Training Day

There are almost as many theories and methods of dog training as there are flavors of ice cream

Well-trained dogs are great companions – easy to take for walks and car rides, to public parks and beaches, on vacation and more. They are a joy at home, not whining, barking too much, begging, chewing furniture or eating resident hamsters. If you’re looking to answer the question “How can I train my new puppy?” here are some suggestions:

  1. Choose an approach to training and stick with it. There are many different methods of training, and many books, magazines, DVDs and Internet articles that outline them in detail. Ideally you should read-up on training in advance of the arrival of your puppy.
  2. Be consistent across your household. Everyone in your household must know the right way to train your new puppy, and everyone must be willing to be consistent about rules. If you are working diligently at teaching their puppy to be quiet in their crate, but your teenager keeps letting the puppy out as soon as it whines, the end result will be a confused puppy!
  3. Choose the right products. Do you have an adjustable crate for crate training, or puppy pads for housetraining without a crate?

Positive Reinforcement
Training a dog can be boiled down to a very basic concept, reinforce the desired behaviors. Known as positive reinforcement, this is the method used by June MacLeod, former owner and trainer of the Alpha Dog School

“Basically, you show the dog what you want them to do by helping them do it while you give the command, then when they achieve it you give lots of praise and maybe a treat,” said June. “Obviously there is more to it than that, but giving lots of praise and being patient are the most important parts of dog training.”

June does give treats as part of praise during training, but for a number of reasons she believes praise is a better tool. First of all, you always have the ability to praise your dog, even when you don’t have a treat in your pocket. There are also some dogs that focus too much on the ‘food’ element of training and are only motivated by treats in the future. Plus some puppies won’t eat their nutritious food if they fill up on treats during training.

Make sure you use a healthy treat during training. Liver treats like Benny Bully’s or PureBites are good choices, or any treat that can be easily broken into the tiny pieces needed for training. “For smaller puppies I recommend using pieces of their dry food to ensure the pup gets all the necessary nutrition, and also so they don’t develop upset stomach or diarrhea from too many rich treats,” said June.

Timing is Everything
Timing is a crucial element of dog training – rewards such as praise and treats have to come immediately after the desired action to have the most effect. For this reason June recommends a simple, short word like ‘YES!’ as the praise word to signal to the dog that they’ve gotten it right. “Good Dog or Good Boy seems short when you’re starting training but saying Yes is twice as quick and very distinctive,” said June.

In place of the Yes, one training method uses a clicker to signal to the dog that they’ve done a good thing. The clicker method very often described in The Whole Dog Journal and is proven effective. However, it may be a bit too much when you’re training a dog for the first time. “Coordinating treats in one hand, the clicker in the other, plus holding the leash if you’re leash training can get a little complicated,” said June. It may be easier for some customers to stick with Yes, but for customers who want to try click training or who are taking a clicker training course with their dog, you can offer the Triple Crown Quick Click.

Call a Professional
You should always know the name and contact information of a reputable trainer in your area so you can make recommendations to your customers.

“I think it’s a good idea for all dogs who will be going for walks in public and going to dog parks to have some obedience training in groups. It’s the best place for puppies and young dogs to get accustomed to other animals and groups of people, and will help immensely with their socialization,” said June.

The results of proper dog training can be a closer, more satisfying relationship between you and your dog.

Common Mistakes

Watch out for these common mistakes that are often made while training young puppies or any dog new to their home. Remember, dogs WANT to please their owners. If they aren’t obeying, then they simply don’t understand what is expected. Patiently show them again, and praise them when they achieve success.

It takes time to train your dog properly, and it can be frustrating at times, but you must remain patient.

Humanizing Reactions
Don’t fall into the trap of believing your dog is punishing you, getting back at you, etc. Dogs have simple emotions and they do not think like humans.

Puppy = Cute
Yes, your puppy is a darling, but don’t create years of frustration by letting your puppy do things you don’t want your future adult dog to do. For example, if you don’t want your dog on the furniture, don’t let your puppy on the furniture. If you don’t want a 60 lb lap dog, don’t carry your puppy around and place him on your lap.

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