Use the things your dog likes to teach her/him obedience

A very important rule to follow is to use the things your dog likes in order to teach her/him obedience. If you give your dog things s/he likes for free, then there is no reason to be obedient. S/he needs to understand that you have a "give and take" relationship. S/he has to “give” something (obedience) in order to gain what s/he likes (food treat).

In order to encourage a behavior you should use reinforcers. These reinforcers vary. They can be something your dog really enjoys for example: food treats, rubbing behind her/his ears, playing with a favorite toy or it can be a verbal appraisal like “Good”. The above mentioned reinforcers can be combined.
For example: you can say “Good” and also give a food treat in order to increase your dogs awareness of the situation. This combination can stop when your dog responds to what you want 9 out of 10 times.

Considering the above mentioned practices we conclude that: If you give your dog the things s/he enjoys only after s/he has obeyed, s/he will anticipate obedience, because s/he knows that it only leads to the things s/he really enjoys!

Keep your dog healthy

Anti flea and tick protection. There are various products/meds that are appropriate depending on the age of your dog, the environment where s/he lives in and various other factors. You can use collars, pills, sprays and other special products.

There are also products that help promote healthy skin and hair coat, reduce unwanted shedding and come in various kinds so you can even use them as a food treat. Also a good shampoo is essential when you give your dog a bath.

You must give to your dog protection against worms on a regular basis. Your vet will advise you on which pills must be given.

You can also give to your pet vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, always in agreement with your vet; all these can help your dog live a healthy and extended life.

Especially for dogs we must be very careful of their weight. An overweight dog is an ill dog, vulnerable to many diseases and dangers. SO, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR TREATS! If needed there are special food products, diet products that can help maintain or reduce your dog’s weight. The best natural thing you can do to keep your dog in good health is to give her/him exercise on a regular basis.

Another important point that needs to be made concerns your dog’s dental health! Teeth should be in good health because they are really important to your dog. You can choose chewing bones or other chewable products / food treats in order to help your dog keep his/her teeth clean.
Don’t forget to keep your dog’s eyes and ears clean!

Health & Pet Meds

I would like to make some observations concerning your dog’s health. It is really important for all pet owners to monitor their pets’ behavior. As our beloved dogs, cats or other, are unable to take care of themselves and go to the doctor for their check-up we have to do it for them. We need to be in contact with a vet in order to have all necessary information on what vaccines need to be made or what actions need to be performed in different occasions. Don’t forget that our pets are like us, they might get sick; they may suffer from various problems / diseases, like arthritis, heart problems and other health issues. We need to take really good care of them, monitor their behavior and when we notice any changes, unusual behavior, go to the doctor for advice. NEVER act on your own, always consult your pet’s doctor for the right medication. There are many pet meds and the only person authorized to prescribe them is the veterinary.

Importance of appraisal & rewarding - Part II

It is also important to make your dog desire to execute a specific command. If for example you administer a physical correction during the acquisition phase of a particular command, it may decrease the dog’s desire to perform the command at all. That is why it is usually recommended to avoid physical corrections until your dog clearly understands and obeys to your commands.
Example:If you are trying to teach your dog the command “down” and what you do is pull her with the leash or you push her down with your hand, it is likely that the dog will react by moving away from your hand or resisting from being pushed. A good alternative would be to use a cookie or any food treat to lure her and increase her desire to sit down. So FOCUS ON REWARDING your dog instead of correcting her.
If the dog is being asked to perform a difficult exercise and she makes a mistake even after you try to correct her, then you should not repeat the exercise in the same way as it caused the dog to fail. Keep in mind that any corrections should not be given often, the correct timing is very important.
Example: if you are working with a dog on a long leash to develop a dependable recall (“come” - command), the timing of the correction and what you do after it will dictate what the dog learns. When you give the “come” command, if you correct the dog too early and not give her enough time to respond, she may not feel comfortable leaving your side. If you correct her after she has turned toward you or for not coming fast enough, she may learn that coming is not a rewarding behavior. This is why it is so important for your dog to understand what you want before you use corrections.

Importance of appraisal & rewarding - Part I

Your dog should learn to associate different kinds of rewards or appraisal with certain behaviors that you want her to repeat. It is important that you repeat any action so as the dog associates a behavior with a reward at all times.

Example: Take a cookie in your hand hold it in front of the dog and start moving it up and behind her face until you lead her to sit down as she cannot follow the cookie anymore. As soon as the dog sits you say sit and appraise her, Good Dog, and then give her the cookie. The dog will associate the appraisal and the cookie with sitting. The desired result would be after a lot of repetition; the dog connects the above mentioned actions with sitting and reaches a point where she reacts only to the word sit, thinking that the rewarding will follow. After that the dog reaches a point where she can “obey” to the word no matter who gives it. This means that another member of your family can make her sit, just by saying the word wherever the dog is (during her walk, or in the house etc). In order for her to maintain the desired behavior you should repeat it many times, even under various circumstances and in different places, so as the dog performs in the expected way at all times (at least 9 out of 10).

Conditioned & Unconditioned Reinforcement

Another important thing you must understand in order to effectively train your dog is conditioned and unconditioned reinforcement.
An unconditioned reinforcement would be for example to give food or water to your dog, because these are basic needs that need to be satisfied and should be given to your dog with no special conditions required . This kind of reinforces may vary depending on your dog’s preferences. For example some dogs may prefer food over playing, while others would enjoy playing and do not need any special conditions under which this reinforcement will take place. You should know your dog very well in order to understand what should be given for free.
A conditioned reinforcement would be for example a positive word like Good or Bravo when your dog does something you want her to repeat. Then the dog will associate the appraisal with a certain doing that you want. You can use an additional reinforcer like a treat or patting along with the verbal appraisal in order to enhance a behavior.

What kind of punishment and when?

Some mild punishment (that does not involve any harm done to the dog mentally or physically) is in some cases recommended. It is very important to choose the right timing. This means that you can raise the tone of your voice say NO and maybe also move your finger in a strict way, or take away her favorite toy when you catch her doing something wrong.
The same actions would not be effective if they take effect after the wrong has been done without you being present and the punishment takes place on the wrong timing.

Positive & Negative Motivation

- In order to start up the training you must treat your dog in a motivational way. For example you can offer your dog a food treat, or rub her or anything you think she would enjoy in order to give her a positive motive to do something you want.

- Another way to prevent your dog from doing something you don’t want is to use a negative motivation, like taking his toys, or ignore her.

Example: In order to support/reinforce a behavior you should for example rub her tummy when she sits beside your bed, or you can spray water on her face when she climbs on your bed and stop as soon as she gets off.

When you realise that "screaming" doesn't work

When I first got my puppy I left her in my apartment and she started sniffing around my room in order to get familiar with her new surroundings. She thought that my new leather boots were really interesting and started smelling and playing with one of them. I thought she was funny and went to get my camera. As soon as I got back she had put it in her mouth and started chewing it. I went close to her and yelled at her NO, STOP, DON’T DO THAT, NO!!! I grabbed the boot and saw her reaching for the second one. I thought that my screaming at her was not very effective after all. This is a common situation that I suppose most dog “owners” have come up against with.

I then decided that I should find a more effective way to deal with my dog’s inappropriate behavior in order to prevent things from happening rather than react in a “hysterical” way after the damage has been done.

Make sure what the problem is, in order to “fight” the cause and not just react to the problem itself.

Getting Started

The first question that came to my mind and I know that most people ask, is what is the right age for a dog to start training. The answer from most trainers is As Soon As Possible. It is best that you start training your puppy as soon as you get one even if it is only 2 – 3 months old. It is important that you know that any behavior on your part is a lesson to your dog no matter how young she may be. The only thing that you must do is consult with your veterinary as when your puppy is ready (all necessary vaccines have been made) to go out and interact with other dogs without being in danger of catching any disease.

Your Dog is totally dependant on you!

Unfortunately there are many people who think of a dog as another “game” and do not think twice before getting one. It is a great responsibility and no one should get involved in such a situation without considering all the pros and cons. When you become a dog owner you must be sure that your life will not be the same as long as you two live together. It is the same as when you become a parent only even more difficult because as people say “a dog is a child that never grows up”. You are responsible for your dog’s life as it cannot take care of itself. Your dog is totally dependant on you! Never forget that!

So, after being absolutely certain that you can adjust your life in order to get your favorite pet the next step for you and your dog is to get some training. I hope I can help you with some basic ideas. I strongly advise you to do your own reading and maybe also visit an experienced trainer, since what will follow may not be applicable in every situation. These are some general rules that may vary depending on where you live (e.g apartment or country house) or what breed your dog is.