General Dog Training Advice

Below is some general points of advice on many aspects involved in getting, training and looking after a dog.

Using Positive Reinforcement

We all like to be praised rather than punished. The same is true for your dog, and that's the theory behind positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means giving your pet something pleasant or rewarding immediately after she does something you want her to do. Because your praise or reward makes her more likely to repeat that behaviour in the future, it is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog's behaviour.

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog "sit" but reward her after she's already stood back up, she'll think she's being rewarded for standing up.

For your pet, positive reinforcement may include food treats, praise, petting, or a favourite toy or game. Food treats work especially well for training your dog. A treat should be enticing and irresistible to your pet. It should be a very small, soft piece of food, so that she will immediately gulp it down and look to you for more. If you give her something she has to chew or that breaks into bits and falls on the floor, she'll be looking around the floor, not at you. Small pieces of soft commercial treats, hot dogs, cheese, or cooked chicken or beef have all proven successful. Experiment a bit to see what works best for your pet. You can carry the treats in a pocket or fanny pack. Each time you use a food reward, you should couple it with a verbal reward (praise). Say something like, "Good dog," in a positive, happy tone of voice.

Some pets may not be interested in food treats. For those pets, the reward could be in the form of a toy or brief play.

When your pet is learning a new behaviour, she should be rewarded every time she does the behaviour, which means continuous reinforcement. It may be necessary to use a technique called "shaping" with your pet, which means reinforcing something close to the desired response and then gradually requiring more from your dog before she gets the treat. For example, if you're teaching your dog to "shake hands," you may initially reward her for lifting her paw off the ground, then for lifting it higher, then for touching your hand, then for letting you hold her paw, and finally, for actually "shaking hands" with you.

Intermittent reinforcement can be used once your pet has reliably learned the behaviour. At first, reward her with the treat three out of every four times she does the behaviour. Then, over time, reward her about half the time, then about a third of the time, and so on, until you're only rewarding her occasionally with the treat. Continue to praise her every time—although once your dog has learned the behaviour, your praise can be less effusive, such as a quiet, but positive, "Good dog." Use a variable schedule of reinforcement so that she doesn't catch on that she only has to respond every other time. Your pet will soon learn that if she keeps responding,eventually she'll get what she wants your praise and an occasional

Training or Behaviour

So many problems exist in the dogs mind, sometimes due to bad experience other times just confusion. If a dogs problem is psychological then it requires a psychological answer, no training will help. The brain is immensely complex and like a wound it will take time to heal. The most impotent thing is that we give it the right environment to heel. With a little and gentle direction we can overcome the problem. Before trying to treat the problem we should ask, why? Understanding the dogs mind will help with the dog’s problem. Dogs are driven by strong instincts and it is these we must understand. Understanding the dogs packing code and body language is useful and you will find help with the on this site.

Along with diet the health and well being of your dog will have a massive impact on your dogs behaviour. We strongly recommend that you consult with you vet before tying to correct behaviour that could be caused through physical illness or an intolerance to colorants, preservatives or gluten. It is easy for us to tell our doctor when we feel ill or have a headache when eating cheese. The dog however can only communicate to us in the only way he can. Growling or bad behaviour can often be a reflection of the dog’s ill heath. A simple change of diet can save a lot of unnecessary work.

We must remember that your dog’s ability to learn is dependant on our knowledge, guidance and patience. Failure for the dog to understand what is required is often because of our lack of knowledge or incorrect action. You must not beat yourself up about any confusion or frustrations you might have during training, it can be and will be over come. You are `learning and developing new skills so give yourself time. When you are working your dog think of it as if you were giving directions to somebody. You know that if your directions were not consistent and not given in simple step-by-step list they would get lost. The landmarks that you give are like the rewards you give to your dogs. Each time you arrive at a given land mark your faith gains in the directions. We all no how good it is if you are following directions and you come a land mark that is there when it should be. It is the same when giving direction to your dog. The reward for him should be at the exact point of the correct action, thus it will be clear what gains the positive reaction from you.

Choosing your dog

When you decide to purchase a dog it is first wise to think about exactly what you are looking for within your relationship from them . Remember if you decide to go for one of the working breeds and then decide you cannot give them the stimulation that they might need, it could be a recipe for disaster. Sometimes good working dogs can make very bad pets. The correct selection of dog at this stage is probably the most important step you will take. Proper research into the breed that you choose and finding a responsible breeder will pay off later.

Dogs are social pack orientated animals and as such need to know their position within the family and what is demanded from them. Giving them mental stimulation, play and affection on your terms will help the dog see you as the controlling element their life and thus raise your ranking status. The easiest way to raise your status is to do this first at home

Up until recent times the relationship between dog and man as been one of mutual gain. We have used dogs for their keen sense of smell, their protection and their hunting skills to name a few. It used to be that the majority of people that had dogs had them as a working partnership. Our expectations of dog know is often very different now in most cases we choose the dog for nothing more than the love and friendship that they can provide. Dogs depending on there breed are capable of far more and in some cases if the cannot release this mental energy they will start to exhibit all kinds of behaviour and psychological problems.

Spaying & Neuturing

Neutering can make for a better and more affectionate family pet. It is a medically proven that spaying and castration can prolong the life of dogs and may reduce the number of health problems in later life. Females can benefit from spaying by reducing the incidence of uterine, mammary, and ovarian cancers. It can also reduce the incidence of uterine infections such as Pyometra. Castrating a male reduces the risk of prostate and testicular cancer. They are less likely to develop unwanted behaviour's such as marking, sexual aggression, and mounting, they are also less likely to escape, roam, or fight with other dogs. I am very much in favour of neutering, however it should be done at the right time.

Over the last 25 years I have noticed that the age of dogs being neutered has become increasingly young. During this time it has been a great concern to me and many other trainers and behaviourist agree that this is having a detrimental affect on many dogs.

I have noticed that the incidence of frustration, lack of attention, and puppy like behaviour, appeared to be far more prevalent in dogs that were castrated and spayed at a younger age, rather than those that were allowed to mature naturally before attempting this operation. For this reason I would recommend neutering after nine months and for bitches three months after there first season. As behavioural consultants and obedience trainers, I find that we are treating many more cases where dogs are displaying (paedomorphic) tendencies. That is puppy like behaviour's in adult dogs, which I believe is related to the incidence of early spaying and neutering. I have also noticed that bitches spayed too early, seem to be far more interesting to intact males, this can sometimes cause the female to become aggressive and protective of this attention in adulthood.

I have also noticed that young bitches that show aggressive tendencies towards owners, especially before the age of six months; often demonstrate increased aggression after spaying. Spaying removes the production of progesterone, which is a natural calming hormone and a Serotonin up lifter. Spaying may therefore escalate any observable aggressive behaviour, either to humans or other dogs. Despite popular belief spaying does not calm a female dog down. It may help to calm certain behaviour's in males, but not female dogs.

Most male dogs will have a testosterone surge at between 9 and 20 months depending on breed . Male dogs also produce Progesterone. Progesterone and testosterone switches on many of the hard-wired behaviour's we see in maturity. These may have social implications and behavioural effects that aid in the development of dogs psychological and physical growth. If we switch these off by neutering or castrating too early, we may be denying the opportunity achieve both mentally and physically the dog’s full adult potential. Progesterone receptors are found in brain cells, in nerve sheaths and in bone cells, In both male and female dogs. indicating that progesterone is involved in their function. It also appears to be involved in a range of other biological activities. Therefore neutering before both physical and psychological maturity may have numerous other long-term detrimental effects.

I have noticed that if dogs have been neutered early they appear to retain a juvenile characteristic than those neutered when mature. Its as if, they retain perpetual puppy like characteristic, this can result in a dog that shows low concentration levels and frustrated puppy like behaviour for the remainder of its adult life.