Do I always have to feed him?

Food is the most convenient motivator. Always keep up a high reward schedule at first, when learning new things or when working in a high distraction environment. You can then start varying the reward, ie with praise or toys instead, but only when the dog knows the cue well. You may need to ‘refresh’ every now and then with food to keep the dog motivated.

What if I don’t have food on me?

I would at first – for example, I like to cook a lot of chicken, then cut it very small and put in individual size bags and in the freezer. I take out a bag when I need it. However, as the dog becomes more trained you don’t always have to carry food (although I always do in high distraction environments).

Will he get fat?

Make sure to take into account the training rewards as part of your dog’s daily diet. Use things like peas or apples (but not the pips!) as part of your rewards if your dog likes them. I also avoid commercial treats because they are usually high in fat, and too big to be used properly.

Shouldn’t he want to obey me anyway?

Dogs haven’t read the books on dominance hierarchy. Scientifically no modern studies have agreed with the dominance model. Dogs do what’s good for dogs – they will behave if it makes sense for them.

Unwanted behaviour – saying NO!

One big shift with this way of training is giving up the idea of punishment. Does punishment work to curb unwanted behaviour? Yes, but…. Punishment only works if the dog associates the punishment with the exact behaviour you want him to stop doing. That means that you have to have amazing timing to get it right. Frankly, if you are asking me for help, you don’t have good enough timing. There are also other problems with punishment. It can cause unwanted side effects – the dog barks as you enter the house, you punish the dog, the dog associates the punishment not with barking, but with you entering the house… well done you have made your dog more likely to bark at you because he associates seeing you with pain or fear. It has been found that aggression in dogs can increase when they are routinely training with force. Finally it will affect you and your dog’s relationship. So what do you do instead? Reward the behaviour you want or teach the dog what you want to do instead.  If you want to understand the science, look for Karyn Prior’s books or The  Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson.

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