‘Real Life’ Training and ‘Real Life’ Rewards

Downtown has definitely gone to the dogs. These days it’s impossible to walk more than just a few feet without bumping into one (or more) of our canine neighbors. Ever wonder how some pups are so polite while others can be holy terrors on four-legs? As the city bustles more intensely than ever before, how can you ensure that your pup is among the former group of well-healed canines? A little training every day goes a long way in setting your dog up for successful city living.


One of the most common mistakes we make with our dogs is assuming that dogs view training the same way that we view schooling—basically; that learning is reserved for the classroom. In reality, both dogs and people are learning constantly, day-by-day and second-by-second. In order to have the best-behaved companion you can, it is necessary to reinforce all of their desired behaviors during the course of daily life. “Use it or Lose it” is a good motto to follow when exercising both your dog’s new, and known behaviors. How can you practice your training during ‘real life’? It’s easier than you may think – Here’s a few examples you can do right now.

Around the neighborhood:Going shopping or grabbing coffee? Take your dog! There are many DTLA shops and cafes that are dog friendly, but if you’re not sure, always call ahead and ask. Once you are in the store you can practice walking nicely on leash, sitting politely for petting, no jumping, sit-stays before entering/exiting, or while under your chair table/chair if you are seated at a cafe. If you’re ok with people petting your pup, you can use this opportunity to practice nice greetings by having your dog ‘Say Hi!’ in a controlled manner.

Expecting company: Practice sitting politely when guests, friends or relatives visit. Practice sit-stays when answering your door to receive a delivery, or when you can hear that the trash collection is nearby. Practice sit and down stays while you are watching TV, on the phone, cooking, eating dinner, or working at home on your computer. By reinforcing this positive behavior your dog learns to be quiet and relaxed during times that you are busy and need to work; and it doesn’t require much extra effort on your part to train the dog while you are doing other things.

Around your home: Use the recall command in your home in the course of your daily activities, such as when you want your dog to come for mealtime, or when your dog runs to the front door or a window to bark at a buses, trucks, neighbors, or other distractions. Recall is your dog’s most important command, so remember to always make this a positive command. Treat well and treat often!

Use all of your dog’s behaviors to earn him “what he wants.” By making your dog earn what he wants before giving it to him is a learning opportunity! If your dog wants to go out, he has to sit for his leash to be put on, or lay down at the door, or does a trick instead. Do the same when your dog wants his dinner, or to play, or be petted or given attention. It doesn’t really matter what behavior you ask for, as long as you ask the dog to do “something” in exchange for a valuable “life” reward. Always remember to be prepared to reward.

Treats are a great way to motivate and reinforce good behavior. Although many pet guardians are often concerned with treating, over-treating or bribing their dogs both during the course of training, or their everyday lives, our team of dog trainers at the Training Lab (Pussy & Pooch Pet Lifestyle Center) adhere to the Theory of Motivation. The Theory of Motivation states that in order to have an effectively trained dog, you must be able to obtain and maintain their engagement, or focus.

How is this done? The answer is both simple and difficult. You must be more interesting than anything else around your dog. There are a few ways to accomplish this goal. You can use food, toys, attention, or— you can use nothing.

The easiest is through the proper application of treats. If your dog is not motivated by food, feel free to use their favorite toy instead. Using attention is a little trickier because whether you realize it or not, you give your dog attention all day, every day. In order to use this as a reward, you have to use it sparingly so that it becomes a treat, not an expectation. Lastly, remains the school of owners who wish to use nothing to motivate their pet because their dog should simply follow the rules and behave. This is often the most frustrating scenario both for pet and parent because there are few successes and fewer rewards. Expecting an animal, especially while in the learning stage, to perform without any sort of payoff is akin to your boss demanding overtime without any compensation. Why put yourselves through the frustration when a well-timed treat or squeaky toy is more than enough to build a positive behavior that you can cash in on in the future? You can always fade out, or decrease the amount of treats you use as rewards, and even substitute your dog’s normal food as a treat instead of snacks.

The team at P&P is committed to the ability to positively enhance your relationship with your pets through outstanding products and services, and advocating for a modern pet lifestyle, which includes wellness through diet, exercise, training, socialization, and playtime/enrichment. >> To learn more about our training programs,please visit http://bit.ly/TrainLab

Live well!