Published 8:42 am Tuesday, May 23, 2017
BY HELEN PALMER
“Why do you praise your dog after you force it to do something?” a reader asked.
Any time you want to teach a dog to respond to a command, you should give the dog the incentive to repeat the action. The way to do this is by praising it, verbally in a happy tone, physically, like ruffling the ears and even orally with a treat. There is also the “click” method of training.
The dog doesn’t understand why you are so happy with it when you have to “stand on your head and blow bubbles in the air” to get it to come to you. Actually you just pat your leg, crouch down, spread your arms wide in a welcoming gesture, show a treat and as a last resort run away from the dog or, if he allows, go to the dog stick the treat under its nose and back up while encouraging it to follow you until you are back in place. Then you praise for at least 30 seconds.
The next time you call the dog to come to you, it may still be hesitant, but if you repeat the gesture that succeeded before, the dog will probably check to see if you still have a treat. More lavish praise will start to convince your pet that coming when called is a good thing.
On the flip side of praising, there is scolding. If the dog runs off and you call it to come and it does, you MUST praise. If you scold, you are telling the dog that you no longer want it to come to you when you call. As far as remembering the human language, the dog has a one track mind. Your praise or scolding is for the action it is in the process of doing or has just finished doing. This is very hard for humans to remember, especially when aggravated. We are inclined to think that our pets’ thought processes are like humans. If you scold, after the dog has obeyed the command to come, “Why did you run off?” the dog does not think of the action running off, its vocabulary is not large enough to understand what “run off” means.
Another place to praise the dog is when it is keeping quiet while out in the yard. I find this extremely difficult to remember. When the dogs are quiet, I am inclined to forget about them. But dogs learn to override their instincts, such as communicating by barking, only if they are rewarded for being quiet. If they are barking and you want to correct them, call them by name and say “Quiet.” Then call them to come, or sit, praise for obeying and take them inside for awhile.
Want a quiet neighborhood? Praise your dog for being quiet. I say, “Quiet dogs are good dogs and quiet dogs get treats.” All my dogs would come galloping toward me for their reward. I like nice quiet playtimes.