January is National Train Your Dog Month! Whether you added a furry friend to your family during the holidays or if you have a list of new year’s resolutions you’re hoping to stick to, it’s important to work on your dog’s skills as these improve your pet’s interaction and socialization skills as well as their overall psychological health. Keep reading if you’re in the market for some furry friend themed tips to add to your 2017 list of resolutions!
Benefits of Training Your Dog
You may think training only applies to puppies, but you’d be surprised to hear it applies to dogs of all ages. For adult dogs specially, making the effort to socialize your dog is imperative to their psychological health. Training your dog simple manners for when guests come over, so that they can accompany you on a hike or to an outdoor event improves their quality of life as well as yours. In addition to benefiting your dog, going to class gives you the opportunity to learn how to deal with the common dog behaviors you may not otherwise understand.
1. Start with the favorite or familiar: If your dog already has a favorite behavior that is positive and acceptable, reward it. Creating the understanding that even a minor behavior – such as staying away from the dinner table when the humans are eating, or not barking when people walk through the door, is appreciated, will illustrate to your pet that you value their behavior.
2. Consistency is Key: If there’s more than one person training your dog, be sure you are both on the same page. The worst thing you could do in terms of controlling the training is to not control it. By this, we mean you want to be teaching the trick or behavior to your dog the same way the other person in your household is. If not, you risk confusing your dog and not accomplishing the task at hand.
3. Distraction is Your Biggest Obstacle: Puppies especially get easily distracted. To avoid this, create a routine of putting the toys and other distractions (loud TV’s, kids playing nearby) out of sight. This way your puppy has your full attention and running off isn’t an option. An added tip here would be to train your dog in the same room every time, so that they know when you enter the space it’s not to play or lounge around, and instead they are expecting to focus on you.
What to Focus on When it Comes to Training
1. Sit and Stay: Perhaps the most common tricks you imagine teaching your four- legged friends when you bring them home, sit and stay are essential to your pet’s safety. The best time to practice learning these skills is in your home, since you do not want to have a test run of these tricks at a busy traffic stop or in a park with other dogs that might distract your animal. When you feel comfortable with your pet’s skills you can slowly venture to traffic stops but be sure to start off on side streets with little traffic. There’s no use in rushing through the training of these or any other skills, since they will have them for life, you want to be sure your dog is grasping what you’re teaching – slow and steady is best.
2. Take Your Dog in the Car: It might sound silly, but getting your dog accustomed to trips in the car will be a crucial trick they’ll need to know their whole lives – plus it will make your trips (whether they be 20 minutes or 2 hours) a lot more enjoyable.
3. Go to Public Places with Your Dog: This might seem like a no-brainer but bringing your dog (when he or she is ready) into populated areas of varying levels is very important. Many stores are dog-friendly and provide you with a great opportunity to practice your dog’s on-leash skills. Additionally, this is a chance for your dog to inter- act with people he or she may not otherwise encounter at home (think small children, groups of people or those in a wheelchair). Teaching obedience in unfamiliar places might be the hardest manner to teach, but it is well worth it as this will essentially prepare them for acting appropriately outside of your home where they’ll meet people and objects they don’t see on a regular basis.
Remember, it isn’t easy to train your furry friend. Don’t become discouraged because you don’t have luck the first time you set out to train them. Skills aren’t learned overnight. Sometimes we get so caught up in how adorable they are that we forget that we also have a responsibility to teach our pets the classic tricks and skills but it is so essential to their well-being – and yours!