With the joys of the holiday season coming to a close, some families may be walking into the new year with a new furry friend! Puppies and kittens may be cute and cuddly at first, but once they start causing some chaos the cuteness feels a little less cute. Appropriately enough, January is National Train Your Dog Month! As all dog owners know, training a dog can feel like an overwhelming task, but, it doesn’t have to be! Proper training and early socialization are crucial for a long, happy, healthy life with your pet. Read on to find out more about dog training.
Environments for Home Training
When training your pooch at home, environment is very important to consider. Using an open space in your house or backyard is best, but if you do not have a lot of space at home you can bring the training on the road. When you are first starting to train your dog, make sure you are doing so in quiet, distraction-free spaces. Taking your dog around the neighborhood may seem like a good idea, but try to be sure no young children or other dogs will cause a distraction. The same considerations go for a local park. These can be fantastic areas to work on training as long as there are no obvious distractions. Puppies have short attention spans and are curious about everything, so make sure you have spaces where you can work on training efficiently!
Among the many different ways to train a dog, using positive reinforcement is one of the best. Positive reinforcement means using rewards, such as treats and toys, to enforce the behaviors you like and ignoring behaviors you do not like. Rewards can be anything from verbal praise, to life rewards (e.g., going for a walk), to treats and snacks.
To use this method, give your dog a reward any time he/she does something good. For example, when you are trying to house train your dog it may be helpful to give them a small treat and lots of verbal praise every time they eliminate outside. Eventually they will catch on that peeing outside is a good thing and it will make you happy. Dogs aim to please their owners so showing enthusiasm along with a material reward is sure to give them the hint!
For positive reinforcement training to work, every member of the family needs to be aware of what “correct” behaviors are and what deserves a reward. It’s not going to be as helpful if the kids reward the dog for grabbing food off the counter because it was “funny.” Make sure each family member knows the house-rules around rewards and behavior.
The best treats to use for positive reinforcement are smaller treats that your dog loves. Momentum Carnivore Nutrition has a whole range of treats that would be perfect for this task! Flavors like Chicken Nibblets and Pork Tenderloin are guaranteed to make your pet drool and beg for more. These treats are easy to carry around, easy to give, and are low calorie, so owners can give treats frequently without worrying as much about weight gain. All Momentum treats are made with freeze-dried raw ingredients, so you can feel confident your pet is getting the best.
One of the objectives of puppy training for most pet owners is teaching the pup how to walk properly on a leash. This can seem like a challenge, especially if you have a larger breed that loves to pull (looking at you huskies!), but takes the same amount of consistency as training for other behaviors.
When you first start leash training try to stay in a quiet area with little to no distractions. You want to teach your pup that walking while attached to a leash isn’t so bad and they do not need to be afraid. It may be helpful to give a treat just for putting on the harness and allowing you to clip the leash for dogs that are extra resistant. Teach them a cue sound, such as a tongue click or a command, that alerts them to look at you. This will be helpful on walks when a dog or other distraction appears.
Once the pet seems comfortable with wearing the harness and leash, practice walking inside. Offer treats and praise as they get used to walking near you and as they respond to your voice. Then, once you feel that they respond well inside, take it outdoors! There are a lot of new sights and smells for your puppy outside, so be patient with them as they get adjusted to their new environment. Continue to reward them for walking nicely and never pull or yank the leash. This could hurt the dog and is not an effective training strategy.
Finding the harness for your dog is essential. Harnesses are more effective than collars when training, as they give you (the owner) more control and less of a change of Fido slipping out of the collar and running away.
Back clasping harnesses are a traditional harness option. These types of harnesses may be okay for dogs who are already trained not to pull, but for a new puppy or a dog who likes to pull ahead, these are not the best option. Back clasping harnesses do not give owners the same amount of control as a front-leading harness or a head halter.
Front leading harnesses are a great option. Front-attaching harnesses, such as the Easy Walk, redirect the dog’s attention back to you if they try to walk ahead and pull. While these are great options, they can put unnecessary tension on the shoulder joint, so they are not advised for sporting dogs. Walk-in-sync is another type of front-leading harness that attaches between the front legs and over the back. This leaves the shoulders unhindered and may be a better choice for dogs who are competing in sports.
Head halters are another option for guiding your pet’s attention back to you. Owners can gently redirect the dog’s head and attention back to them when passing another dog, thus guiding the dog to focus on the owner and not on the distraction. The down-side to head halters is that you may need to train your dog to want to wear it. It may be helpful to pair the harness with food or gradually build up to wearing it long enough for a walk.
Find a local trainer
If training your pet yourself proves to be too challenging you can always seek out a professional dog trainer in your area. Do your research to find the most reviewed and respected trainers. Try to find recommendations from others who have used their services and try to get in contact with someone if you can. If you are going to be paying for training, you want to be sure it is high quality and will be effective!
Some pet stores (such as PetSmart) offer in-store puppy training classes. These are usually group classes that teach the basics of behavior (think sit, stay, come). Group classes can be a great start for a new puppy who is learning how to exist in a world full of distractions. They also provide an opportunity to socialize your pet, which is important for puppies. Early socialization builds your pet’s understanding that other pets are okay to be around. It also reduces anxiety and aggression as they get used to being around other animals. This will be especially important if you were to ever want to use a doggy play-care facility.
Best of luck in your training adventures!