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Carrots not Sticks

I am celebrating…want to know why? At the end of August the Government announced that Electric Shock Collars for use on dogs and cats will be banned in England. This is great news as various charities, the Kennel Club and other Welfare organisations have been lobbying for this for a long time. This Ban will follow Wales which already banned the use of shock collars in 2010 and also Scotland earlier this year.

The Dogs Trust announcement ‘’We are delighted that the Government has announced a ban on the use of electronic shock collars. Scientific research has demonstrated that electronic devices which deliver an aversive stimulus have a negative impact on dog welfare, so this ban will have a major positive impact for dogs in the UK. ‘’

The key here for me is ‘Welfare’- with all of my training at Canine Connections the emphasis is always on the welfare of the dog and using training methods that promote kind, ethical and positive training. There is no need to train a dog through fear, intimidation or pain. So with that in mind lets look at the ways we can train our canine companions…

Basically you need to work out what motivates your dog. So that could be food, toys, praise or access to the environment. All dogs are different and have different motivators.

1 Food is always good, I regularly use chicken, sausage, frankfurters or mild cheese, liver treats, sprats to help train puppies and dogs. It is useful to find out what is the best reward. E.g one of our dogs likes frankfurters but his top treat will always be cheese!

Sometimes owners will say ‘well he will do anything for bribery’. Let me explain the difference between ‘bribery’ and ‘reward’.

With bribery we would be actively showing the dog the treat all the time to get them to perform a behaviour like a sit. With a reward, we ASK the dog for the behaviour and when he does it we say, yes! and then the reward follows from your treat pouch or pocket. i.e. it is out of sight until the behaviour occurs.

Obviously when we are teaching a dog a new behaviour we do use a treat as a lure to help them but once that behaviour is consistent we will be either using a hand gesture or a verbal cue.

2 Toys are great for recall practice as some dogs just aren’t motivated by treats. Chasing a toy after you have called them is a great reward and also if you are using an interactive toy that you can hold while your dog can tug all the better as you are increasing that valuable bond between you and your dog. ie we do fun things together! A quick tip here is to play with the toy at ground level with your dog, getting them to chase it along the ground rather than waving it in their face.

3 Praise is often enough for some dogs, you know those dogs that go all gooey and will have a bright look in their eyes.

4 The environment. Now this is a big one that most people overlook as a reward. The environment is full of exciting things for a dog to see, smell or chase ( safely) I know that two of our dogs find going outside very exciting and rewarding so in order to gain that reward of going outside I ask them for a quiet sit by the back door, get some eye contact and hey presto the door opens to the environment.

Some dogs you can mix and match, be creative and find out what works for your dog.

Also, its not just general obedience training that can benefit your dog, try your hand at Scentwork, Mantrailing, Dog Parkour, there are so many new activities for dogs to do these days! Two of our Dogs take part in Scentwork Trials and love it! (see picture of Kilo and Cliffie)

At the end of the day having fun is key with your dog and its welfare is always high on my list. Your main aim with your companion animal is to develop trust,have patience (remember they speak a different language than us!) and train using positive, kind methods.

Tracey Prall Canine Connections Dog Training

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