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Tips for Training and Re-training Your Pet

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
4 years ago

Last month you asked PetFirst to share some advice for how to train your pets and possibly even re-trainyour pets. We sat down with a few PetFirst employees and picked their brains. They had a lot of great information to share!

Types of Behavior Training:

There are several types of behavior training you can use with your pets. Operant Conditioning uses manipulation to increase or decrease a behavior. The 2 main categories are reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement increases a behavior while punishment, in this case, means decreasing a behavior. Reinforcement and punishment can be broken down into 2 further categories: positive and negative. Any time you add something to your training session, it would be considered positive (i.e. positive reinforcement and positive punishment). Any time you remove something from your training session, it would be considered negative (i.e. negative reinforcement and negative punishment).

Here is an example of each:

  • Positive Reinforcement (Dogs are typically most receptive to this type of training)
    • Your dog sits down and remains calm. You give your dog a treat immediately after they sit down and say “sit”. The dog did this behavior on their own and received a treat. Do this every time they sit. Eventually, when you say “sit” and your pup listens, give them a treat immediately. By giving the treat (positive) your increasing (reinforcement) the frequency the dog will sit. Repetition is key!
    • Another great part of positive reinforcement is clicker training. A clicker is used as a bridge if a reward is not immediately ready. This is great to use for training that is farther than an arm’s length from you. Start by clicking a clicker and giving a treat with no other commands or expectations. After time,your dog will associate the click with the treat. So when you goto train a behavior, they hear the click and they know they did what was asked of them and a treat will be on its way. If you want to make sure your pet stays extra fit and healthy during training, you can use clicker training to train a behavior that gets them moving!
  • Positive Punishment
    • You get an invisible fence. You start to train your dog with the shock collar as to where the boundaries are in your backyard. The shock goes off as your pet crosses your yard line and the dog retreats. The shock, itself, is added (positive) to decrease (punishment) the frequency your dog will cross the yard boundary
  • Negative Reinforcement
    • Let’s say you are walking your dog with a gentle leader. Your dog sees a cat he wants to chase. The moment he steps beyond the length of his leash and halter starts to pull his head to the side and he can no longer see or go the direction of the cat so he retreats back some to regain sight. The halter pulling stops (negative) the moment the dog steps back (reinforcement).
  • Negative Punishment
    • If you catch your dog eating a shoe and say to your dog: “Go to your kennel!” You are essentially putting them in a time out and punishing them for chewing your shoe. Being sent to the kennel removes (negative) them from the stimulus (the shoe) to decrease (punishment) the chewing behavior. This method of behavior training is not as effective as positive reinforcement and can sometimes worsen behavior.

Keep in mind training and even retraining your pet takes time and that’s okay! You get extra quality time with your pets! ~ Becky, Claims Coordinator at PetFirst Pet Insurance

Practice Makes Perfect:

Whatever type of behavior training you decide to do, timing and consistency are key. You need to reinforce or react to your dog’s behavior immediately. The treat (if you choose positive reinforcement) itself should not be a crunchy or large treat. By the time your pet is done chewing, they will have forgotten why they got the treat! Reinforce good behavior quickly and frequently so that your pet understands he/she should continue the behavior regardless if they received a treat or not.

If you need a good reference to help get you started, Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin is an excellent resource! ~ Amanda, Claims Coordinator at PetFirst Pet Insurance

Tips for keeping your pet healthy in general and during training:

Remember: an exercised pet is a well behaved pet! Find your dog’s favorite activity and do it frequently! The more exercise your pet gets, the happier they will be and the better they will behave.

When you’re shopping for treats, keep in mind how often your pet is going to get the treat. If you’re in the middle of training, opt for small or breakable, non-crunchy treats. Make sure the treat is low fat and high in protein! Stay away from smelly, super meaty treats. If you can’t resist buying something fancy, make sure to check that the first ingredient is indeed meat. The more natural the better the treat! ~ Claims Coordinators at PetFirst Pet Insurance


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