For the average pet owner, training a pet to behave nicely can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, there are a few basic principles that you can use to help your training progress. I’ve learned these basics in my past three years as a zoo show animal trainer. I’ve worked with over 30 species on stage, from macaws to sea lions, and used training to care for many more animals. These four tips can help you with your own pet, whether it’s a dog, a cat – or anything else!
Set your pet up for success. Make it easy for your pet to choose to do the right thing. Think of it this way – if I want you to go through the door on the right, what are the chances you’ll do that if the door on the left says “Do Not Enter?” When working with your pet, work in an area that is free from distractions. Start practicing “heel” inside, not outside where there are a thousand scents stealing his attention from you. When teaching him to drop a toy, start training with his least favorite toy. These are just a couple of examples on how to set up your pet for success.
Remember that your pet is always learning. Just because you stopped training doesn’t mean your pet’s brain turned itself off. Spending 15 minutes training a dog not to pull on leash amounts to nothing if you take your dog out on four more walks where he can pull because you don’t have time to train. Set your pet up for success by not allowing him to practice bad behaviors (in the case of leash pulling, you can walk your dog on a Gentle Leader or no-pull harness when you’re too busy for training).
Reward good behavior. So many times, we don’t think about our pets’ behavior until they are doing something bad. A dog sitting quietly gets nothing – but isn’t a quiet dog exactly what we want when we are chatting with friends or watching TV? Be on the lookout for good behavior, and give praise, love, treats – anything to let your pet know you like what he’s doing.
Never reward bad behavior. Now you might be thinking, “When would I ever do that?” Maybe more often than you think! Have you ever fed your cat because she wouldn’t stop meowing for food? Or put a leash on your dog even though he kept jumping like crazy? Remember, your pet is always learning! Don’t give in to a meowing cat (set her up for success and fill the bowl before the meowing starts). If your dog gets excited about the leash, put it away for a few seconds each time he starts jumping, until he’s willing to sit calmly while you clip it on. Keep this principle in mind anytime you see bad behavior and ask yourself if you’re accidentally rewarding your pet for being naughty.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll have a well-mannered family member in no time. Happy training!
Do you have questions? Ask in the comments!
Source: Personal experience