beware of what you reward

This has probably been the most useful summation of what it means to train a dog.

The first lesson I’ve learned over this past week is how difficult it is to not use negative reinforcement, not that I was planning on doing so. But a dog doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no” or “bad dog” unless it’s associated with praise or punishment–the problem with the latter being that when there’s no risk of punishment (i.e. the person there to implement it), then the dog is likely to do the undesired behavior.

No, you want a dog to feel good about its behavior.

I feel like I’ve mostly gotten past that initial instinct to react negatively to bad behavior, but rewarding the right behavior is challenging. For instance, you’re supposed to mark desired behaviors using treats. Well, eventually replacing the treat.

How do I know she recognizes the associated desired behavior (and how do I make sure that people she meets don’t accidentally reward her for undesired behavior)?

What I’ve learned is:

  1. Reward the desired behavior right away (or else there will be no association).
  2. Exhaust my dog when I’m around her so she’ll be too tired for some of those destructive behaviors.
  3. Rome wasn’t built in a day–neither will a good dog. Have A LOT of patience.
  4. People will respect your wishes if you tell them.

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