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6:59 PM   October 31, 2014
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Praising the Perfect Pooch
Reliance on treats for training purposes has its drawbacks. Though effective with dogs motivated by food, you may not always have a treat handy when a training opportunity presents itself. Associating treats with verbal commands helps, but teaching an animal to respond positively to praise can help create a holistic approach to training.

Leash training works particularly well with praise rewarding, because it doesn’t require that you stop the walk; fish a treat out of your pocket and wait until the animal finishes eating to continue.

Helping your treat customers understand the value of praise can help make their daily exercise routines resemble a walk in the park.

The Humane Society of the United States offers several tips on leash training with praise that can be easily added to any training techniques already in use:

  • Timing: Positive praise rewards should be given within seconds of the desired behavior, so the dog knows which behavior is being rewarded.
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  • Consistency: Make sure every member of the family who might take your pet on a walk knows how and when to offer praise. Making it a family affair will keep the training program on track.
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  • Continuity: At first, good behavior should be rewarded with praise each and every time it is observed. Once the animal begins to learn desired behaviors, intermittent praise can be offered, but in the beginning shaping the animal’s behavior takes endless repetition.

Punishment, the other side of the coin, also aids in shaping desirable behaviors – by preventing unwanted activities. Guidelines exist for these techniques as well:

  • Timing: For punishment to be effective, it must also be delivered at an appropriate time. The window is even smaller and must include catching an animal red-handed when they are in the act of performing the undesirable behavior.
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  • The Source: Yelling will get you nowhere. When your dog knows punishment is coming directly from you, they can begin to distrust you. Worse yet, the animal may develop fearful or aggressive responses to its owner. Punishment works best when it appears to come from an invisible source. A noise maker behind your back that startles the animal is often the best choice.
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  • Know When to Quit: If punishment is not working, abandon it altogether. Ignoring unwanted behaviors and focusing instead on good behavior, resulting in verbal praise, can be just as effective.

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