January is National Train Your Dog Month, an annual month-long event to promote the benefits of dog training. It was started in 2010 by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The goal is to raise awareness that proper dog training and socialization are critical to a dogs’ wellbeing.
Dog Training Basics
- Use positive reinforcement – We highly recommend focusing on rewarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. You reward your dog whenever they behave well and respond positively to your commands. Your dog will, in time, associate the good behavior with the reward. It is also essential that you do not inadvertently reward unwanted behavior. For example, if your dog is barking or jumping on you to say hello, you should not give your dog your attention. Please wait until your dog has calmed down before interacting with them.
- Find a suitable reward – A reward for following your commands can include food treats, praise, petting, or a favorite toy or game. By knowing what motivates your dog, you can teach them much faster.
- Stay consistent – Being consistent in your training is incredibly important. For example, when asking your dog to do something, you always want to use the same word and even the same type of intonation (the rise and fall in pitch of the voice).
- Keep everyone in the household on the same page. Another important aspect of consistency is to ensure that everyone in your house is on the same page. If you are teaching your dog to never jump on a chair, but your spouse tells them to get on it, your dog is going to be confused, and your training time will go to waste.
Make Your Dog Training Fun
Dog training is not only beneficial, but it should also be fun. Dogs do best with mental stimulation. They love the chance to learn and practice something new. But more than anything, they will relish the opportunity to experience your undivided attention as you both work together toward a common goal. Time spent training is time spent bonding and building a solid relationship between you and your dog, and that is what having a dog is all about.
Training Older Dogs
There is a common misconception that dog training does not work on older dogs. That is simply not true. Your older dog may take a little bit longer to learn a new trick or command, but it is certainly not impossible. The key to successfully training an older dog is much the same as any other dog: patience and positivity. When you keep your cool and keep it fun, you can teach an older dog almost anything, regardless of their age.
Dog training is an essential part of responsibly having dogs. Help us celebrate National Train Your Dog month by following these tips and passing them on to others. We wish you success in getting your dog to learn what you want them to.
For more information on training your dog, speak to your veterinarian, who may be able to direct you to local dog or puppy training classes. Contact us if you need any veterinary services or have any questions; we are glad to help.
Dr. Stacey Funderburk