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Pets: It's a matter of mind over misbehavior

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Andrea Lamping

In recent years, the field of dog training has undergone a revolution.

Traditional practices and methods rely mostly on physical control of the canine. But jerking, pulling, pinching, yelling, rolling, staring, choking and grabbing are exhausting, ineffective and damaging. Modern training completely bypasses these frustrations and concentrates on harnessing the source of all behavior: the canine brain.

Using patience, leadership and a little bit of psychology, you can inspire your dog to learn appropriate behaviors and extinguish those that are undesirable. Besides, the fact that modern training is a more humane approach to canine learning, it yields faster results, boosts confidence, reduces anxiety and stress, and it is much more fun for you and your beloved pet!.Training methods heavily based on correction, punishment and manipulation inhibit a dog's ability to learn, which causes the dog to shut down physically, mentally and emotionally.

If you intend to own a dog for ornamental purposes only, I find a stuffed toy to be the most suitable. However, if you have a dog because you want a steadfast companion, defender and true admirer that hangs on your every move, then here are a couple quick tips to become a genuine leader.

The first step is to emphasize behaviors that you do want from your dog. Make a list of desirable behaviors. Start rewarding those. You can use toys, food or throw your dog a praise party, but never take good behavior for granted. If he does something unfavorable, simply redirect him to an approved behavior, game or activity. Combined with consistency, this process will establish well-defined boundaries and communication.

Now, pay close attention to things that your dog loves. Is he driven by food, play, walks, meeting new friends? These all are reinforcing activities that you can use to condition behavior. For example, a dog pulls on his leash when he passes a mailbox that he simply must sniff. Should you stop at each mailbox to let your dog sniff? No, but what you can do is allow your dog to sniff after completing a task that you assign. For example, you can require 10 feet of heeling beside you on a loose leash before offering a release to go sniff the mailbox. This is called an environmental reward. Using this concept can turn an otherwise annoying training issue into a practical compromise and an opportunity to use everyday distractions to reward obedience.

There are thousands of ways to get what you want from your dog. Be creative and choose methods that will promote trust and respect. The dog of a true master obeys in faith, not fear.

Andrea J. Lamping trains dogs in the greater airport area, including Sewickley, Moon, Robinson and Hopewell. She can be reached at 724-984-7829 or visit her website at www.moon-walkers.com.

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