Using Gentle Methods

When teaching your dog to respond on cue, he learns the Antecedent (cue, request, or command) signals that a Consequence (reward) is likely to follow the appropriate Behavior. These are the ABCs of teaching, Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence.

The reward (consequence) causes the behavior to increase in frequency. For example, simply giving your dog a piece of kibble every time he sits quickly produces a "sit-happy" dog who sits more frequently. The reward also reinforces the association between the request and the response, such that the dog learns that sitting when requested often produces rewards. The dog also learns that sitting at other times does not necessarily produce rewards. Ultimately, the dog learns to want to sit on request.

The above training sequence represents an oversimplification of learning theory -- the science of dog training. Your dog is going to learn quickly if you present the ABCs.

The art of dog training, though, depends very much on the skill of predicting, or causing the behavior we are trying to put on cue and increase in frequency. For example, when we ask the dog to sit, how do we know that the dog will sit so that we can reward him for doing so?

How you go about this is the main determinant of the efficiency and effectiveness of training. Basically, there are just three techniques to predict or cause specific behaviors:

1. Luring behavior (lure/reward training).

2. Simply waiting for the behavior to happen on its own (reward training).

3. Physically prompting the behavior.

As a dog-friendly trainer you will primarily use numbers 1 and 2, gentle lure/reward and reward methods, to entice your dog to do things your way. Everyone, including children, can easily master these two quick and fun ways to train. On the other hand, physical prompting methods aren't appropriate for all dogs and all people. A child certainly should not be expected to physically prompt a dog to get him to obey. Even adults may be at risk if they resort to pushing and pulling some dogs.

Find answers to your Frequently Asked Questions about dog training now.

About the Author:
Andrea Arden is the author several dog training books and director of the Manhattan Dog Training and Behavior Center and has been a popular guest expert on TV and radio shows, magazines -- and iVillage.

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