Having a dog as a pet brings a great deal of satisfaction and happiness for millions of owners and their families, but training a dog is essential if you are to fully enjoy having a dog and if the dog is to enjoy life with you.
Training methods vary greatly but there is one underlying principal they all share – positive reinforcement. With positive reinforcement you are seeking to reward the animal every time they do what is being asked of them; the command is “Sit!”, the dog obeys and receives a reward or praise – this is positive reinforcement.
Techniques which involve physical punishment or intimidation are ineffective when it comes to training a dog and you should never hit your dog as though this may produce a short term association of pain or humiliation with an unwanted behavior it is terribly damaging to the relationship you have with the animal. Your relationship with your dog is vital when it comes to training; your dog looks to you for leadership and views you in doggy terms as the leader of the pack; they look to you for companionship, food and shelter but they are also looking to you as their leader and provider of the standards to which they must conform. When you hit your dog, you are damaging this perception and the animal is less likely to respond positively to you in future and a scared dog is not an animal you want around you or your family.
Positive reinforcement requires patience on the part of the owner; training your dog is a process and not something that will produce immediate and instant results. Over time your dog will learn the concepts you are trying to teach but where there is a failure or the animal appears to be learning at a slow pace, it is frequently the owner who is actually the root cause of the issues.
When dog training is carried out, we are not actually training just the animal – we are training a team comprising the owner and the dog, and more often than not, the owner is the one failing in the training program. Professional dog trainers do not take on a dog directly and train them as a rule, instead, they train the owner in how to train the dog as after all, it is the dog will be looking to the owner for leadership and commands in future and not the trainer.
A dog can also be trained at any age however, the sooner training commences the better; the old saying “You cannot teach a dog new tricks!”, does not hold true but it is more difficult to train an animal that has grown and become accustomed to a different set of rules to work and live by. Dog training should commence while the animal is still in the puppy stage and can commence as soon as the puppy has been weaned and left the mother. Start the training process with simple behaviors for the dog to learn – sit and heel, are two good ones to start off with. Make the activity fun and not just fun for the dog but fun for you too and remember this is not a chore and don’t treat it as such as the dog will very quickly pick up on your cues; every dog will closely look at their owner and take everything in and they will very quickly learn your moods and your personality traits.
Lastly we always recommend dog treats and chews like bully sticks as training rewards as they are a great reward an will naturally keep teeth and gums healthy!