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Pet Connection Q&A: Consistent training is key to good behavior

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4D

How can I get my dog to stop begging?

– via Facebook

If you never want your dog to stick her nose in your plate, put her head on your knee or paw at your arm, then don't ever reward her with food when she does.

What if it's too late for that? With patience and consistency, you can change your dog's behavior by never rewarding the begging again. When your dog finally becomes convinced that she will never again see another piece of food delivered from off your plate, she'll stop asking. You can also have her practice a behavior that's incompatible with having her nose on your knee – a down-stay on the other side of the room while you're eating.

But be warned: If you're inconsistent, you'll make the problem worse. Occasionally rewarding a behavior is called random reinforcement, and it's a powerful motivator. In fact, it's what keeps the gambling industry afloat. Even though gamblers know the house always wins, they keep pulling the handle on those slot machines because they get a little back now and then, and because sometimes they hit the jackpot. Dog trainers use these principles to instill good behaviors in dogs, but many pet lovers inadvertently use them to teach a dog bad habits – like begging.

Preventing a problem is always easier than fixing one. When you get a dog, think about the house rules you want, and insist on them from Day One. If you have a beggar on your hands, realize the fault is yours – and be determined to be consistent in turning the situation around.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Talking animals are YouTube hit

• The creator of "The Ultimate Dog Tease," the second most-popular video on YouTube last year, has produced a new spot of talking animals for the American Pet Products Association's Pets Add Life Project. Andrew Grantham's spot is the latest in the popular series, meant to promote and celebrate pets. The Pets Add Life videos are at youtube.com/petsaddlife.

• With its Ol' Roy long the dominant player in the low-end segment of the pet-food market, Wal-Mart is upping the ante with the introduction of a premium food called Pure Balance. Industry analysts told DVM360.com that the move puts the big-box retailer in a position to challenge PetSmart and Petco for an even bigger share of the $21 billion spent annually on pet food in the United States. Wal-Mart previously moved to draw pet lovers in with the launch of PetArmor, a generic version of the blockbuster flea-and-tick product Frontline.

– Gina Spadafori

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