PET PARENTING POSITIVELY™…Part 2. Linda Michaels, M.A., — Del Mar Dog Training

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Welcome! You’re on the way to learning the Foundations of Pet Parenting Positively™. Let’s continue on this fascinating journey discovering the scientifically-endorsed positive reinforcement training methods. Code words — Do No Harm

Containment Management: Containment as a management tool may help prevent frustration and it can speed up learning. Until your dog has learned good household manners, teach your dog to accept restrictions, such as crating at night for housetraining and accepting a baby gate or an X-pen to cordon off a room in your home until more spaced is earned. Always provide your dog with things to do…afterall, that’s only fair. We all need things to do.

How Dogs Communicate Dogs communicate with us primarily through:

1. Actions  
2. Body language.

Teach your dog the behaviors you want, such as “Sit” and “Come” and make these behaviors the ones that get your dog the things s/he wants. When your dog repeats a behavior, your dog is telling you that the behavior has benefited him/her in the past to get what s/he wants.  

Be very careful about the resources you use for behavior advice...your dog is depending on you to get it right!

Be very careful about the resources you use for behavior advice…your dog is depending on you to get it right! See

What your dog wants is food, attention, play, petting, chew items, or to go for a walk. Figure out the relative value of each reward/reinforcement in context, so you can use it most judiciously.

You control all of the resources your dog wants. All you need to do is learn how to manipulate the rewards in order to get the behavior that you want! There is never a need for aversive control with a companion pet.

Consistency in Communication Apply dog rules consistently throughout your household. Positive does not mean permissive. Dogs love routines. Training is a two-sided coin: Please have all members of the household, visitors, and employees agree upon and reinforce the behaviors you want, and stop reinforcing the behaviors you don’t want. Consistency accelerates the learning process for your dog. Conversely, if you or others send your dog “mixed messages”, your dog cannot learn what is expected or wanted. Don’t ignore an unwanted behavior one day and inadvertently reward it on another. That’s not fair to your dog! Being consistent and clear is being nice to your dog. Never let anyone tell you that you need to hurt your dog physically or psychologically in order to train your dog. It’s simply not true

Using Food as a Reward If you’ve ever taken a Psychology 101 course, you know that food is a primary reinforcer. It’s a powerful training tool, so don’t let anyone tell you it’s a bad idea to use food!  Positive reinforcement training is an effective training method, in part, because you hand-feed treats. Most living things love food and we all need food to survive. Using food judiciously to both motivate and reward is a method that quickly teaches new behaviors. Don’t worry; continuous food rewards are pared down after a behavior is well-learned. Please use a graduated treat system, starting with lower value treats when possible for obedience training, and switch to high value treats when require for difficult emotional issues. Be very careful about the resources you use for behavior advice…your dog is depending on you to get it right.

Now that you have a foundation in positive reinforcement principles, you’re ready to move forward with some training and behavior modification. Look for the next installment of Pet Parenting Positively™, coming soon.

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Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us ©2014LindaMichaels. All rights reserved.


Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology, Del Mar Dog Training, serves clients in Del Mar and San Diego County from La Jolla to Carlsbad, plus Rancho Santa Fe, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Linda Michaels was recently rated one of the top ten dog trainers in the United States, by Top Ten Magazine. Linda has a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology (Hons), and is the creator of the Hierarchy of Dog Needs™ (HDN). She focuses on the psychological aspects of dog behavior that often mirror human psychological conditions, such as: fear, separation/attachment disorders, and aggression toward humans and other dogs. She also teaches private, customized basic manners/obedience lessons for dogs of all ages and every breed.

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