Many dogs who find themselves in shelters are there because of behavioral problems. Whether it’s too much barking, destructive behavior or an unwillingness to follow basic commands, most of these problems could have been averted with early training.
Here are some tips to help as you approach the New Year with your fur-baby:
1. Start training your puppy early on. While old dogs can be taught new tricks, what’s learned earliest, is often learned quickest and easiest. The older the dog, the more bad habits will likely need to be “un-learned.” When it comes to raising and training a dog, an ounce of problem prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure!
2. Train gently and humanely. Whenever possible, teach using positive, motivational methods. Keep obedience sessions so upbeat that the training process is enjoyable for all. If training your pooch is drudgery, rev things up a bit, and try the “playtraining” approach: incorporate constructive, non-adversarial games (such as “Go Find,” “Hide ‘n’ Seek,” retrieving, etc.) into your training sessions.
3. Does your dog treat you like “hired help” at home? Does he treat you like a human gymnasium when you’re sitting on furniture? Does he beg at the table? Jump up on visitors? Demand your attention by annoying you to death? Ignore your commands?
How well your dog responds to you at home affects his behavior outdoors as well. If your dog doesn’t respond reliably to commands at home (where distractions are relatively minimal), he certainly won’t respond to you properly outdoors where he’s tempted by other dogs, pigeons, passersby, sidewalk food scraps, etc.
4. Avoid commands you cannot enforce. Every time you give a command that is neither complied with nor enforced, your dog learns that commands are optional.
5. One command should equal one response, so give your dog only one command (twice max!), then gently enforce it. Repeating commands tunes your dog out (as does nagging) and teaches your dog that the first several commands are a “bluff .” For instance, telling your dog to “sit, sit, sit, sit!” is neither efficient nor effective to issue the command. Simply give your dog a single “sit” command and gently place or lure your dog into the sit position, then praise/reward.
6. Avoid giving combined commands which are incompatible. Combined commands such as “sit-down” can confuse your dog. Using this example, say either “sit” or “down.” The command “sit-down” simply doesn’t exist.
7. When giving commands, avoid using a loud voice. Even if your dog is especially independent/unresponsive, your tone of voice when issuing an obedience command such as “sit,” “down” or “”stay,” should be calm and authoritative, rather than harsh or loud.
NOTE: Many owners complain their dogs are “stubborn” and “refuse to listen” when given a command. Before blaming the dog when he doesn’t respond, determine whether: a.) the dog knows what the owner wants; b.) he knows how to comply; c.) he is not simply being unresponsive due to fear, stress or confusion.