Column: Continued reinforcement is key

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Commentary by Kelly Kolodkin

Everyone loves the crazy cuteness of puppy feet scampering around the house, the flopping of their little bodies on the carpet, sweet little squeaky barks for attention and dragging toys larger than themselves across the floor. They seem to be a perfect blank slate that requires pet parents to embark on the joys and rigors of basic obedience training.

Wait, you mean they are not preprogrammed to evolve into their well-behaved family unit placement in our lives?! That’s right. It is up to us to mold these furry little minds to assimilate into our world.

Two weeks ago, I received a call inquiring about dog training. The potential client had sent their puppy away to a board and train for six weeks, and it was now about a year later. The owner said their pup was starting to jump on people at the door and started pulling when leash walking again. They had asked me if I could help fix these behaviors.

I asked several questions about the owners’ continued at-home reinforcement of the training. Alas, just as I thought, they were not doing much to reinforce the training that was done at the initial program. Here was the problem!

When I go to a potential new client’s home for a meet and greet, we sit down and discuss the reason for their call. After my analysis, I ask them, “Are you willing to do the daily work to reinforce the training?” Accountability by the pet parents is pivotal in successful training.

So let’s look at what it takes to be successful with at-home reinforcement training, because many people say they do not have time to do this. It is easier than you think. I require my clients to take moments within their current daily routines to train. For example, if we are working on the command “leave it or drop it,” the client is trained on the hand and voice tones for successful training that we work on together with the dog at our training session. Then, I give them examples on how they can incorporate and train that behavior in daily life.

For instance, if my client is cooking in the kitchen and a piece of chicken falls to the floor they practice the “leave it” command, which they know from our training session. Sometimes, I will suggest creating the scenario by dropping treats from the counter and using the proper command.

Like learning a language, if you do not use the skills you’ve learned, you’ll lose them! Consistency and patience will lead to a well-behaved furry companion. You can do it!

Kelly Kolodkin is a Carmel resident and owner of Kelly’s Kanine Pet Services. Contact her at 317-442-2518 or kellyskanine@gmail.com.


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