Many people can’t imagine life without dogs. We admire and adore them for their loyalty, unconditional affection, playful exuberance and zest for life. Nevertheless, dogs and people are very different animals. Although officially “man’s best friend,” dogs have some innocent but irksome tendencies-like jumping up to greet, barking, digging and chewing-that can make it downright difficult to live with them! To make the most of your relationship with your dog, you need to teach her some important skills that will help her live harmoniously in a human household.
When you bring a dog into your home, you must be dedicated to helping him be the best dog he can be. That is one of the most important jobs you have as the parent of a canine. Providing him with the essentials for living is one aspect of this job, but teaching him right from wrong should be considered just as important. As you raise your children, you teach them these lessons to make them happy and successful people. Your dog deserves this same assistance and consideration.
Old Dog, New Tricks?
Many people are under the mistaken impression that if you adopt an adult or older dog, that he is past the age to be trained. Nothing can be further from the truth. Dogs are extremely intelligent creatures, and their intelligence does not decrease over the years. If anything, they get smarter as they get older. Yes, they may be a little more set in their ways and a little less eager to jump on the training bandwagon, but with the love, support, and consistency of a good parent, any dog can learn better behavior.
Give clear and consistent commands for the desired behavior. For example, a “down” command should not be used interchangeably with an “off” command. Technically, these are two different behaviors. Always use commands and avoid vague words such as “no” or simply calling their name. For best results, replace “no” with the exact behavior you want him or her to do.
Too Young To Learn
Alternatively, another myth with dog training is that if you begin training too early, your dog
will not be able to learn because she is too young. This is not true, either. No matter how
young your puppy is when you bring her home, start your training immediately. They are
essentially babes in the woods and do not know how to interact with the world around them.
You are responsible for showing them what to do and what not to do. Without this guidance, she will run amuck and get into things and damage your belongings, as well as injuring themselves or others.
Be a Good Leader
Some people believe that the only way to transform a disobedient dog into a well-behaved one is to dominate her and show her who’s boss. However, the “alpha dog” concept in dog training is based more on myth than on animal science. More importantly, it leads misguided pet parents to use training techniques that aren’t safe, like the “alpha roll.” Dogs who are forcibly rolled onto their backs and held down can become frightened and confused, and they’re sometimes driven to bite in self defense.
Positive and/or Negative Reinforcement
Whether you are raising a human child or a canine one, you will hear a lot about positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when you see that your child is doing the right thing so you pat him and speak to him in an approving voice and tell him what a good job he did.
This is a very key part to almost any type of successful training activity. When a puppy or dog is told that she is doing good things and getting positive attention based on her actions, she will want to continue doing these things. She wants your love and approval, so she will do what she can to get it. Your dog is extremely smart and will make the connection between her actions and your reactions. Many owners choose to use a higher pitched voice when conveying approval. Dogs do respond well to this.
Negative reinforcement is basically the same process, but it is something you do when she has done something she should not. Based on the rules of negative reinforcement, when your dog does something bad or dangerous, your reaction should be negative. You should speak to her in a low and unhappy tone, telling her that his action was bad. This does work, but should be used sparingly. If your pooch is always getting negative reactions to her behaviors, she will go through life an unhappy, maladjusted dog. She will become nervous and worried about pleasing you and could even develop anxiety problems.
When teaching new skills, keep training sessions short and sweet
Like kids, dogs don’t have long attention spans. There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but an ideal average training session should last 15 minutes or less. Within that session, you can work on one skill or switch between a few different skills. To keep things interesting, try doing 5 to 15 repetitions of one behavior and then doing 5 to 15 repetitions of another behavior. You can also practice new skills and keep old ones polished by doing single repetitions at convenient times throughout the day. For example, before giving your dog a tasty new chew bone, ask her to sit or lie down to earn it.
Positive Reinforcement Only
This tact has been used very successfully for many people, including various types of law enforcement personnel when training their dogs. Using only positive reinforcement to help your dog understand what she is doing right and completely ignoring any bad action is a mainly passive type of training. This can often take longer, but has been proven to work long term much better than other training methods. Using this method, the only time you give your dog any attention for doing something negative is if what she is doing will endanger he in any way.
No matter what type of training you use with your dog, make sure that you reassure her of your love and acceptance. You are doing what is best for her, which makes you the best parent you could ever be.
Help him Focus
Some training sessions may be impromptu, and those are great if you can keep your dog’s attention. If your dog is having difficulty focusing, he may need to drain some energy before hand with a walk, a game of fetch, time on the treadmill, or a play date. Focusing is as much of a skill as the command you are trying to teach. If your dog is having difficulty loose leash walking outside, practice inside where there are fewer distractions. Gradually increase diversions as he masters the skill.
A training session can last as little as a minute or long as you have your dog’s attention. Training and learning can be a way of life for your dog when he is guided to live within your rules and boundaries. Having your dog sit before you feed him, or wait at the door before you exit, or slowly walk down the stairs with you, these are all examples of daily training in action. Think of training as simply communicating with your dog and not something that requires special treats, experts, or lots of time. By communicating clearly, consistently, and with affection, your dog can always be learning.