The basis of all animal training is reward and punishment, and repetition leading to reflex actions. Pleasure and displeasure are sufficient rewards and punishments for dogs. Dogs never become capable of understanding the moral distinctions between right and wrong, as children do, and they seldom evolve beyond the “childish” stage of doing something because it makes their owner happy.
In dog training, punishments and rewards are really an elementary form of communication, a means of getting the dog to understand what you want him to do. You will get the best results from the mildest punishment and the most extravagant praise at first. Later on, an affectionate word or an imperceptible pat will suffice.
The most effective canine rewards are a word of praise such as “Good Dog!” in an affectionate, enthusiastic tone of voice. A caress, such as stroking the back, rubbing behind the ears, along the muzzle, or stroking the head. Edible rewards can also be used such as cooked liver, a biscuit, a sliver of cheese, or whatever your dog prefers. Edible rewards work better on puppies, while adult dogs generally prefer praise.
The most effective forms of punishment are the absence of praise. Saying “No, Bad Dog” in a firm but not loud voice. Try to say the word “no” as little as possible, and emphasize more on the positive instead. Constraints such as making the dog sit or lie down after the misbehavior. You should never strike or hit a dog on any part of their body, especially with your hand. It is humiliating, traumatizing, and can undo much hard work in the positive or reward side of the training.
Shy and sensitive dogs respond to gentle correction and lavish praise. They can be terrorized by severe handling. In spite of their reputation for toughness, most Terriers require gentle handling too, since they tend to associate pain with fighting, and painful punishments can trigger instinctive resistance or aggression.
Sheep dogs and hounds, as well as many of the large breeds react to the gentlest measures, and most learn best from rewards alone. Due perhaps to the dog’s rapid evolution toward a more civilized, sensitive mentality, old fashioned punishment is not as effective as it used to be and as stated earlier, may have a negative effect.
If punishment must be used, preferably by scolding, always be brief, and try to not show any anger. The dog may not comprehend exactly what you want him to do, or exactly what “good” behavior is in this situation. After a punishment is given you should return at once to the lesson or some other positive activity.
The more time you spend with your dog, and the earlier the training is started will go a long way in producing good results and good behavior. Puppies always learn faster than older dogs that have already been conditioned by their environment, but you the owner are they key, and they look to you to lead and guide, reward and praise.
Randy Jones and his partner Brent Jones have been in the pet industry for a long time. Recently they formed Joncopets.com. On the site, customers can read articles about anything pets as well as shop for the latest designer dog clothes, dog collars, dog strollers and more for their best friend. Feel free to check out the site at http://www.joncopets.com