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Positive Dog Training

Fanna Easter

Fanna Easter

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!!

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  • AShorty

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t agree using the clicker as some trainers use, but prefer a voice with notable tones as a reward marker along eye contact, complemented with lots of HUGS as rewards, and not always giving “treats” because I may not have the treats with me when good behaviors are noticed.

  • Fanna Easter

    Ah, I would work for food any day!!! Treats are used in the learning phase of a behavior for rewards. Once the dog understands the behavior (responds to cue 80% of the time), you can wean off treats. But-there are some dogs that could care less about treats and love their tennis ball, touch (hugs!) or just playing tug! It’s always fun to find that high value reward that dogs just love! Keep rewarding the behaviors you want and have FUN!

  • AShorty

    Hi Fanna Easter,

    I didn’t mention dogs. Do you know how hard it is to hug a fish in a tank? It’s a mess…Buddabing!

    Just kidding. I’m trying to keep my little guy fit, so I’m trying to get him off the treats as much as possible, only for special rewards and like you said, early training. I noticed so many of his breed (in my neighborhood) are overweight…especially when it seems they are couped up at home most of the day.

    Thanks again for the tips!…BTW…do your write on other blogs about training? I’d be interested to see more of your blog/articles.

    Thanks again,

    AShorty

  • Ally

    A recent research study proved that dogs that are clicker trained learn 1/3 faster than dogs with just a verbal marker.

  • Fanna Easter

    Ally, you are correct, dogs learn so much faster with a clicker! Usually by third week of class, pet parents using verbal reward markers notice the marked improvement with parents using the clicker. As for other blogs, this is my first blog! I hope you enjoyed it!

  • Jessica D

    I can’t use treats to reward my new adopted little guy because he doesn’t take them! I’ve learned to reward vocally and through lots of cuddles and tickles.

  • Elizabeth

    I have two labs that like the rest of their breed are always ready to over eat, so for treat training I will often use either their normal kibbles or for really good behaviors, the Natural Balance brand food rolls. They’re soft, easily cutable, and are a balanced diet so I can just cut back a little on the evening kibbles and not worry about extra calories or imbalance in their nutrition. Petco sells the little rolls next to the registers which I like because I don’t have to worry about them going stale and can keep a couple in my bag conveniently.

  • Pitbull Advocate

    I have had to resort to clicker training for one of my pit pups because her attention/focus shifts so much–especially when she sees people–she LOVES people and when someone walks by in training class, forget it, it’s all over and all she can think about it is licking and kissing them!! or the occasional horn in the parking lot etc. She needs distraction–as big as she is ( 94 lbs & just turning 9 mos ), food doesnt work, treats, nothing.

    Now I am noticing the clicker is becoming less effective.

    She KNOWS all her commands verbally and by voice recognition..but when she really loses focus she hears nothing and sees nothing…

  • Peter

    Alley, could you let me know what “research study” you were referencing? Always looking for hard facts to back up info. Thanks.

  • jack

    I’m trying to keep my little guy fit, so I’m trying to get him off the treats as much as possible, only for special rewards and like you said, early training. I noticed so many of his breed (in my neighborhood) are overweight…especially when it seems they are couped up at home most of the day.
    beagle puppy potty training

  • Lorena

    I have a female Chihuahua mix doggie. She lives with my parents which are home all day and are very old fashioned about dogs. They don’t understand that pets are part of the family. Its hard to try to get them to understand positive dog training. I am afraid that if I pay the money to get her trained, it will end up being a waste if my parents do not enforce positive training. Also, my sister is the parent of another one of the dogs at the house. They are actually sisters, born in the same litter. They have been fighting a lot. For some reason my dog does not like it when my sisters dog gets attention. She will growl at her and if she makes any sudden moves, my dog will attack her. My brother also has a dog there and so do my parents. My dog doesn’t have a problem with any of the other dogs, just my sisters. Is there anything you recommend for me to do? I am frustrated because at this moment my financial situation is a bit tight because I can’t afford a place that allows pets. What can I do? Thank you for your insight!

  • Fanna Easter

    As for treat training, always use very tiny pieces of food, about the size of a small pea. And yes, you must adjust your dog’s daily meal intake to account for all those treats. I can take a “bite sized treat” and break it down to six tiny pieces. Once you have the behavior, you can wean your dog off treats. They know it- if they perform it 80% of the time on first cue (verbal or hand).

    Lorena- I would recommend contacting a dog trainer in your area to help you. Trainig is well worth the time and money, good luck and let us know how it goes!

  • Dj Hutto

    I’m Dj the Dog Trainer in the Montrose, Co. Petco Store…I’m always interested in helping our dog parents learn the positive way of training….I learned on old school practices & have been “reborn” in a sense!
    The Positive Reward based training is the way to go!!!
    I’ve been encouraging my customers to make a life long INVESTMENT in their pets in training their dogs. It’s well worth the effort & time & money!!! The dogs given to the shelter are 90% NOT obedience trained hence that is why they are there. That alone should tell us something. Besides when at the obedience classes we focus 100% on our dog furthering the bonding experience we have with our pet. At home there are so many other things that can distract us….phone, kids, family, friends & just real life circumstances. Besides we get the benefits of socializing with different people other than family & familiar pets at home.
    Take the time & effort to have a LASTING relationship with your pet!! You’ll never regret it! Training is FUN at our classes. Try it you’ll love it!!!!! & so will your dog.

  • Mike

    Thank you, Fanna, for the great overview of Positive Dog training. PETCO has a wonderful program that teaches that a dog can be effectively taught without pain or coercion.

    To Peter – The research regarding clicker efficacy can be found at http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1960. You may have to log in to obtain the full thesis.

  • Senna Vanleuvan

    Hi~ I really need some advice.. plz help me..
    I have a one year old Siberian Husky male and Cocker spaniel female which is 2years old. And few days ago we adopted another 1 year old male husky cuz he was about to go to sleep the next day so we wanted to save him. and we really love him now, well my question is..
    My old husky and the new one is getting in serious fight like mean mean fight. I cant even stop them. They look like they r gonna kill each other.. How can I stop them? I just want them to get along… I don’t know what to do anymore. Pleasee help me….

  • schon

    i have been training for eight years and have had alot of good turn outs with my methods
    STAGE ONE–learning=100%positive by use of markers
    (this is a long stage)
    STAGE SWO= after and only after you are 300% positive threw experiance and training can you correct a dog for refusal/disrespect and the levels of correction i use is another topic. i do not like to do this so i make it one good as opposed to 1000 bad correction
    STAGE THREE= distractions are added and incress in level
    STAGE FOUR= maintaince and profing

    now at the levle my dogs are at a verble corection will stop the behavior or let them know thats not what i want(depends on how it was said) i have built a bond with my dogs and heavy corections will destroy that. they know i am firm but most of all fair and with that we have a common respect for each other they know i will not ask them to do something he does not understand or can not complete with out that they would only obey if the reward meet the deed or was more intresting than the distraction. but i never stop using reward

  • http://www.bigmoneycentral.com/pets-2 Mariana “dog training classes” Montane

    Took me some time to view all the comments, but I really loved the subject that you chose. It seemed very helpful to me and I am sure to all the other members who have looked at this article, It’s always exciting when your not only informed, but your also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this post. I’m going to grab your rss feed so I don’t miss anything important that you guys may come up with in the future, Thanks…

  • Kimberly

    I am surprised @ a CPDT working within a company such as Petco. How do you manage, when their sponsors include, dog whisperer and pet safe ®? just to name a few of the very aversive icons known throughout the community of those claiming “positive” training methods. Having used petco’s competitor, to gain hours for certification,like most other people who are serious about becoming dog training / behavior professionals, I do know how hypocritical the entire retail idea of “positive” really is. Positively, pro, profit!
    Sell, sell, sell! Really, no interest in quality of classes or background, experience level,continuing education, or even a viewpoint of dog training being a profession at all, is even given consideration, unless it is convenient.
    I suspect you are somehow higher up on the food chain in the company, perhaps similar to petsmart’s Deb?
    Hopefully you will take advantage of your position and educate those who employ you, by letting them know, it isn’t going to be long before a standardized licensing committee and process is put into action, after the recently appointed AHA behavioral committee was named.
    I don’t think hiring uneducated, and uninterested dog trainers is going to be an option after that. Then they will actually have to pay money for quality.

  • http://www.trainmyowndog.com Alex Phare

    I have found that the timing of the verbal marker is very important and can be the cause of failures in dog training. Two seconds is all you have to reward your dog for the wanted behaviour that he has just performed.

    This means that it is easily possible for the inexperienced owner to make an unintended association. As an example suppose you are teaching your dog to sit but you are a bit slow in praising him and by that time he is standing up again, then what you have done is reinforced the stand up rather than the sit.

  • MB

    @25e997f7643db048b12c8d9f2127d501:disqus Kimberly, I’m a Petco dog trainer. When I was hired, it certainly would have been fair to call me uneducated with regard to dog training, but I was far from uninterested. I’m an older professional, I left my career as a high level IT professional and pursued my dream, my passion, and became a dog trainer. There is no other job I want to do more. 
    While Petco’s training materials are excellent, I didn’t limit myself to that — I immersed myself in the study of dog training, and I didn’t stop studying when I graduated the training program. I don’t intend to ever stop studying. 

    Working with dogs is my joy and my passion, I love every dog I work with. Without Petco, I don’t know how I would ever have been able to get into this field.

  • Anonymous

    I occasionally take care of a chihuahua that is very posessive of it’s owner and does not let anyone near her of the dog herself.  How do you “retrain” a dogs thinking so that is a more social dog?

  • http://www.pulnomor.com/ Training Dog Leash

    Wow training for dogs .? Amazing . Keep going . Thanks for this . :D

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    Good dog exercising creates the use of positive strengthening, compensate and benefits to get your dog to respect you. When you have obtained a new dog, dog dog conduct exercising becomes the first company of the day. This contains burglary, arriving when known as, going for walks without lead etc.