You Get What You Pay For - Catching your Primitive Dog Getting it Right

Training you primitive dog doesn’t have to be a formal affair. In fact when training isn’t scheduled into formal blocks of time, but instead is done throughout the day, your dog learns faster and will be more successful. Dogs are poor generalizers so if you want manners to be the default in your household, manners have to be a part of everyday life. But the good news it’s as easy is simply rewarding effort on your dog’s part.

I tell my clients that if they don’t want to have to ask for good behavior for the rest of their dog’s life, they are going to have to reward smaller attempts their dog’s make of their own accord. This means being armed with food rewards (special and high value food rewards) most of the time. At the onset this can sound inconvenient, but having a few pieces of freeze dried liver in your pocket becomes as second nature as keeping a cell phone in your pocket, and probably as rewarding too! 

It is paramount that you have something to reward your do when they offer a good behavior of their own accord. If they put in effort and don’t get a response they won’t try again. You are quite literally punishing their attempts at good behavior when they do not experience something they want in return. So be ready, or as I affectionately say, “be armed” with treats. Having food on you all the time also eliminates the risk of your dog learning that you don’t have treats so they shouldn’t bother. But reducing or eliminating food too fast, you are literally teaching your dog not to bother. Be generous until repetition and muscle memory have become semi-permanent.

 Young dogs can learn faster by watching you reinforce older dogs for good behavior.

Young dogs can learn faster by watching you reinforce older dogs for good behavior.

Let’s get started!
Practice good behaviors your dog already knows like asking for sit and down by saying "yes" and immediately rewarding them with a treat. Be generous! Don't start skipping out on rewards after a couple of days, weeks or months. We care creating important behavior change and that takes time! Believe it or not, the more you reward now, the easier it will be to remove treats later, when your dog is so used to performing the behaviors automatically that we can shift rewards to other things or simply less often. 

Now for the magic! 
If your dog offers good behaviors on their own without being prompted, say “yes” and reward that as well. Don’t take behaviors for granted. If your dog comes over to you on the couch and sits instead of jumping on you, JACKPOT!! In situations where you do not like a behavior your dog is doing, say their name and give them a moment (2 breaths) to do the right behavior. If they do not do the correct behavior, prompt them with a verbal command and a hand gesture. Wait one deep breath before repeating the command. Try not to yell or rapidly repeat commands to get your dog to comply. 

 Reinforcing a calm down on a bed is important, even if it's not graceful.

Reinforcing a calm down on a bed is important, even if it's not graceful.

By changing your routine slightly to catch your dog performing good behaviors and rewarding them generously you will quickly have a dog that understands what is valuable in your relationship and how to get the most out of it. Remember that this is how primitive dogs tick. They need to be able to understand how to get things they want and like. It is also important to remember that your affection and praise only goes so far so repeat after me - “DON’T SKIMP OUT ON THE TREATS!”

What behaviors has your dog learned to perform automatically and how has that impacted your life together? Tell us in the group!