Why do you hear of so many trainers opposing punishment based training? Science. Science is advancing the understanding of how dogs learn and how methods affect them. There is even a vet devoting his time to teaching dogs to enjoy the MRI machine. Previous brain scans, because of the sound, motion and size of the machine, were performed with dogs under sedation which does very little to help us understand daily brain function.
We now know that punishment based training can actually inhibit learning in many ways. It also can prevent us from gaining important knowledge about behavior. If a dog barks and barking is punished without determining the underlying reason we lose important information.
For instance, an excitable, outgoing adolescent pup barks with excitement upon seeing another dog down the street. Punishing that bark could cause the pup to think that the appearance of other dogs means a bad thing will happen (sharp correction, shock, leash yank…). What a person has in their mind as an association may not be the same as the pup. Eventually this can lead to leash aggression. Instead, teaching the pup to handle their own excitement (like presence of other dogs) without getting over excited is a life long lesson that can be applied over a multitude of situations.
Every now and again I hear “We got the puppy for my son so he could learn responsibility”. It’s not a bad premise but, it is important to understand what your part of that bargain will be depending upon your child’s age. Parents will always need to be involved on some level.
Just like puppies children need structure. If you expect your child to be responsible set up a work chart. Add the elements that a well rounded pup will need: exercise, training, feeding, potty training and appropriate play are a good start. The parent will need to know how to trouble shoot problem behaviors in the pup in order to help the child make the right choices. Kids can become frustrated easily by very common puppy behaviors like mouthing and nipping.
Realize that all interactions provide information to a puppy. It’s not just the good things that happen that the pup will remember. Any time a puppy strains on the end of a leash or gets pulled around they take that as information on leash behavior. Puppies often mirror the state of the person interacting with them. If a person gets frustrated the puppy will likely reciprocate the sentiment with barking or nipping.
The long and the short of it is to be prepared to guide the process fully. Parental participation in the process could require just as much effort as doing it yourself. It’s the best way to make sure both the puppy and child acquire the necessary skills.
The concept of every year of a dog’s life is like seven years to a human is commonly cited. The truth is dogs do age more quickly than we do, but it isn’t exactly an exact equation of 1:7. That is more like an average, with the first year actually being closer to thirteen human years. Think about how much education goes into a thirteen year old. There is all that parents do to influence behavior, teaching children how to respond in social interactions, and the book learning that occurs at school. Both of these forms of education continue for a long time. A similar investment should be made in dogs.
Often times when I am called in for problem behavior resolution I find that education basically stopped after puppy class. Changes occur in your canine over the course of several years. The broad range cited for social maturity is 12-36 months, and the narrow range cited is 18-24 months.* This is the time that dogs are considered stable in temperament and personality. Of course, learning can occur for a very long time after as far as age. The change in neurochemicals remains unmeasured at this point. What it means, though, is that ending training with one puppy class leaves a lot to chance! The various stages your pup/dog goes through need continued input, continued training. Like so many other worthwhile aspects of life; what you put in influences what you get out.
Kristie Swan, CPDT
Are you in need some thought provoking reading? Check out Whiskers University’s Head Traininer CPDT-KA Kristie Swan’s article on Teachable Moments in the current issue of Dogs Unleashed Magazine!
Click the link below to read the full article!
The heat of summer has finally kicked in. Depending upon the breed of your dog there can be variances in heat tolerance. Boxers, French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and other short nosed breeds already have a quick respiration rate, added heat can cause problems in a much shorter time than it would for a Greyhound for instance.
Keep your dog off pavement as much as possible in the extreme heat. Play in the grass and shallow pools is a great way to keep them cool and get some need stimulation in. Some dogs won’t swim or lie in a pool but will happily bob for pieces of hotdog or cereal. Layered ice treats can be made for chewing on in the yard. You can use a deep plastic container as a mold, add about two inches of watered down broth, freeze it, add some dollops of peanut butter or yogurt, maybe a dry bone or two cover it with water, freeze again and continue buidling layers this way. Your dog can work on the iceberg treat at her own pace while keeping cool.
There are cooling mats, wraps and freezable collars that can also keep an active dog cool during exercise. Wet towels can be used for them to lie on or wrap around them. There are plenty of toys geared toward mental stimulaiton that can keep your dog busy inside. It’s also a great time to take up agility or any other dog sport offered in a cool indoor environment!
~ Kristie Swan, CPDT