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Every interaction with your pet is a training opportunity

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We view training as a specific activity that we do with our pet, with an allotted time and plan. But your dog or cat is learning all the time, even if you don’t intend to teach them anything.

This means that sometimes we teach them to do things that we would rather they not do. Here are some examples.

Train your dog to jump

Suppose your dog jumps on you when you come home. First of all, it is important to say that if you like this behavior, it is good that it continues; it’s entirely up to you. That said, you still need to train your dog not to jump up on other people, because maybe he doesn’t want muddy paw prints on his clothes, is nervous around dogs, he is crippled, has recently had surgery, etc. It can be very annoying having someone else’s dog jump on you.

Mathieu Gervais/Pexels

Mathieu Gervais/Pexels

So suppose your dog jumps on you when you come home and you’d rather he didn’t. But, because your dog is cute and tries to be friendly, maybe you’ll pet him as he jumps and talk to him in a soft voice. By doing so, you are reinforcing the behavior and it is likely to continue. Your dog jumps because he wants to be near you and receive affection, and you give it to him.

If you don’t want your dog jumping on you, there are several alternative behaviors you can adopt. train to do, like sit and wait to be petted or just keep all four paws on the floor. These are easy to train with positive reinforcement. Because your dog is expecting affection in this situation, this is a time when petting can reinforce the alternative behavior of waiting to pet them until they are seated (or have all four paws on the ground, depending on what you decide to do). To do). But for best results you will also want to use treats as we know that food is very effective for training, much more so than petting (eg Fukuzawa and Hayashi 2013).

In addition to training the behavior you want, you have to remember to stop reinforcing the jumps you don’t want. Otherwise it’s a bit confusing for your dog and the jump will continue because after all it’s getting stronger. But don’t yell at them or punish them for jumping up, as this harms your relationship with your dog and poses risks to his well-being (Todd, 2020).

Train your dog or cat to raid the trash can

Another common way people accidentally train their dog or cat is to teach them to search a cupboard, the trash can, or the kitchen counter for food. If food is left out, it’s natural for your pet to want to eat it. Then they were generously rewarded – with a chicken breast or a piece of fish or something else tasty – for jumping on the counter or sticking their heads in the cupboard.

The obvious solution is to always store food out of your pet’s reach, whether that means putting it in the fridge, somewhere up high, or in a dog- or cat-proof cupboard.

You may prefer a solution in which the dog or cat is trained not to eat the food. But teaching your dog to “let go” only works if you’re there. The thing about pets Eating food like this is that it often happens when you’re not around. So the best solution is management—do not leave food where your pet can find it. Unfortunately, this requires discipline from the humans in the household.

There are other situations where making your pet work for food is a great thing to do. This is what is called enrichment and the food is intended for them (see “2 ways to make a cat happier”).

It’s also worth noting that although many people don’t realize it, cats can be trained (for more, see Todd 2022; Bradshaw and Ellis 2017). Cats are very adept at finding that cod fillet left in the kitchen and learn to look for food there in the future. In this case, something else could also be at play: cats like to be up high. So if your cat is hanging out on your kitchen counter, try creating another high space in the kitchen where they are allowed to be, such as a nearby cat condo.

Finally, if counter-surfing is happening while you’re cooking, you can teach your dog or cat to stay on a mat (or on the cat condo). Remember to use lots of small treats as positive reinforcement.

Don’t demand behaviors all the time

Even though your pet is learning all the time, that doesn’t mean you should demand behavior from him before giving him something like food or affection. Although there was a time when such programs were popular – often called NILIF (nothing in life is free) or the like – they have fallen out of favor. The reason is that we better understand how a good relationship develops between the dog or cat and its person and how important it is to meet the animal’s needs. As Kathy Sdao says in her wonderful book Much in life is free, “Some good things in a dog’s life should always be free – love, air, water, safety, freedom from pain, terror or extreme temperatures.”


Always learning

Your dog or cat is always learning and ideally you are too. As our knowledge of canine and feline science improves, there is always something new for pet sitters to learn. And you can also learn from your own pet. To pay Warning your interactions with your dog or cat. What do you think they learn from you outside of official training?

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