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Blog posts tagged with ‘positive reward based training’

We found 17 results tagged with 'positive reward based training'.

Socialising your puppy

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This is an image of two puppies playing

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your puppy

Dogs that are under socialised may become shy, fearful and sometimes even aggressive.  They may not develop the appropriate canine body language necessary to interact well with other dogs or know how to behave appropriately around people.  In contrast, puppies that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident dogs.   

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your puppy

Dogs that are under socialised may become shy, fearful and sometimes even aggressive.  They may not develop the appropriate canine body language necessary to interact well with other dogs or know how to behave appropriately around people. 

In contrast, puppies that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident dogs.   

The socialisation period

Puppies go through various developmental stages on their way to adulthood.  The ‘socialisation period’ lasts from around 3 to 12 weeks of age, and during this time, puppies are more sensitive to socialisation.  The experiences your puppy encounters during this stage, negative or positive, can have a profound effect on their behaviour later in life.

While the socialisation period is a critical developmental stage for your puppy, socialisation should also continue throughout your dog's life.                                       

Positive socialisation

Socialising your puppy involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, dogs, other animals, places, smells and noises.  It’s important that these interactions are a positive experience for your puppy.  Introduce them to new situations gently and reward them for calm behaviour. 

Puppy School training classes are a great way to start socialising and training your puppy.  Here you can get good advice on basic training, puppies can meet a wide range of other puppies of all shapes and sizes, as well as different people. 

Tips for choosing a Puppy School class

Puppy classes should be well structured and organised and not just a free play session for puppies, as this can frighten young or less confident puppies.  Off-lead play should be carefully managed and supervised with just a few puppies off lead for short periods.  The trainer should use positive reinforcement training methods.  In addition, class sizes should be limited to no more than 10 puppies.

Veterinarians can often recommend where to find good puppy classes, and a local veterinary clinic may well run one.

                                          

Socialising with other animals       

Remember that socialisation is not simply a matter of letting your puppy play with other dogs.

It’s very important that you select the dogs that you allow your puppy to interact with and supervise play sessions making sure all dogs involved are behaving appropriately.  As your puppy’s guardian you must make sure there is no bullying occurring either by your puppy or to them.  If either situation is occurring, simply end the play session and try again another day.  

Until your puppy is fully protected by vaccination, they should only mix with dogs whose vaccinations are fully up to date and should not be taken to parks or areas where other dogs have toileted.                                                                                                           

Introduce your puppy to other animals such as cats at an early age.  To a small puppy, an adult cat may be terrifying, so supervise these meetings to make sure they are positive encounters for both your puppy and the other animal.

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Grooming your kitten

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Grooming

If your kitten is a long-haired breed, grooming throughout life will be a must.  However, grooming is recommended for all kittens as it's a great way to build on your relationship.  This is because grooming mimics the social bonds between a mother cat and her babies.  It's best if you try to establish good grooming habits early on, and ensure grooming time is a positive one by using positive reinforcement through treats and praise.   

Grooming 

If your kitten is a long-haired breed, grooming throughout life will be a must.  However, grooming is recommended for all kittens as it's a great way to build on your relationship.  This is because grooming mimics the social bonds between a mother cat and her babies. 

It's best if you try to establish good grooming habits early on, and ensure grooming time is a positive one by using positive reinforcement through treats and praise.   

How to groom your kitten

Ideally you've been handling your kitten regularly, so they're comfortable with having their skin and coat touched.  But don't worry if your kitten seems a bit hesitant when you pull out the brush for the first time. 

Let your kitten become accustomed to a brush and comb by letting them have a play with them first.  Stroke your kitten very gently, so they get comfortable with being handled.

Progress to using a comb through the coat moving from head to tail, being particularly gentle around the head.  Check the condition of the coat and skin, and look for signs of fleas or other parasites.  Then brush the fur to remove any dead hair. 

Be sure to move only at a pace that your kitten can handle.  Slowly build up the amount of time you groom your kitten, so that the experience is a positive one for both of you.

Dealing with tangles

Medium to long haired cats can get tangles in their coat.  Gently tease out any tangled hair with your fingers and remove it before you groom your kitten properly.  If you stick to a regular grooming schedule, tangles shouldn’t happen too often. 

If your kitten has got in a bit of a mess, dip a clean cloth in warm water, squeeze it out, and use it to wipe them down.  Don't use soap as it can irritate a kitten’s sensitive skin.  

Wiping the eyes

If needed, you can give your kitten's eyes a very gentle clean by carefully using a cotton ball moistened with warm water.  Use a different swab for each eye.  If you notice any abnormalities or discharge, be sure to have a check-up with your veterinarian. 

With practice and positive reinforcement, grooming can be bonding time you share while you help keep your kitten looking their best.

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Biting and scratching in kittens

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Natural born hunter

Kittens begin to develop play behaviour at an early age, and this includes mastering the use of their sharp teeth and claws!  Here we take a look at the basis for these play behaviours, and what you can do if your kitten’s play is a little overzealous!

Natural born hunter

Kittens begin to develop play behaviour at an early age, and this includes mastering the use of their sharp teeth and claws! 

Young kittens love to stalk, chase and pounce.  They also wrestle, bite and scratch their littermates and mother - all in the name of fun.  This behaviour is helping the kitten learn the hunting behaviours that used to be essential for survival.  Luckily, your kitten can now depend on you for their next meal, but their instincts run deep!  In fact, your kitten's instinct to hunt is so strong that they'll do it even when they aren’t hungry. 

Bite inhibition

Kittens learn to inhibit any overly aggressive behaviour while they are still with their littermates and mother.  If play is too rough, a sibling or mum will let the offending kitten know by way of a growl or a well-placed swipe, and play might stop.  Through this process, kittens learn to control aggressive behaviour.

Proper socialisation

Socialisation helps a kitten learn how to interact appropriately with humans and other animals.  Kittens who are poorly socialised or handled roughly by people may develop behaviours that are aggressive and don’t learn to control their biting intensity.

Help!  My kitten is biting and scratching me

While your kitten is young, all those little bites and scratches are really just playfulness.  But if you find your kitten is coming on a bit too strong, try interrupting the game and ignoring them for a while. 

If your kitten bites you, make a short sharp yelping sound.  At the same time withdraw your attention from your kitten and ignore it.  This shows your kitten that when they bite, the fun and play stops.  When your kitten is calm, gently praise and reward them. 

Make sure that you are consistent in how you interact with your kitten.  Don't allow your kitten to play roughly with you so that you aren't encouraging biting and scratching behaviour.  

Be mindful of the signals you (and others) send if you do play wrestle with your kitten.  Don't let them nip or scratch you just because they're cute and small.  They will grow and get bigger and stronger!  It’s a good idea to encourage your kitten to wrestle with a toy, rather than you. 

Thankfully, most kittens grow out of the aggressive stage and develop into lovely natured cats, more interested to smooch than to bite you.

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Scratching behaviour in cats

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Scratching

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour that serves a range of important functions for a cat.  However, in the interest of a happy co-existence with your kitty, it’s important that this behaviour is directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Training is best started early on in kittenhood.  Read on for tips to help save your furniture.

Why do cats scratch?

Scratching is a normal feline behaviour. 

It’s used to groom nails, for marking territory (both visual as well as scent signals) and to help cats stretch and condition their muscles.  Most cats have 5 claws on each front leg and 4 claws on each hind leg, for a grand total of 18 claws.

Given that scratching serves a range of functions for a cat, it’s not a behaviour that can be stopped.  It is however a behaviour that needs to be directed onto appropriate surfaces.  Your kitten needs you to help them understand what is okay to scratch and what isn’t.  The effort you put in will be a life saver for your furniture and other valuables.

What do cats like to scratch?

In general, cats are attracted to textured surfaces and items they can sink their claws into.  However, different cats prefer different scratching surfaces, so initially you might like to offer a range of surfaces and see what your kitty is fond of.  Common materials to try are sisal rope, cardboard, carpet, rough fabrics and wood. 

Cats will often have a scratch after they wake from a nap and when they want to mark their territory.  They also like to scratch when they’re excited about something.

How do I prevent my cat scratching the furniture?

Ideally begin training to use the scratching post while your cat is young.  Supply both vertical and horizontal surfaces covered with your cat’s preferred material.  Make the scratching surfaces desirable by placing catnip or treats on them and train your cat by encouraging them with a toy held part way up, and reward the cat for using it.

If the cat prefers another material, such as the couch, attempt to get an appropriate item covered in a similar material.

Never punish your kitten or cat if you see them scratching an item they shouldn’t, as this will only teach them that scratching the item while you are around is scary.  Your cat will likely continue to scratch it when you are gone.

A better method is to cover the inappropriate item in double sided sticky tape or another material such as plastic which makes the item aversive at all times.  Meanwhile, positively reinforce the cat with praise and treats when they scratch the appropriate item.

Nail care can also help reduce inappropriate scratching.  Pair nail trims with positive reinforcement eg treats to create a positive association for your cat.

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Socialising your kitten

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This is an image of two kittens playing.

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that are under socialised may become shy and fearful.  In contrast, kittens that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.   

Positive socialisation practices are critical for your kitten                                                              

What your kitten experiences in their first few months will influence the rest of their life.  In fact, their early experiences shape their future character.  Cats that have been well socialised generally grow into happy, confident adults.  

Socialising your kitten involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, other animals, places, smells and noises. 

Positive socialisation

Be sure to present socialisation experiences in a gentle way that helps your kitten become accustomed to them.  Reward your kitten for calm behaviour and move only at a pace your kitten can handle.  If your kitten seems nervous or fearful, that's your cue to slow things down.  The aim is for new experiences to be presented in a positive way so that your kitten can develop into a relaxed, confident cat.  

Remember that it's still important that socialisation continues throughout your cat's life. 

Here are some typical situations in which kittens should be socialised:

Environment

  • Drive in the car
  • Trips to the vet.  Have your kitten weighed, handled and restrained for a health check
  • Using a cat carrier
  • At home, exposure to different floor surfaces, steps, tools, cleaning, working, music, pram
  • Outside (while on a harness) exposure to bicycles, gardening

Other animals

  • Other cats and kittens (all well-socialised and fully vaccinated)
  • Dogs (only cat-friendly ones)
  • Farm animals
  • Birds (in a manner where the bird is safely able to get away)
  • Any other animal they may come in contact with during their lifetime

Situations

  • Visitors in the home,
  • Being groomed
  • Having a picture taken
  • Being held (in a manner where they are never afraid and never dropped)
  • Tooth brushing
  • Nails clipped
  • Playing with a variety of toys

People

  • Children
  • People wearing glasses, hats
  • People with beards
  • Loud and timid people 

By providing your kitten with a wide range of positive socialisation experiences, you'll help them develop into a sociable and well-adjusted cat.

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Preventing boredom in dogs

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Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems.  Let’s take a look at how you can keep your dog occupied when you’re not there.

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems. 

Dogs are intelligent creatures and therefore require mental stimulation.  Left alone with nothing to do, a dog will create its own entertainment.  This could include such behaviours as barking at birds and clouds, running in circles, pulling clothes off the line or digging holes in the garden.  In extreme cases, some dogs will even resort to self-mutilation.

How can I keep my dog occupied when I'm not there?

The key lies in 'environmental enrichment'.  This means to make your dog's environment more interesting and complex, and is a strategy used in zoos and wildlife parks around the world.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and ideally they should leave your property every day.  Taking your dog on a walk has many health benefits for both of you.  Try to vary your walks so that your dog gets to experience new sights, smells and interactions.

Find a safe off-leash area where your dog can let off some steam.  For high energy dogs consider dog sports such as Agility or Flyball.

A happily tired out dog is more likely to rest when you’re not home, rather than seek out mischief.

Toys

Have a collection of safe and fun dog toys and rotate them daily (yes, every day!) so they maintain their novelty factor and stay interesting for your dog.  Select toys that are appropriate for your dog’s level of destructiveness.  Always supervise your dog when first playing with a new toy to see if there is any potential risk of the toy becoming dangerous.  Inspect toys regularly for signs of wear, and replace any that are damaged. 

Make feeding time last longer

In the wild, an animal spends a significant proportion of their time seeking out their next meal.  When your pet can rely on you to meet their nutritional needs, they’re left with a fair bit of time on their paws.  So rather than feeding your dog from a bowl, scatter their dry kibble around the backyard.  It will take them ages to sniff out every piece.

Stuff a ‘Kong’ toy with yummy treats or put some kibble in a treat ball or ‘Buster Cube’.  Your dog will need to use their brain to work out how to get those treats.

Provide your dog with a raw bone and smoked pigs ears a couple of times each week to chew on.                            

You could also

Create a digging pit using a child’s sand pit.  Try hiding toys and treats in it for your dog to find as buried treasure.

Play hide and seek by hiding treats around the garden for your pooch to find.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider employing a professional dog walker.

Investigate local doggy day care centres, where your dog can spend some quality time playing and socialising.

 

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Problem barking in dogs

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Dogs are social animals

Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication and are considered normal behaviour for dogs.  Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.  Here we take a look at what you can do to help prevent and reduce problem barking.  

Dogs are social animals

Barking is considered a normal behaviour for dogs.  Barking and other forms of vocalisation serve as a form of communication between individuals, such as to alert to an approaching threat.  This ability was a seen as a good thing when humans were domesticating the dog.  Breeds were developed based on individuals who were very good at alerting us to danger.  A dog's hearing is about 4 times better than ours, and things they can hear (from some distance away) can be very arousing to a dog, whose response is often to bark.

Many dogs also vocalise when they are frustrated, excited or anxious.  If dogs are left alone for long periods, they may become under-exercised, under-stimulated and may bark as a result.         

Tensions arise when a dog is considered to bark excessively.

How can I help prevent my puppy becoming a barker?

There are quite a few things you can do when you first bring your puppy home to reduce the chance they will develop into an excessive barker.

Positive Socialisation

Ensure that your puppy is positively socialised, and that this continues for life.

Socialising your puppy involves introducing them to a whole range of new experiences including meeting different types of people, dogs, other animals, places, smells and noises.  It’s important that these interactions are a positive experience for your puppy.  Introduce them to new situations gently and reward them for calm behaviour. 

Dogs that are under socialised may become fearful and suspicious of things they haven't encountered before.  These things will be seen as a potential threat, and something that the dog then barks at.

Encourage calm

Develop a routine that encourages your puppy to display quiet and calm behaviour.  Teach your puppy that it's OK to be alone for short periods and encourage their love of chew toys which helps keep them mentally stimulated.

Crate training helps reinforce happy, quiet time and teaches your puppy that the night is for sleeping, not for barking at cats or possums!

Training

Teach your puppy to 'speak' on cue, along with the alternative command 'shush' to stop the barking.  This is a lot easier than trying to teach your puppy to be quiet when they are barking excessively (and in an aroused state).  By practising these commands when your puppy is calm and focused, they'll make the learning connection.  You then have an effective cue to offer them when you want them to stop barking.

My dog seems to be barking a lot, what can I do?

Ideally, determine the cause of the barking.  Keep a barking diary where all members of the household (as well as neighbours) note down the times of day when the dog barks.  From this, it may be possible to understand what triggers the barking. 

Another option, especially if your dog only seems to bark when you’re not home, is to use video surveillance to observe what your dog is doing.  Only when you understand why your dog barks can you start working to reduce the noise.  Options include changing the way your dog is managed, changing the places they have access to, covering over fences or gates to reduce visual stimuli or allowing your dog a better view of the world.  Sometimes the answer is to bring your dog inside the house when they are most likely to bark, or when you're not at home.

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Treating your puppy

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Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time?  Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states.  Here we look at how to use treats wisely.

Treats

Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time? 

Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states: to reward/bond, to occupy and for functional health.

Types of treats

Treats provide an important mechanism for strengthening the bond you share with your pet and are frequently used as a motivating tool for training.  Certain treats are designed to be longer lasting to help keep a pet entertained for a period of time.  In addition, some treats have positive effects in areas such as oral health and joint health.

How can I use treats wisely?

Treats are particularly useful for training, but due to the risks of overfeeding and nutritional imbalances, their use should be controlled.  As a general rule, no more than 10% of the calories in your puppy’s diet should come from dog treats.  Keep a close eye on how many treats your puppy is getting, and how often they are getting them. 

It’s likely in the early days of puppy training that you’ll use food treats as rewards a lot.  Consider using part of your puppy’s daily dry food allowance as treats.

Get the timing right

When using food treats as training rewards, timing is crucial.  Only offer a treat when your puppy responds correctly to your training command and is calm.  That way you’ll avoid inadvertently rewarding any over-excited behaviour.

Stick to pet treats

Treats designed specifically for dogs and puppies are best.  Chocolate and foods containing xylitol (a sugar substitute) are just a couple of examples of human treats that are highly toxic to pets.

Consider life rewards

Whilst food treats can be very effective for a puppy when learning a new behaviour, you should introduce other rewards that your puppy responds to.  A ‘life reward’ is anything that your dog desires in their day to day life.

Consider the following life rewards:

• A tickle on the belly

• Verbal praise

• Playing a game of tug 

• A pat on the head

• Playing with a toy

Life rewards teach your puppy that it’s important and worthwhile to listen to you, even in the absence of food.

By using food treats, in conjunction with life rewards, you'll keep training fun and interesting for your puppy while helping build reliability in their behaviour.

 

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Puppy spending time alone

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Home alone

All puppies have to get used to spending some time by themselves.  Help your puppy learn that their time alone can be a positive thing, through training and a little planning. 

Home alone

All puppies have to get used to spending some time by themselves.  Help your puppy learn that their time alone can be a positive thing, through training and a little planning. 

Start small

You should begin by leaving your puppy alone in a room for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the amount of time.  The time alone should be a positive thing, so providing suitable play toys in your absence will help to keep them occupied.  Having your puppy crate trained means that you have a safe refuge for these short periods of confinement, as well as a place where your puppy feels relaxed.            

              

Leaving the house

Start leaving the house for short periods and gradually increase the amount of time your puppy is left. The length of time alone should be varied so your puppy learns that you leaving doesn’t always mean you will be gone for a long time.  

When leaving them alone it's important not to make lots of fuss saying goodbye; it's better to simply leave as if nothing is happening.  On returning, it can help to ignore your puppy for a few minutes so they are not rewarded for any over-excitable behaviour.

If your puppy has had an accident and messed in the house you should simply clean it up as if nothing has happened, and never punish them for it.  It may also help to leave a radio on whilst out, so your puppy has some background distractions and the home is not so quiet.  This will also drown out any noises coming from outside that your puppy may react to.

Boredom busters

Toys that provide mental stimulation such as chew toys and those that dispense kibble as a reward for puzzle solving, help keep boredom at bay.  Remember to rotate toys on a daily basis so that they maintain their novelty factor. 

Consider other ways for your pup to stay entertained, such as creating a digging area using a child’s sand pit.  This can also teach a puppy where the ‘approved’ digging location is and help save your garden.

 

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Grooming your puppy

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Make grooming time fun!

As part of general handling, you’ll need to get your puppy accustomed to being groomed and washed.  This is also a great time to inspect the condition of their skin and coat.  When brushing and bathing, be gentle and and initially keep the sessions short.  Be sure to offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, so that grooming time is fun and a chance for you both to bond.  Check out our tips for brushing, bathing and nail trimming.

Make grooming time fun

As part of general handling, you’ll need to get your puppy accustomed to being groomed and washed.  This is also a great time to inspect the condition of their skin and coat. 

When brushing and bathing, be gentle, move slowly and initially keep the sessions short.  Progress only at a pace your puppy is comfortable with.  Be sure to offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, so that grooming time is fun and a chance for you both to bond.

Brushing your puppy

Different dog breeds have different grooming requirements, so be sure to look into what grooming tools you might need for your puppy.

To help keep your puppy looking their best, here’s our guide for how often to brush:

Short-haired breeds:     brush 1 to 2 times per week

Medium-length coats:    brush every second day

Long-haired breeds:      brush gently every day

While your puppy is getting used to being brushed, offer lots of positive reinforcement with treats and praise, to keep grooming time enjoyable.

Bathing your puppy

As a rule of thumb, try to limit baths to no more frequently than once a month as bathing removes natural oils from your puppy’s coat.  Use lukewarm water and a specially formulated puppy shampoo.  Once bathed, wipe your puppy down with a towel and keep them warm until they are properly dry.

To help your puppy stay looking great in between baths, keep up regular brushing and combing in conjunction with wiping with a towel or pet wipes.  Regularly check your puppy’s ears, and if you see any discharge or abnormalities be sure to check in with your veterinarian.

How do I trim my puppy's nails?

Proper care of claws (nails) is important, and sometimes puppies need their claws trimmed.  Use a pet claw trimmer and have someone gently restrain your puppy, or better still, ask your puppy to offer their paws.  Trim each claw back a little at a time until you get close to the quick, the pink part where the blood supply is.  You can see where this is on white claws, but you will need to use your judgement on dark coloured claws. 

If your puppy has any dew claws, keep your eye on them as they will need a regular clip.  Be sure to pair this exercise with food treats to ensure a positive association with claw trimming. 

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