As mentioned in the initial dog training post, I will be covering a number of training methods to hopefully help you find the method best suited for you and your canine companion. This is Method I: Treat Training
Treat training is considered one of the easiest and more basic form of dog training. The basis for treat training is positive and immediate reward upon successful completion of a task. The end goal of this method is to decrease and in the end, eliminate the need/reliance on treats due to the concept that the more often you reward your dog for good behavior, the more inclined they are to comply with future commands with or without the reward.
As with any training method, there are a few factors to consider.
1. Size of treat
2. Type of treat
3. Risk of Weight Gain
For the size of treat, you will want to keep it small, kibble sized or smaller (think dime size or smaller). This will help prevent your dog from getting full quickly and also keep their weight in check which is a big downside to treat training. Below are some examples of dog training treats.
**Pictures are also links for purchase if desired**
Second thing to consider with treat training is the type of treat. Training treats may not be the best choice for an already overweight dog, or if your dog is a picky eater. Finding a reward that is both motivating, yet not calorie dense is going to be the biggest hurtle you face when selecting your treat. If you want to continue with treat training, but are concerned about weight consider some of the following alternatives:
1. Ice Cubes
2. Raw carrots
3. Green beans
4. Low fat/diet dog food kibble
If your dog tends to be a more picky eater or does not seem as food motivated, consider some of these alternatives OR you may need to pick a different training method that better suits your dog's personality. Keep in mind that these alternatives are much more calorie dense and your dog's weight will need to be carefully monitored as to prevent obesity.
2. Hot dog
The third factor that can be an issue with treat training is weight gain and obesity. Since you are using treats as a reward, you will be feeding your dog more food overall everyday, even though it may not feel like it. Using the charts below, you can keep a close eye on your dog's weight & adjust their food as needed to maintain an ideal body score.
Keep in mind if you do find your dog gaining weight, cutting back the amount of food in the bowl during meal times is the easiest way to start weight loss/weight management. Filler foods (raw carrots & green beans) can be used to increase the amount that your dog is eating without increasing calorie count significantly.
**Feel free to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian with further questions or to have a body condition exam.**
In conclusion, lets go over the pros & cons of this training method:
1. Easy to work with (no human training needed)
2. Relatively inexpensive
3. Uses positive re-enforcement
4. Does not require physical force & negative behavior correction
1. Dependence on treats for positive behavior
2. May take more time than other methods to master commands
3. Risk of weight gain
Keep in mind, as with all of these methods, what works for one dog may not work for another dog. You may try one method only to find your dog does not respond well, or it does not work for your training schedule. You may also decide to train basic commands with one method but use a different method for off leash or more advanced training commands (like hunting or agility).
Dog Training. It can be a daunting task to many pet owners, but providing training and direction for your canine companion is an important part of responsible dog ownership. In this article, my goal is to outline 4 key points of effective training to help you start your journey. The rest of this month we will be focusing on different training methods and tools, weighing the pros and cons of each, and hopefully helping you find the best method for you and your dog.
Keys of Effective Training
1. Pack Mentality
4. Proper Training Method for YOU & YOUR dog's needs
The first thing to remember about training your dog is that they are, still at heart, a PACK ANIMAL. A pack, no matter the size, consists of one leader and followers. Your job as a trainer and owner is to establish yourself as the leader (also called "the alpha"). The #1 job of an alpha member is to ensure the safety of the pack. Your dog trusts you to protect them. If they feel that you are not up to that task, they may then feel the need to take it upon themselves to protect "the pack", resulting in improper aggression displays such as snapping, baring teeth, biting, hackles raised etc. The #2 job is to establish the parameters and rules by which the pack/your dog is expected to abide by. The end goal of understanding the pack mentality is a stable, functional, and rewarding relationship for you and your dog where each member understands their role in the pack and what is expected of them.
I know what question comes next. How do I establish my role as the leader or alpha member? The quickest way to establish that role is by controlling their basic needs and desires. Be firm, not cruel. Things you can try at home include making them preform a command prior to meal times (sit, stay, etc) and/or sitting prior to going through doors. Once you have established yourself as the alpha you will have to maintain your status which may mean periodic correction to the "pack followers". A true leader does not let misdeeds go uncorrected. Allowing unacceptable behavior to go uncorrected creates confusion in the pack order and gives the indication that either you are not aware of what the rules and expectations are that you set, that the behavior is acceptable, or that you are not confident in your alpha position, which in itself may lead your dog to try to assume that position.
**I am NOT telling you not to love on your dog! Shower your fur baby with all the love & attention, just know that there is a time & place for affection just as there is a time & place for discipline.**
In dog training, time commitment and CONSISTENCY are keys to success. This is consistency of training frequency and also consistency in your commands. If you have other family members engaging in the training process, ONE set of command words needs to be developed and agreed on. Its unfair and confusing to your canine to have different people using a variety of terms for the same commands. Another piece to think about: training does not end when you have company over or when you are tired. The same rules and expectations should always apply so your dog knows his/her boundaries. For example, the rule of "don't jump up on strangers, but you can jump up on me" doesn't work. Your dog's mind doesn't not work that way. Commands and the rules of the household must stay consistent 24 hrs a day/ 7 days a week/ 365 days a year.
I have included below the 7 basic commands every canine & their human should strive to learn.
1. Sit (Obvious...also usually the 1st command learned)
2. Down (Lay down...also pretty obvious)
3. Off (Also known as NO JUMP, but is also helpful for furniture)
4. Stay (This command can be used while waiting for food, standing, sitting, or laying down)
5. Come (Decide if "come" means coming & sitting at your feet or just coming to you & stay consistent with your expectation)
6. Free (A release word for off leash & can also be used for feeding time. Alternatives: Go Play, Break, Ok!)
7. Stop! (Or your emergency freeze word. This word means your dog MUST stop and wait exactly where they are...helpful for off leash work or walking near busy roads.)
The next step is PATIENCE. Training and learning commands takes time. I have 3 things to focus on in this part of training. Relax & take a breath. Training is stressful and frustrating at times, and these emotions can come out through your voice & body language. If you find yourself becoming upset, take a moment...take a few deep calming breaths before continuing with your session. Learn your dog's behavior. Your dog shows stress differently than you and I. Look for yawning, lip licking, vision aversion, or a crouching/cowering position. If you see signs of this, it is time for a break or time to end the session for the day.
Click the picture for a more in depth video on signs of dog stress.
Our final thought for this part of training. Know when it's ok to stop. Everyone has bad days, including your dog. Knowing that it's ok to quit for the day is a important part of creating a rewarding and functional relationship between you and your canine companion.
Last thing about training basics is finding the right TRAINING METHOD for both your style and also what works best with your dog. The next few articles I will be outlining several training methods, their pros and cons and also giving you some links for more in depth information, and also links for various versions for purchase if you are interested. Finding the best training method is a mixture of knowing your end goal for training, knowing your dog and how to best get a response from them, and also knowing your level of comfort with training and the intensity/experience level.
The main thing I want to stick with you this month is this.....
ANY TRAINING METHOD IS BETTER THAN NO TRAINING!!
Welcome to the new St. Johns’ Animal Clinic blog! Here you will find articles on a variety of topics from training to adoption to end of life stages.
My avowed for hope for this blog is to provide tips, tricks, and un-biased information about common pet related topics in hopes of better client education. If at some point, you have questions about any of the topics that I talk about, or you have something that you would like a post about, please feel free to let me know via our Facebook page or in the comments below, and I will do my absolute best to address your questions.
Each month on the blog will have a theme for which the articles that month will be based on. These articles are strictly meant for educational & informative purposes.
For the month of January we will be focusing on one of my favorite topics: dog training. This may seem like a taunting topic to take on, & it can be, but I will be breaking it down for you to the best of my abilities so that you can find the best technique for you and your pet. Any training is better than no training at all!