Training with rewards, not reprimands

Dog training is transcending. The new mantra: Catch your pooch doing something right and reward the behavior.

Nowadays, more and more pet owners and trainers are choosing positive reinforcement for a fun and stress-free experience for all. During positive reinforcement, desired behaviors are rewarded in order to maintain or increase those responses. It is remarkably effective and creates respect sans resentment further strengthening the human/animal bond.

The trick is to catch your dog indulging in valued behaviors not the rubbish bin. For example, when housebreaking, praise every perfect potty instead of scolding pups for accidents. Perpetuate positive behavior by rewarding Fido for drinking out of the water bowl rather than the toilet, eating his dinner instead of your groceries, and dozing on the dog bed instead of the man chair. Even when your dog resists temptation to maul the mower, chase the neighbor’s kitty or terrorize the postman, its good behavior should be enthusiastically remunerated.

Rewards can include anything that motivates your pooch. This may be praise, petting, treats, access to a decibel-defying squeaky toy or even partaking in a favorite activity like playing catch. Vary it up to keep it interesting. Reinforcers should quickly follow the preferred behavior. So if it’s treats you’re banking on, have them on paw and in pieces you consider to be bite-sized.

Shaping desired behaviors is more fun than Wheel of Fortune. Canines love the challenge of figuring out what you’re seeking and winning the corresponding prize. They become engaged in the training process and eagerly proffer responses they think will please. Even children can participate in this dominance-free training process. An added bonus: Skills derived from the process may help them become president one day.

Still a doubting Tomcat? Perhaps you believe your pup should be intrinsically motivated to behave. Sorry, this expectation may be as misplaced as your favorite slipper. Take condolence in the fact that during the learning process, the bar is raised over time. That’s why “See Spot Run” no longer earns you kudos for your reading comprehension.

Since true devotees of positive reinforcement choose to ignore negative behaviors and focus on the positive, this approach can take a considerable amount of fortitude initially. During this time, it may be reassuring to remember that you are setting the stage for a lifetime of healthy interaction between you and your companion animal.

There are a variety of training methods to choose from. Some methods work well in a pinch, but if you have the time and inclination, positive training can be the way to go. If you’ve kept the process interesting, appealing and rewarding, your companion animal will strive to please you even if it means ignoring tempting takeout and teasing Tabbies.

Positive reinforcement works for all breeds and creeds. Try it on your cantankerous cat, petulant partner or churlish children. Age isn’t even a factor when it comes to positive reinforcement. Contrary to pawpular belief, with the right approach, you can teach an old dog new tricks.


• Moksha McClure is the founder of Whiskers Resort, a pet hotel in Lihu‘e offering doggie day care, grooming and overnight boarding for cats and dogs.Visit or call 241-PETS.


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