Developing strong and healthy relationships with pets requires that pet owners provide for their pets in a variety of ways. Although affection and exercise are essential elements to raising a well-rounded pet, owners should not overlook one of the most important parts of pet care: discipline.
Well-trained pets can be a joy to be around. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says learning how to train a dog can improve the life of the pet and the life of the owner, enhancing the bond between owner and dog while ensuring the pet’s safety. Many dogs are eager to learn and will embrace their training.
Dogs have special needs and instincts, communicating in ways separate from humans. When a puppy is brought into a home, both puppy and person must adapt to each other. Humans must learn to communicate effectively in a language that a dog will comprehend, while dogs must learn to fit into the human world and refocus some behaviors that may not be appropriate in a home setting.
Pet owners have various training methods at their disposal. Pet owners can find many resources in the library, at pet care centers or online. No matter which training method pet owners choose, the most effective are those that reward good behavior so that dogs will be more inclined to repeat that behavior over and over. Bad behavior should not be punished, but there should be consequences. The ASPCA says dogs live in the moment and cannot make connections between events and past experiences. Therefore, praise or consequence has to happen immediately for the notion to be reinforced. If the dog sits on command, she should be given a treat or a good amount of praise. If she is nipping while playing, the owner should stop the play so that the fun ends immediately.
Training also requires consistency
Anyone involved in the training and interaction with the pet should be following the same set of guidelines. If a behavior is worthy of praise, it should be offered each and every time. If the dog jumps up on a greeting and that is discouraged, every person she jumps up on should correct the behavior. All it takes is one person to pet the dog when she is doing something wrong to confuse the animal.
It’s also important to consider the dog’s temperament during training. Certain breeds tend to be more docile or dominant than others. Training methods may need to be adapted based on the demeanor of the dog. Owners who have a stubborn, willful dog on their hands may need firmer, more consistent measures. A dog who is more amenable may be trained easily with food-based rewards. Finding the training balance can take time and patience.
Dogs who are trained as puppies will learn good behavior right away and be less likely to adopt bad habits. But dogs can be trained at any age. Older dogs may just require a little more effort.
Training tends to be most effective when it is short and fun for pets and their owners. Dogs do not have long attention spans, so many trainers recommend that training sessions last no longer than 15 minutes. Commands should be to the point and not clouded with a lot of language. For example, “sit,” “stay,” “down” and “off” will get the point across.
Try practicing the training in different environments and scenarios
This way the dog will behave whether at home or in a friend’s backyard. Use rewards that are tied to the event and what the dog may find most attractive at that point. A hungry dog may respond to food treats. A dog looking to play may appreciate a game of catch as a reward.
If training doesn’t seem to be working, try a few different options. Some pet owners find they need help training their dogs. In addition to informative literature and training videos, dog trainers are readily available. Classes can be scheduled privately, and many pet centers offer group classes to interested pet owners. The success rate of training classes and the socialization that these training opportunities offer often justifies the financial and time investments required to attend classes.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior emphasizes the importance of starting a puppy in training, including training classes, before all vaccinations have been completed. Data supports a lower risk of transmission of disease in puppy socialization classes over the last 10 years. Lack of full immunizations should not be reason alone to keep pups out of important training classes.
Pet owners should know that not all behaviors can be stopped
Rather than punish the dog for every natural behavior, try to find acceptable ways to channel those instincts into something safe. A dog who likes to chew should be given plenty of toys. Dogs who are naturally active should be given adequate amounts of time to run outside. Highly intelligent breeds may benefit from agility training or even learning assistance techniques.
A veterinarian can usually provide resources on animal trainers in the area. Look to work with Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs) and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs).