Canine behavior problem modification training

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The Ten Rules of Canine Learning

  • Most dogs can learn at any age up to the time their mental capacities start to deteriorate in old age. Canine behavior problem modification training. All developments of the dog's mind derive from combinations of instinct and learning. The dog's ability to learn is influenced by genetics, hormones, senses and all the external stimuli that the dog received from his mother, his litter mates, from us, from other dogs and animals and from his environment. It goes without saying that like all animals (and humans), the more stimulation the dog receives from early puppy hood the better he will learn as time goes on.

  • Dogs learn best through patience and with suitable rewards, ie through positive reinforcement. Let's face it, no animal (or human) does anything unless there is a promise of a reward in the offering for expending that energy. Sometimes the reward may be hard to fathom but it will be there nonetheless. Rewards must be given within less than a second (4/10's of a second to be precise) of the desired response from the dog. It is essential that handlers understand that rewards and verbal corrections must also be given within this time frame to have the desired effect.
  • Intermittent or random rewarding of a desired activity produces behavior that is more resistant to extinction (it is less likely to be forgotten). Look at it this way: If a dog receives a reward every time he does something, no matter how well, he will come to expect it regardless of his performance. There is no incentive to improve. But if a dog receives a reward only when he performs and exercise well and the handler expects continual improvement in performance, the dog will always strive to please and improve. Further, a dog that receives intermittent or random rewards comes to understand that a reward will be forthcoming sooner or later for good work and will not be discouraged when he doesn't receive it every time he does well. Always reward a dog that makes progress in an exercise he is learning for the first time but once he has learnt the exercise, reward him randomly for an exceptional performance.
  • The value of the reward should be appropriate for the desired behavior. Dogs value rewards in different ways. Find out what is most valuable to your dog and use these rewards appropriately (food, toy playing, etc).
  • Training should be enjoyable; dogs should look forward to it. Spend ten minutes, two to three times each day. These sessions should be separated by several hours. Tired, fearful dogs and dogs under stress do not learn easily. Mental activity is more tiring to the dog than physical activity.
  • Training should take place in a quiet environment. Once consistent, correct responses have been made in that environment, you can move to more stimulating and distracting environments to continue the training process. This is called 'proofing'.
  • Every dog should be trained to 'Come', 'Sit', 'Sit Stay', 'Down' and 'Down Stay'. If a dog fails an exercise, do not punish him, simply go back to the previous level and start again. Always finish every training session on a positive note - usually with an exercise you know the dog can do well and one that he enjoys.
  • Only use the dog's name to get his attention; do not use it in reprimands. Use one word commands in training for each exercise - one word = only one image in the dog's mind.
  • Once the dog has learned the commands from one person have him learn the same commands from other members of the household. Consistency is the key. In this way, he learns that in the dominance hierarchy (pecking order), he is lower than all the humans in his pack.
  • Physical or mental punishment or abuse should never be used. Harsh reprimands can be counterproductive. However, verbal corrections ("Uh Uh") in a tone of disappointment or disapproval can be very effective they indicate no reward and are "negative punishers" which mean, "Oh, no reward for doing that". These verbal corrections go hand in hand with Praise/Click and rewards.

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