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July 17, 2012
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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a gentle, affectionate little dog who generally gets along well with everyone, including children and other dogs. These small companion dogs are highly trainable, and dogs learn most easily during their early months of life. Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels enjoy working with their owners as therapy dogs, or for dog sports such as obedience or agility. The most effective puppy-training techniques are reward based. You can choose among a variety of effective reward-based techniques to train your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy.
Socialization is both a crucial component and prerequisite of any dog training program. A dog who grows up without proper socialization will not know how to behave around strangers or in unfamiliar settings, and may react with fear, shyness or defensiveness. Expose your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy to a wide variety of people, animals and locations. Make these experiences fun for you and your dog. Give your puppy treats or other rewards such as games for each interaction with someone or something new. Your puppy will learn to associate new experiences with positive rewards rather than with fear. Joining a basic obedience class or a dog training club is one excellent way to both train and socialize your puppy.
Positive reinforcement is basic to good dog training, and particularly to the initial training of a puppy. When you connect an action you want with a reward the puppy wants, the puppy learns the connection quickly. The simplest example is the sit, which can be taught very quickly and informally with tiny, particularly desirable, food morsels. Allow your puppy's nose to detect the scent of the reward held in your hand; hold the reward just out of reach above the puppy's nose, saying nothing but the word "Sit." As the puppy's focus fastens on the treat, move your hand slightly in the direction of the puppy's tail. When the puppy sits, instantly give the reward and a selected praise word, such as "Yes." Repeat with another morsel. Your puppy will quickly connect the command, the action and the reward. Build on this basic technique as time goes on to perfect the pup's response and to teach other basic commands such as "Down," "Come," and "Stay." Always use your chosen praise word along with the reward to mark the wanted behavior. Later, you will reduce the frequency of the food rewards and use the praise word as positive reinforcement.
The clicker training technique is a rewards-based technique that gradually shapes behavior using a training clicker. In the early stages of training, the owner teaches the puppy to associate the sound of the clicker with getting a treat. Once the association is established, the owner will begin training a behavior by clicking and rewarding actions that resemble the target behavior. For example, if you want your dog to lie down, you might click first for sitting, then for moving toward the ground and finally for lying down. A training clicker can be helpful in precisely marking and shaping desired behavior. Click the clicker to mark the behavior, then reward the puppy. The precision enables the puppy to quickly learn exactly what action brings the reward. This method works especially well with puppies, because they are eager to please and will lose focus if training is boring or tedious.
The "Nothing in Life is Free" technique is a modified version of reward-based training that, rather than rewarding the dog with treats, makes the dog work for things the dog had been getting for free. The method can be especially effective for gaining control of unruly or domineering dogs. To put this method to work, stop giving away things your puppy wants without getting something in return. For example, to receive the meal you have in your hands, the dog must sit instead of leaping about and barking. Wait calmly for the sit for as long as it takes, then immediately place the meal in front of the dog. Soon the dog will sit quietly as you approach with the meal. Nothing in Life is Free is effective because it incorporates needed training into daily life and gives your dog many opportunities to practice good behavior while you practice being the leader.
Exercise strongly affects dog behavior. Because the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can be an energetic little dog with a strong prey drive, exercise is especially important. Exercise your pet at least 30 minutes per day. A brisk walk or brief run is often sufficient, but a game of frisbee, chasing a ball or swimming are also excellent approaches. It's often helpful to exercise your pup before training, but training and games that exercise your dog can also be woven together right into a training program that's fun for your puppy. During training sessions, try rewarding your puppy after some good work with a quick game of frisbee or a throw of the ball before returning to training. You can also make up games that require the dog to quickly obey one of the commands you have taught before you will throw the ball.
Some training practices either don't work at all or actually destroy training. As your pup's leader, best friend and protector, take care not to follow harmful advice just someone claiming to be a dog trainer offers it. Punishment such as striking, jerking or yelling at a dog is highly ineffective at any age, but especially harmful with puppies who have no life experiences to counterbalance bad ones. Isolating your dog is also ineffective. Never crate your puppy as a punishment: A crate should be seen by a dog as a pleasant, peaceful haven, not a punishment. Dogs are social animals, and isolation can be severely psychologically damaging, particularly for a puppy.
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