Using positive reinforcement
So you’ve finally adopted a pet for all the right reasons after deciding on the breed, the gender, the colour, and possibly even the breeder. Ah, but now the hard work really begins: you have to prepare the house for your new family member and decide what type of lifestyle he will enjoy for the rest of his days. And that means agreeing on how he will be trained. Remember that cats and dogs often live upwards of 10 years, so if you’re going to be a responsible pet owner, you have to start things off on the right foot.
Whether you’ve adopted a puppy, an older dog or even a cat, you’ll want to set the ground rules from day one. It’s important that you understand your pet’s needs, teach him what conduct is expected of him, and create a strong bond with him. This is where good obedience and training resources come in handy. The tricky part is: where do you start and whom do you trust? While there are certainly many schools of thought when it comes to training, why not start with positive reinforcement?
More and more owners are shying away from punishment-based training techniques, and for good reason. Studies have shown that punishment has adverse effects on pets. Not only does it increase the risk of physical injury, but it can also lead to fear, anxiety and, in some cases, aggression. Many pets trained using such techniques fear their own owners and develop long-term behavioural issues.
With positive reinforcement, pets are so motivated to work with their owners that they give them their all because their good behaviours keep are rewarded and their bad behaviours are ignored. Conversely, pets trained using punishment techniques give very little because their good behaviours aren’t rewarded, and since they are reprimanded for bad behaviours, they hesitate to make any move for fear they will be punished for choosing the wrong one!
There are many good puppy kindergarten classes that you can take to start your puppy off on the right foot. You can then do the rest of the training yourself at home or opt for group training, if needed. Whichever route you choose, the key to success lies in consistency: everyone in the family must enforce the same rules so your pet won’t get confused.
Another important tip: spend the first week at home with your new pet so you can bond with him, reassure him and, of course, potty train him!