The following article comes from Fanna Easter. Fanna is a Regional Pet Services Coordinator for PETCO as well as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
As a dog trainer, I am asked questions from strangers all the time. Even sitting on an airplane while reading my Association of Pet Dog Trainers Chronicle, I feel a tap on my shoulder from two rows away. A nice young woman asks me how to stop her two dogs from pulling madly on a leash. I always take the time to answer these questions, as pet parent concerns should be answered immediately. As a dog trainer, it is my job to explain the power of positive training!
So, what is positive training, you ask? In simple terms, it means rewarding the behavior that you want to continue and ignoring the behavior that you do not want to continue. Think about it this way: You are writing a report and your boss really likes this behavior, so she walks over and hands you an ice cream sundae or a $100 bill. When you stop writing the report to chat with her, she walks away. Once you begin writing the report again, she walks over and hands you more money or ice cream, what do you think you would continue doing?? I would write that report all day long!
This is the same with most animals, even fish! Try rewarding a behavior that you think is cute or funny with your dog or cat. Maybe your dog likes to stretch in the morning, so you wait for that behavior with yummy treats hidden within an arms length away. When you see your dog stretch, say “Yes” and give him a treat. By marking the behavior you want with a word or sound (also known as a reward marker) you just “catch” the behavior you want and reward it! Try this several times and watch your dog; I’m thinking he will learn to stretch more often in front of you!
As for fish, try this…again with fish food/ treats handy. Place a hoop in the tank and wait for the fish to go near it. Once he swims near it, tap the top of the water line with your finger lightly. Then drop a tiny piece of food in the water for the fish to gobble up. This tap of the water becomes your reward marker. Mark and reward the fish as he progressively swims nearer to the hoop, until he swims through it!
Back to the young lady with pulling dogs! Why do dogs pull on a leash? Because they want to move forward and sniff trees, rocks and other dogs. Remember, we reward what we want - only walk forward when the dog is NOT pulling on the leash. Once the dog begins pulling again, STOP walking forward and wait. The dog will walk back to you with lack on the leash. Say “Yes” and reward him by walking forward. You may not get very far on your walk in the beginning, but polite leash manners are well worth the wait.
When you see those pulling puppies, it is our duty to educate our pet parents on the power of positive training. Also, always recommend our Dog Training courses!! You can learn many more tips and tricks by enrolling in PETCO’s Dog Training classes now!!