t change the aggression, it teaches avoidance. Now let’s imagine that same dog sees a child and you as the trainer are in tune to your pet’s body language (because of all that awesome bonding and engagement you’ve been working on during training) and you see the subtle precursor to reactions your dog has towards kids and you step in before the aggressive behaviour kicks in. You redirect, get the behaviour you want, and offer a reward. Now you are on track to some serious behaviour modification in a super positive way.
So what can we do at home?
- Get real about your expectations: What is it that you want to achieve? If your pet is a blank slate right now, start with the basics and build up as they learn and grow into their training.
- Set some goals: Sounds easy and so often we get off track once things get started. So make a list, get the household on board and use this as your reminder. Knowing your goals at the start will help you stay focused and track your progress.
- Be consistent with your expectations: If you want your dog to sit before eating, stick to your plan. If they move (or even better, show that they are just about to make that move) reset, and keep going. Stick with it and they will catch on that their actions get a reaction - in this case, getting their meal or treat.
- What is it that your pet wants the most? This can be easy for food motivated pets. Know what their top shelf treat is and reserve it for those training times. Not food motivated? Then what is it that your pet goes cuckoo for? A toy, affection, does it just want you to open the door to let them out? Figure out their motivation and use it to the benefit of you both.
- Teach your pet to work for what they want: Nothing in life is free…and that applies to our pets too. Want a treat? Sit for it. Want to go out? Ring the bells. Want to play? Grab a toy and bring it to me and sit. Give them a job they love and they’ll never work a day in their life ;) And you will get behaviour you love.
- Be the best Boss: We’ve all had those bosses that we just hated working with at some point in our lives. Don’t put your pet through that. Remember to be clear and consistent in asking for the behaviour and be encouraging. They may not (and probably won’t) get it the first (or 21st) time, but chances are they are making progress. See that and encourage them to keep going.
It’s never too late to get started
Whether you are dealing with a puppy, a new rescue, or and old dog that is totally capable of learning some new tricks, now is always a great place to start.
Training opportunities will present themselves over the lifetime of you pet. Remember to be consistent and that every pet is going to have their own learning journey. Some will be faster than others, and that is okay. Don’t get discouraged. There are great resources to tap into including our most recent podcast interview with Shianna, the owner of Tailwinds Training & Coaching. She and Jenn sit down and discuss great approaches, how to’s, crate training, and more.
Visit Shianna's website at Tailwinds Training & Coaching.