Zoom Room

Pawsitive Reinforcement




photo by Weston Carls

We took a trip to Austin’s Zoom Room facility, where we met with manager and expert dog trainer, Laurel Carvell, to learn a few basic obedience tips. Dog training can be easy if you understand how to best communicate with your pooch.

Find something to reward your dog with.

Carvell suggests focusing on positive reinforcement—there are studies that show it’s better for dogs. You can give them physical love, but we give them physical love for free all the time. The treats are more valuable and it communicates instantly that what they did was good. When it’s a behavior we don’t want them to continue, it’s better to ignore them rather than give negative attention (like scolding or yelling).


The Scenario

You just rescued a shelter dog who happens to be very timid around people.

The Training

Some rescues can be shy and take some time to get comfortable around people. Dogs are like people in that, two dogs can go through the same traumatic experiences but one may come out far more affected than the other. Allow dogs to become outgoing on their own, but make sure to give rewards and positive reinforcement as soon as progress is made, even if it seems like it’s a really small step.


The Scenario

Your dog barks every time someone comes to your door.

The Training

Instead of scolding your dog, take a different approach. When you scold your dog for barking at a visitor, his interpretation is that the visitor arriving is what gets him into trouble.
Reward the dog with a treat for paying attention to you as soon as he sits and stops barking. 


The Scenario

It’s time to leave Zilker Park after a fun day of running around with other dogs. You get your leash and keys out, then call your dog to come to you. Fido refuses to come.

The Training

Your dog has grown to associate the leash with leaving the park. In Fido’s mind, he’s being punished. To remedy this, practice calling your dog back to you while holding the leash and then reward with a treat. Do that about three or four times during your stay so your dog is reconditioned to believe that being called while the leash is in sight doesn't always mean it's time to leave.


How to Greet a Dog

Don’t lean over and stick your hand in her face
Don’t grab or hug
Don’t stare a dog in the eyes
Don’t squeal or shout

The correct way:

Allow the dog to approach you in her own time.
Establish a non-threatening posture. Keep either your side or back toward the dog.
Pet the dog on the side of his face or body.


Lack of Generalization

Think of it like Driver’s Education. We learn to drive in one kind of car, but then we’re able to apply what we’ve learned to drive pretty much any other car make or model. Dogs are not like this. Ever wonder why your dog is so well-behaved at home, but has complete disregard for your commands everywhere else? You essentially have to retrain your dog when you go to new places. In a high distraction environment, it’s better to pair that with a high value treat (dog food isn’t going to cut it). 

 

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