Our dogs are important members of our family, and we know it’s hard to not spoil them endlessly. But let’s be real for a moment… no matter how much you love your little chonker, it can’t always be fun and games with them. Well, I suppose it can, but you may find yourself trapped inside your house wishing your dog had better manners!
For some, that may sound alluring, but eventually you will have to leave the house with your pup. Honestly though, we get it, training can be hard, frustrating, and time-consuming, especially when Fido stares at you with those sad puppy dog eyes and you immediately fold like a lawn chair. With all the demands in our daily lives, it’s hard to not want to just cuddle next to your pup instead of helping them learn how to exhibit the specific behaviors you want from them.
But luckily, we’ve got some easy and sustainable tactics you can use to positively reinforce the behaviors you want to see in your dog that will yield lasting results without stressing everyone out!
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is a training method where you focus on rewarding your dog for the behavior you want them to exhibit and ignoring them for the unwanted behaviors. In doing so, you are able to create trust with your fur baby while also clearly conveying that certain behaviors are acceptable, and others are not.
It’s important to keep a steady tone in your voice when issuing commands to your pup instead of raising your voice, because your dog may associate your elevated voice with the command which is not the outcome you are looking for in this scenario! Using the right tools will allow you to reinforce good habits in your dog and save you a lot of time and trouble as you help your pup grow into a well-mannered member of the family.
Here are a few helpful ways you can sustainably encourage positive behavior in your dog!
1. Spend Time Together
Dogs are social beings (just like us humans!) so it’s important that you spend quality time together with your dog regularly. Dogs also look to their human companions for your approval, so when they feel that you care about them and love them, they will reciprocate with gestures of affection, love, and joy. Most importantly, you will build trust with them which is an important foundation to build before engaging with training.
Getting your dog to be sociable with the family makes them healthier and happier. It also enables training so your dog can learn to the behaviors you want to see them exhibit with your family and friends. But it’s always a good rule of thumb to introduce your pets slowly to family and friends, especially children and elderly.
Once your dog has had some time to adjust then get everyone in your family to help you with the reinforcement training. You should always use a calm tone and voice when interacting with your dog, especially with commands as your dog may associate this with the action you want to see from them. This can lead to unnecessary yelling, frustrating, and potentially a lack of trust between you and your dog.
If your dog is a young puppy, then it is likely that he/she will catch on quickly and build a close bond with you and your family members.
2. Create a Routine
Establishing a consistent routine is key to creating the stable and nurturing environment you need in order to support learning appropriate dog behavior training. Try to not adjust your schedule around your pet but vice versa. Wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day so that your pet starts to learn the family’s schedule.
Make sure your pet has access to water throughout the day and has an opportunity to go outside at least once every 6 hours or less, especially if they are a puppy. In addition, make sure you incorporate enough exercise into your dog’s routine in order to allow them to expend all their energy in a positive way! We will talk more about exercise and the benefits in the next section. Your pet has to adjust to your routine, or your family’s, not vice versa.
3. Daily exercise
Exercise requirements depend on the age, breed, and demeanor of your pet but a daily walk should be the absolute minimum amount of exercise your pet gets in a day. An easy way to tell if your dog has had enough exercise is whether they fall asleep easily at bedtime. If they do, then you know your pup has had the opportunity to expend all his energy and is ready to recharge.
Excess energy can make your dog restless, noisy, anxious, hyperactive and even destructive. Exercise with you dog can manifest in a multitude of ways. You can either take your dog on a walk, let them run around in the yard, or play a game of fetch with them. But always make sure that they have access to water.
Dogs are no different than humans in that they can dehydrate quickly, especially in the heat and sun. So make sure to always have water available for whichever activity you choose.
4. Encourage Your Dog to Relax
While exercise is vital to your dog’s health, it is also important to set aside time for your dog to relax. If you don’t allow your dog to relax and reward this type of behavior, then you may find that you dog is constantly coming to you seeking attention which is nice to start but can get to be too much to handle.
This gives your dog the impression that they automatically get cuddles or pets every time they seek your attention. Instead, catch them relaxing quietly and give them a treat or affection so they will know that relaxing is a good behavior deserving of a treat.
5. Reward Positive Behavior, Ignore the Rest!
Give your dog a reward every time your dog shows the desired behavior and ignore them when they do things that you don’t want them to. Rewards don’t have to be food treats all the time. Instead, try other positive rewards such as cuddles, petting, or praising them with words. Positive reinforcement works wonders for our pups!
As we mentioned earlier, dogs are approval-seeking with their family, so it means a lot to them when they know that they are being a good chonker. We feel happy when we are given praise and dogs are no different! Plus, praising your dog for good behavior versus punishing for negative behavior allows you to continue to build a strong sense of trust between you and your pup.
So, when you see your dog do something you like, make sure to give them a good pat or scratch behind the ears and maybe a treat too! Remember, some dogs are more food motivated than others so make sure to find a high value treat that your pet will see as a reward.
For example, if you have a Labrador retriever, you probably know that your dog will likely eat anything in sight, so you don’t have to try very hard to find a high value treat! For other dogs like chihuahuas that are less food motivated, you may have to get creative and use small pieces of cheese to reward them.