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Offer high-value rewards

Offer high-value rewards
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There’s nothing wrong with a well-deserved “Good boy!” and tummy rub, but they’re simply not as rewarding as that coveted, freeze-dried liver or another delicious doggie treat. You just need to find out what treat your dog will go crazy for when performing new or preferred behaviours. “Exploring your dog’s high-value food rewards is a lot of fun and part of the process,” says dog behaviourist, Russell Hartstein. “Always carry a pouch or bag with your puppy’s daily allocation of food and lots of treats in it to teach your dog appropriate new behaviours.” Just be sure to consider these treats as part of your dog’s daily food allotment, or you may wind up with an overweight pup on your hands.

Read on for the best dogs for first-time owners.

Train in a boring environment

Train in a boring environment
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Ever try teaching your fur baby something new at the dog park or while interacting with people? It probably didn’t go as well as expected. Here’s why: too much distraction. “Initially, as with any new behaviour, you want to start in a boring, non-distracting environment, typically a room inside your home with no toys, with your dog on a leash,” says Hartstein. And keep those high-value treats handy for rewards.

Stop yanking on the leash

Stop yanking on the leash
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Are you walking with your dog or is your dog walking you? If it’s the latter, forget about yanking the leash. It won’t work. “Dogs have an opposition reflex. You pull back, and they pull forward. They are not being stubborn or difficult. It’s built into the way a dog is designed,” says Hartstein. In other words, if a dog pulls and gets to where it wants to go, the dog is rewarded and will continue the behaviour. The solution? Head back inside for some walking on the leash. “After your dog has walked successfully next to you many times in your home, advance to the backyard, then the front yard, then a few houses down, etc,” suggests Hartstein. Reward them for walking close to you.

Check out these loyal dog breeds that will always be by your side.

Paws on the floor, please

Paws on the floor, please
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We’re all suckers for cute puppies, and they’re just as excited to jump on us to receive the attention we give them. It may seem rude, but it’s important to tell everyone your fur baby comes into contact with that your pup is in training and they should only pay attention to him/her when they have settled down with all four paws on the floor. “When a new person wants to greet my puppy I ask my puppy to sit (or stand) and then offer them treats while the person is petting them,” says Hartstein.

Why do my dog’s paws smell like corn chips? Read on to find out.

“Leave it” is better

“Leave it” is better
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Dogs are attracted to things that repulse us, like food that fell out of a garbage can or goose poop. Besides being gross, objects dogs pick up are potentially harmful. Harstein says the “leave it” command is more effective than “drop it.” It makes sense – “leave it” is preventative, while “drop it” means it’s already too late. Again, practise in a boring environment and not on the street where distractions abound. “I do many iterations of a behaviour before we walk on the overstimulating and distracting streets where a dog may pick up something dangerous or unwanted,” says Hartstein.

Stop digging!

Stop digging!
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Digging is a natural and fun activity for dogs – we just don’t appreciate it when they do it in our yards or gardens. The solution for dogs that love to dig is to give them a place to do it. “Set up a sandbox or a designated area where you encourage and reward your dog for digging. That will also keep them out of your vegetable garden or flower bed,” suggests Hartstein. You may even want to hide a few toys in the dirt for them to find as a way to reward them for digging in their designated spot.

Find out which dog breeds are calm with easygoing personalities.

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Teach them where to poo

Teach them where to poo
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You’re a good parent and always have poo bags on hand but it’s still kind of embarrassing when your dog pops a squat on your neighbour’s front lawn while they’re sitting on the front porch. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. Just teach them where to poo. “Guide your dog to an area where you want them to poop, wait a few minutes, and don’t play or speak with them. Allow them to sniff and do their business and reward them heavily for eliminating by immediately giving them many high-value food rewards,” says Harstein.

Should your dog be sleeping in your bed? Read on to find out.

Let them linger after peeing or pooing

Let them linger after peeing or pooing
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It may be easier to open the door and let your pup out for a quick potty break, but you’ll end up with poo land mines everywhere. “Keep your dog on a leash so that they get used to eliminating when you are close by,” says Hartstein. The trick is to reward them with high-value treats when they go, but don’t rush back inside the second they are done, which is often seen as a punishment, and dogs quickly learn to hold it in, so they don’t have to go back inside. “Instead, have them poop immediately after going outside and then take them for a nice long walk as an additional reward for going pee and poop on cue in your preferred location,” suggests Harstein.

Calm their fears

Calm their fears
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We expect dogs to bark when they’re excited or if someone knocks on the door, but a vacuum or hair dryer? Why would they bark at an inanimate object? Dog trainer, Donna Culbert, says barking is also a way dogs communicate fear. “Dogs typically bark at vacuum cleaners and blow dryers because they make loud noises and they move. Sometimes your dog’s prey drive kicks and he must hunt down the Dyson in the living room! Slow desensitisation will help your dog acclimate to it,” Culbert says. To do this, leave the object (unplugged and powered off) in a room with treats sprinkled around it and let your pooch investigate it on its own time. Then, pick up the object and move it around, away from your dog, giving treats for calm behaviour. Next, turn the object on, but keep it stationary. Once your dog has accepted the object under all those circumstances, reward them for calm behaviour and you should be able to use the object without any barking.

Check out these unexpected reasons your dog might have anxiety.

The reward must equal the joy

The reward must equal the joy
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What kind of reward is it if the command “Come!” is followed by going inside and being told to lie down? Culbert says the reward must equal the joy of the activity your dog is leaving. For example, chasing cars is fun, especially for herding breeds, but since they’re not exactly herding sheep in the meadow, it’s not safe. “Instead, pair your ‘come’ command with a squeaky toy or ball and then have your dog chase you. When he reaches you, play tug for a minute and then let him have the toy,” says Culbert.

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