Pets: Make light work of dog training

WHILE we might be more inclined to hit the gym or go for a run during the lighter nights, the extra daylight hours should also be used to train our canine friends, according to the PDSA.

The veterinary charity, which believes patience is the key to good training, is urging dog owners to take advantage of the clocks going forward and the arrival of spring by spending some quality time training their pooch.

"Reward-based" training is regarded as one of the best methods for dogs, with the underlying theory that if a dog behaves in a certain way, he or she should be given a reward and will want to repeat that particular behaviour.

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By repeating the method several times, then adding a command, the dog will eventually respond to the word without needing the reward, according to the PDSA.

Anne Gallagher, 46, who has been training dogs professionally since 1999, agrees.

The dog trainer and pet behaviourist from Roslin says: "The reward used depends on each individual dog. For some dogs you can use healthy treats. Equally another very rewarding thing is toys, after they have done a wee exercise or whatever it may be, you can play with a toy with them.

"There are some trainers who tend to concentrate on punishment methods. No dogs need to learn that way.

The PDSA also advises that timing is everything and the reward should be given during or immediately after the particular behaviour, in order for the dog to understand the merit.

Miss Gallagher adds: "It's important to have a dog who's under control and also when you train your dog, you are exercising its mind and so instead of just running about, they are doing lots of mind exercises."

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It is recommended that dog owners start training by teaching simple commands such as sit, drop and stay, moving on to a new command only after the dog has learned the previous one.

Training sessions should be short and end on a "high" each time.

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"If you're dealing with young puppies, you should have lots of motivation and lots of play around the training sessions so they find it fun," Miss Gallagher explains.

She adds: "Most puppies come to people's houses when they are between seven and ten weeks old. As soon as they arrive you should start training them then.

"When they are young they learn quicker, it is important to remember that."

• Anne Gallagher is a qualified zoologist and animal behaviourist, working from Edinburgh and also covering the rest of Scotland. To contact Anne, e-mail [email protected]