Do you have a dog that lunges at other dogs, people, bicycles, or cars when you’re out on walks? Chases squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, or worse, skunks!? Never comes when you call him? Barks like mad when the doorbell rings? If not, you have trained your dog well and you deserve to be congratulated! If so, you’re not alone!
Many people struggle to train their dog – some feel they don’t have the time or just don’t know where to begin, while others have behaviorally challenging dogs.
2020 saw many first-time dog owners adopting so-called “pandemic pets.” Training may have been overlooked when your fur ball first entered their home, or pet owners may have been home more meaning more walks, more playtime, and less doggie boredom. But as people begin to return to work, dog owners may need to rethink a training program for their pet due to concerns about their untrained dog staying home alone.
January is Train Your Dog Month, so consider starting off 2021 with a training program for your dog, helping him to become the best-behaved pal he can be! If your dog is already a star on walks, try adding some fun “tricks” to his repertoire, such as shake a paw, roll over, or even try out some simple agility exercises!
Training will not only help with social interactions while out for exercise but training also provides your dog with mental stimulation. When dogs get bored, they tend to get into trouble by finding their own entertainment, like digging up your prized roses or chewing on your favorite shoes! Training will exercise your dog’s mind and will help to tire him out. Think about the last time you learned a difficult task. You were probably tired at the end of the day! A dog is no different. Creating a simple training plan with several short sessions throughout the day (between Zoom calls and work obligations) is a great way to start training your dog.
Remember! It’s never too late to start a training program with your furry friend!
The best way to train a dog is through positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is a training method that rewards the dog for successfully completing the “trick.” The reward can be food or pats with praise (such as “Good boy!”).
Here are some important points to consider when starting a training program with your dog:
- Be positive.
- Start small – introduce a simple task to start with (like “sit”) and then perfect it!
- Make sure your dog can succeed at the task (don’t start with a complicated task).
- Reward and praise!
- Use different reinforcement rewards to maintain the good behavior (treats or pats with lots of praise).
- Avoid punishment.
- Practice – a lot – practice truly does make perfect!
- Don’t get angry or frustrated if your dog isn’t successful. Take a break, go back to something simple that your dog has mastered and try again another time.
- Be patient – change in behavior won’t happen overnight!
If you are finding it difficult to train your dog, consider signing up for an obedience class. This not only creates a weekly commitment for you and your dog, but the opportunity for expert trainers to help you identify and resolve issues. If you aren’t sure where to look, your veterinarian can help you find a reputable trainer. Many dog trainers are now offering virtual training sessions! Your dog has helped you through some tough times over the past year. Reward him with some training and you’ll find that with some time and effort you will both be happier in the long run!