As almost all pet lovers know, one of the most commonly used and most successful method of training is through the rewards and praise system, utilized by the vast majority of professional trainers and pet owners alike. In “hound-sight,” dog training as an industry is on a rapid rise with numbers that are nipping at the heels of such industry giants as electronics. With this continued growth rate of around 6% annually, it’s the seventh largest industry in the United States, rising above the retail sales of children’s toys, hardware and jewelry.
Following down the praise system and rewards road, many pet owners are still quick to recite the common, and very loud “NO” command when our pooches and puddies misbehave. Just like a human child, this kind of attention can be misconstrued and misinterpreted, especially for pack animals. Attention is attention, whether it is positive or negative. Unless balanced and properly motivated, negative behavior with animals could appear as an accepted practice by these unknowing participants.
Think of it this way, sometimes attention received, bad or good, is just that, attention. Continued bad behavior that is met with some form of attention is still received in some way. For example, if a pet does something that is undesirable, we can all safely agree it is probably linked to something associated with defecation or destruction, and then given a punishment after the fact, this practice is useless. When we call them out on “their bad,” after the event, we are continuing to acknowledge their bad behavior with some form of attention. They identify this bad behavior with attention, good or bad.
One of my personal favorites, the tone used with pets overrides the actual words you speak to communicate with them. Although some animals have been known to understand more than one hundred words, the tone of your voice that you use to convey those words carries more weight than the actual term itself.
You can say the word “NO” in a soft, mellow, loving tone while caressing your pet, or scream what a good dog they are in a high-pitched squeal, yell at them with words that convey how beautiful and cute they are in a violent way. What do you think the dog will take from this? The definition of a word spoken with a bad attitude, or aggressive stance doesn’t matter when it is associated with negativity.
I often wondered how they trained “drug dogs” that could seek out and locate illegal and illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Come to find out, trainers hide the substance in their toys or “babies” and then hide them. When requested to go and “get the baby” or “find their toy,” their enhanced sense of smell goes into full blown location mode, not to find the drug, but to continue their playtime and maybe accept a reward or treat.
In conclusion, a well-trained dog or cat is a much happier and healthier animal in the long run. Animals crave a routine and well structured environment. We as their masters should deliver this to them as a part of the responsibility of pet ownership. Check out the infographic below for thirty tips and tricks on using positive reinforcement for your pet.
This article was written by guest blogger Amber Kingsley. To join our guest blogger team, feel free to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org with a writing sample and why’d you be a great content contributor to our company.