by Soojin Um
If you plan to get a new dog this year, it’s a good idea to start researching how you’re going to train your dog. Training takes time and patience, and at times it may feel like you’re making no progress at all. However, it’s important that you start the training as soon as you get a new dog, and that you keep at it. The time and work you put into it will be worth it. It’s also not just for puppies. Training can and should apply to adult dogs as well. So, let’s get started. Here are three areas in which should be the core of your training program.
A crate can be a very useful thing for both you and your new dog. Dogs instinctively seek out a space that is both private and safe. Crates can give dogs that safe space. The use of the crate can also be helpful with potty training. Dogs will not want to make a mess in the area where they sleep, so the use of crates can teach them to “hold” it. Not too long at first, however. A good way to introduce crate training is to go slow and let them get used to being in there. When they’re comfy in their space, try closing the gate. Then gradually increase the time before being let out for potty breaks. Crate training puppies should be fairly straightforward. However, if you’ve adopted an adult dog, you will have to adjust your strategy a bit. A little more patience will be needed for the dog to unlearn old habits and develop a trust. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit longer, because the rewards you both will reap will be worth it.
For obvious reasons, leash training is one of the most important skills to teach your dog. Going for a walk with your dog can be relaxing, an excellent form of exercise, and a great way to bond with your canine companion. Proper leash training will help you enjoy it rather than dread it. The key once again is to gradually introduce it. First, try putting on a collar or body harness loosely and let them get used it. Once they’re comfortable, attach the leash and practice walking around inside the home. Don’t take them outside yet, even the backyard; you want your dog to focus on the training before exposing them to all the “distractions” of the outside world. When they have this down (and that shouldn’t take long), take them outside for a short jaunt down the street and back. It’s all about getting them used to something before introducing additional stimuli. Before you know it, your furry friends will become experts, and will probably start bringing the leash to you when they want to go out. Talk about a Pandora’s Box.
Dogs are social creatures. So are we. Therefore, we need to train our new dogs to interact with other dogs and other humans. With puppies, it’s about introducing new situations. With adult dogs, it might take a little extra effort. Either way, your dogs will benefit from socialization training. Positive reinforcement is the key here. If your dog sniffs at another dog, give them praise and a treat. If, however, your dog acts aggressively, then don’t get angry and punish them. Try taking them further away and let them observe from a “safe” distance. The idea is to get your dog to see other dogs (and other people) and display neutral behavior. Reward them with treats, especially when they have a non-reaction. The goal is for your dog to be nonchalant where there are other dogs and humans (or anything else) around. Also, try to avoid situations where there could be sensory overload (e.g. perhaps avoid inviting people over, or host a sporting event, etc., before the training is complete). Introduce social situations slowly, but also steadily; you don’t want your dog to go to the opposite extreme.
In the end, know that, in most cases, you and your dog will be fine. Don’t be too rigid, and allow for adjustments. This is not computer programming, but rather having your dog gain experience in various scenarios so that they are not spooked or negatively affected. The goal, after all, is for your dog to get by and get along with the scenarios and creatures around him. Training will help your dog do just that. Proper training is fundamental in developing a well behaved dog that’s safe and pleasant to be around, and it can build a bond between you and your canine companion.
Please let us know your thoughts on this topic and/or give us feedback here or on Facebook.