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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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Basic puppy training

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Sit, stay and come

Puppies sure are on a steep learning curve, especially in their first few months.  How’s your puppy going with the three key commands of sit, stay and come?      

                                                                                                                           

Sit, stay and come

Puppies sure are on a steep learning curve, especially in their first few months. 

How’s your puppy going with the three key commands of sit, stay and come?

Positive reinforcement

Puppy training should be based on a positive reward based training method.  This gentle method of training is effective with all breeds of dog. Punishing your puppy with harsh reprimands if they misbehave is not necessary.  

The key to your puppy learning desirable behaviour is to ignore the alternative undesirable behaviour.  By rewarding desirable ‘good dog’ conduct, your puppy will offer these behaviours more often.  Likewise not rewarding poor behaviour will encourage it to cease.

Rewards

For early puppy training, food treats are generally the most motivating and convenient reward.  However, as the desired behaviour is learned, the use of food treats should be phased out and replaced with other forms of reward.  This can include offering praise, patting or playing with a toy, as well as 'life-rewards' which are things your puppy enjoys in their daily life such as games, trips to places they like, extra walks etc

Remember that food treats should not make up more than 10% of your puppy’s daily food intake and chocolate should not be used as a treat for your dog.  If you need to do a lot of food reward training, which is common in the early days with your puppy, consider using a portion of your puppy’s main meal dry kibble for training.  That way they are receiving complete and balanced nutrition, and you can reduce their main meal volume accordingly to avoid over-feeding. 

‘Sit’ Command

Hold a food treat in your hand and place your hand in front of your puppy’s nose.  Gradually move your hand upwards.  Your puppy will follow the food treat causing their head to move upwards and their backside to move towards the floor.  Just before your puppy’s rear touches the floor, say ‘sit’.  At the moment their rear touches the floor, praise and reward.  Repeat over several training sessions.

The next step is to fade out the food lure.  Say ‘sit’ and use the same hand signal as in step one but do not have food in your hand.  When your puppy sits, then you can praise and reward them with a treat.

‘Stay’ Command

Begin with your puppy sitting in front of you.  Say ‘stay’ and wait 2 to 3 seconds.  If your puppy does not move, praise and reward them.  If your puppy moves, simply turn away and do not offer a reward.  Now ask your puppy to ‘stay’ and take one small step sideways.  If your puppy remains still, offer praise and reward them.  Gradually increase the distance you move away from your puppy.

‘Come’ Command

Show your puppy that you have their favourite treat or toy.  Call your puppy’s name followed by the word ‘come’ in an enthusiastic tone.  Step backwards.  As your puppy comes towards you, praise and reward them.  If there are others in the household, practice calling the puppy between you.  Never ever call your puppy to you and punish them.  This will make them less likely to come to you the next time you call.

Everyone learns best when they're having fun, so keep your practice sessions short and enjoyable.

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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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How to stop your puppy 'jumping up'

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Jumping up

While we all love coming home to an affectionate puppy or dog, it’s important to avoid inadvertently encouraging ‘jumping up’ behaviour.  Your cute (and small-ish) puppy will grow, and you might not want to see this behaviour when they reach adulthood.

Jumping up

While we all love coming home to an affectionate puppy or dog, it’s important to avoid inadvertently encouraging ‘jumping up’ behaviour.  Your cute (and small-ish) puppy will grow, and you might not want to see this behaviour when they reach adulthood.

Be consistent 

Now is the time to be consistent in the way you respond to your puppy’s behaviour.  If you praise and give attention to your puppy when they jump up, they’re being reinforced to offering you this behaviour.  They will not understand why you are reacting differently when they become a bigger dog.

How do I train my puppy not to 'jump up'?

Reward your puppy for an alternative behaviour such as sitting or having all four paws on the floor.  If your puppy jumps on you, immediately turn away.  Do not look at or speak to your dog.  When they get down and have all paws on the ground, immediately praise and reward. 

Consistently practice this over and over so that your puppy learns the connection between having all paws on the ground and a reward.  Ensure this is consistently applied by all family, friends and visitors. Set your puppy up for success!  Anticipate jumping up and instead ask for the alternative behaviour.  Your puppy will learn that they don’t need to jump up.  Instead, if they are calm and sit, they will get your attention.

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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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Treating your puppy

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This is an image of a puppy running.

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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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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Toilet training? Help is at hand!

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

Toilet training

Toilet training your puppy is a process that will require time and patience.  Like all training, this should be based on a positive reward based training method.  Remember that every puppy is unique, so they all learn at their own pace.  Supervision and regular trips to the toilet area are key when it comes to successful toilet training.  Ideally, you want to avoid mistakes from happening in the first place.  Here we discuss our tips for toilet training success.

Toilet training 

Toilet training your puppy is a process that will require time and patience.  Like all training, this should be based on a positive reward based training method.  Remember that every puppy is unique, so they all learn at their own pace.

Your puppy has a small bladder and bowel so they will need to be taken outdoors to toilet regularly, otherwise accidents will happen!  Supervision and regular trips to the toilet area are key when it comes to successful toilet training.  Ideally, you want to avoid mistakes from happening in the first place.  Here we discuss our tips for toilet training success.

Regular toilet trips

To set your puppy up for success, take them out every hour during the day as well as anytime you see signs they may need to go.  These include sniffing, walking away or in circles, scratching at the floor, waiting by the door or being restless.  When your puppy relieves themselves in their toilet spot be sure to praise and reward them.  Young puppies will need to be taken outdoors to toilet at least every 2 to 3 hours during the night so set your alarm for the next few weeks!

If accidents happen

If you catch your puppy in the process of toileting inside, calmly pick them up and carry them outside.  

Never ever punish your puppy for toileting inside as this will only confuse your puppy and delay the process of toilet training.  These puppies tend to toilet out of sight of their owner for fear of being punished, for example, under the sofa, behind the TV, in another room etc.

Even in the rain

Teach your puppy that it's possible to go to the toilet outside when it's raining or the grass is wet! This means that initially you will have to take your puppy outside in the rain and wait until they go to the toilet.  Praise and reward for a job well done!

When you're out

If you need to leave your puppy alone while you're at work, confine them to an area such as the laundry or kitchen.  You can also create a suitable space using a puppy play pen.  Provide some comfortable bedding or use their crate leaving the door open, fresh water and a range of chew toys. 

Create a toileting area away from the puppy’s bed, as puppies naturally want to toilet away from their sleeping area.  Use whatever surface your puppy will be toileting on long-term.  For puppies that are likely to toilet on grass, use a litter tray containing turf.  For puppies that will live in a more urban environment, you could use a litter tray containing concrete tiles.  Materials such as newspaper or commercial pee pads can be used in a pinch, but they have the disadvantage of not helping the puppy develop a preference for the surface they will eventually be toileting on.  If you can use that type of surface now, you can help your puppy make the connection.

Consistency is key

Ensure that every member of the household is consistent when toilet training.  This will help your puppy learn faster.  Remember to be patient, and if you can maintain a good sense of humour during this period, that's an advantage!

Follow these tips and your puppy will be well on their way to being toilet trained.

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Problem barking in dogs

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Puppy 03 puppy feeding time from Advancepet on Vimeo.

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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Puppies and chewing behaviour

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This is an image of a puppy with a stick in their mouth

Nom nom nom

Given that puppies learn through mouthing behaviours, it's normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects.  Many pet parents find that chewing behaviours start to increase in intensity when their puppy is around 4 to 6 months of age due to teething.  Chewing helps a dog achieve a number of things, so let's take a look at how you can help manage chewing behaviours in your puppy.

Nom nom nom

Given that puppies learn through mouthing behaviours, it's normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects.  Many pet parents find that chewing behaviours start to increase in intensity when their puppy is around 4 to 6 months of age due to teething.  

Chewing helps a dog achieve a number of things.  For puppies, it’s a way to help relieve teething pain when the gums are sore and new teeth are erupting.  For older dogs, chewing helps exercise the jaws to keep them strong, as well as promoting dental health by helping keep teeth clean. 

Chewing also plays an important role in alleviating boredom and can help a puppy self-soothe which relieves mild anxiety or frustration. 

Tensions can arise over what is being chewed - a chew toy is fine, your new shoes are not!

How can I stop my puppy from chewing everything?

Given the benefits that chewing provides to puppies, we don't want to inhibit the behaviour but we do need to teach a puppy what is okay to chew and what is not. 

By offering a range of chew toys, and rotating them regularly to maintain their novelty factor and prevent boredom, you can show your puppy what is acceptable to chew.  Provide a range of different toys with varying shapes, textures and flavours. 

As part of puppy proofing your home, be sure to remove any items you value out of your puppy’s reach to prevent them being chewed.  This also helps ensure your puppy's safety (think chewed electrical wires). 

Ensure that the chew toys you offer your puppy are safe.  Inspect them regularly for signs of wear and replace any damaged toys.

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