BRINGING home a new puppy is an exciting time, but getting to grips with pet ownership can also be daunting. Training, in particular, can feel overwhelming for a new owner, and it’s easy to pick up bad habits sometimes. Getting the basics right from the start will put you on the right path to success and help you create a special bond with your furry friend.
PDSA Veterinary Nurse Nina Downing says, “Many of us will be familiar with punishment-focused techniques, which essentially scare pets in an effort to modify their behavior. However, these leave our canine companions frightened and confused, and can lead to other undesirable tendencies.
It’s important to remember that reward-based training methods will always produce the best results – building confidence while having fun along the way!”
* Myth: “I have to teach my dog who’s boss or he won’t respect me.”
Scaring your dog into submission will only lead to lack of confidence, slower learning, and may even encourage other negative behaviors because your dog will feel scared. Respect is learned by setting clear and consistent boundaries early on. Instead of yelling, try using a firm “no” to get your dog’s attention and stop what he’s doing. When your pup does something you want him to do, always reward him with a healthy treat and lots of praise right away, ideally while he’s still doing the behavior or immediately afterwards.
* Myth: “Punishment teaches dogs how to behave.”
Punishing your puppy may stop his unwanted behavior in the moment, but it doesn’t explain why he’s doing it in the first place, so there’s every chance he’ll do it again. It’s like being yelled at without any explanation of what we did wrong.
Reward-based training has been proven to work best because animals learn to associate the behavior with getting something they want.
* Myth: “Using a rattle will keep my dog from barking.”
Rattles are often loud enough to keep dogs from barking, but they’re not the best long-term solution. They can make pets anxious about noise, which can cause them to bark even more. If your dog’s barking is getting out of control, consider seeing a behaviorist for help.
* Myth: “If my dog is afraid of something, he just needs to learn that it won’t hurt him.”
Forcing your dog to interact with something he’s afraid of is likely to add to his stress and could even cause him to lash out, so it’s important not to put him in a situation where he feels uncomfortable. If your dog has a phobia, talk to your veterinarian.