Rewarding Good Behaviors

There are two objectives in training your dog; a major objective and a minor objective. The all-important major objective of friendly, intelligent pet dog training centers on teaching dogs to do things we want them to do. The secondary and minor objective is to teach the dogs not to do things we don't want them to do.

Dog-friendly dog training zeroes in on the major objective, teaching your dog what you want and rewarding him for doing so. This is the easiest way to train your dog. After all, there aren't that many things we consider "right" for pet dogs to do, so you really don't have that many things to teach. On the other hand, there is an endless list of "wrong" things that pet dogs can do. So trying to train by punishing your dog for each mistake would be a long and unpleasant process for you both.

For any natural doggy behavior you can come up with, there are lots of inappropriate outlets and usually just a few right choices. For example, imagine the one "right" spot for your dog to use as his doggy toilet (either outside or on paper), and imagine how nice and easy it is to take him to that spot when he needs to go (and reward him for doing so). Now, imagine the hundreds of wrong places to urinate and how long it would take to punish your dog for going in each of those spots. Likewise, picture your house after your dog has tried out all of the "wrong" things to chew. Now, imagine how much easier it would have been if you had just gotten him hooked on a chew toy.

Why else is rewarding good behavior so important? For the simple fact that once you have successfully taught your dog how you would like him to behave, he no longer misbehaves. And when he doesn't misbehave, there is no reason to punish him. Do yourself and your dog a favor, the first day your dog comes home with you: Start teaching your dog what you want him to do. And if you already have a dog ... start today.

The principle of teaching "what is right" from the outset makes special sense developmentally -- in other words, during puppyhood. Not even 20 years ago it was impossible to enroll your dog in obedience classes until he was at least six months old. That would be similar to keeping children out of school until their late teens! By six months of age, most uneducated dogs were seriously out of control and required some physically rigorous and mentally demanding training methods.

Fortunately, times have changed. Puppy training is widely available, and trainers, veterinarians, shelter workers and breeders encourage new dog owners to teach their dogs starting on the first day they take them home.

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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