Positive reinforcement for a Coton that is showing anxiety-based behaviors such as aggression (heaven forbid), inappropriate urination, guarding, destructive chewing or barking (i.e., giving the dog a reward in the form of praise, play, food or toys when it behaves in a way that you like) has been shown to be the most effective training method for these types of behaviors. As you begin the process of modifying your Coton’s behavior, BE PATIENT. Positive training relies on consistency, repetition and the following general rules:
Tip #1: WHY
First, identify WHY your Coton is behaving this way. You cannot effectively deal with a behavior unless you know the root cause behind it.
Tip #2: How
Once you know the WHY, then you can ask yourself HOW to treat the behavior. It is vitally important that you understand your Coton, you cannot train a dog well without first understanding how he perceives the world. You can then use this knowledge to make training easier.
Tip #3: Think Coton
Learn to talk and think Coton. Good communication increases the bond between your Coton and you as owner considerably. Cotons don’t speak our human language, yet many people treat them as if they do. As a result, the dog ends up confused. Coton’s reads body language well.
Tip #4: Be Kind
Be kind! Never hit, scream at or yank your Coton. Cotons that exhibit aggression to humans or other dogs are under a great deal of stress, even though they might appear confident, dominant or just plain nasty. Think how you feel when you are fearful, angry or even violent. It is not a good place to be. Don’t combat fear with more fear—recognize your Coton’s concerns, then slowly and gently teach him to overcome them.
Tip #5: Go Slowly
Go very slowly when dealing with anxiety-related behaviors. The best way to rehabilitate a Coton is to change how he perceives the stimuli that make him anxious. Do this by slowly showing your Coton that the thing he fears is no longer scary. This technique is called desensitization. If your Coton is guarding the couch, food bowl, or front door, show him gently that there is another way to feel that makes him happier and more confident.
For example, shower him with attention when he is on the floor, and not on the couch. Show him that good things happen to him when you approach his food bowl, because it means you’ll be adding more delicious food.
Teaching obedience commands is relatively easy to do, but changing a dog’s negative behaviors and perceptions is not. Therefore, it’s important to enlist the help of a qualified trainer, who can help tailor a treatment plan for your Coton’s particular problem. Avoid trainers who use harsh methods or advocate choke, prong or weighted collars. And remember, positive training equals positive results. It might take a little longer, and require more time and patience on your part, but the positive changes you’ll see in your dog are worth it!