Usually, most people are focused on their New Year's resolutions when January comes around. They're feeling motivated and determined to live up to the motto, "New Year, New Me." People research and plan things to make positive changes, but what about our pets? We can use the new year to commit to making positive decisions to help our dogs, too. Consider a new motto, "New Year, New Dog!" – a newly trained dog, that is.
Since 2010, the Association of National Dog Trainers has led a month-long initiative called "National Train Your Dog Month." It brings awareness to the importance of socialization and training and informs the public that training your dog can be easy and fun!
It makes sense that the association would select January as the month to highlight dog training since so many people may have recently welcomed a new dog or puppy during the holidays. Unfortunately, due to lack of socialization and proper training, new owners are often disillusioned because of their new dog's bad behavior. As a result, so many pups are turned over to animal shelters.
As committed dog owners at The Combine Dog Co., we want to inspire you to make socialization and training an essential part of your relationship with your dog. To create a healthy and safe home environment for you, your family, and your dog, they should know basic skills like "sit," "stay," and "leave it," along with proper walking on a loose leash. And, good dog health also includes expanding their surroundings and social circle to experience new environments and have positive behavior with other dogs.
We promise that dog training doesn't have to be stressful, but instead, it's a great payoff for both your dog and yourself as you see your new pup learn new skills. So we've gathered some of our easy-to-follow and fun dog training tips to help you kick off National Dog Training Month.
TOP 5 DOG TRAINING TIPS
Consistency Becomes Habits - Whether you're a person or dog, the true key to learning any new skill so that it eventually becomes a welcomed habit is consistency. Generally, dogs love to please, so take advantage of that instinctual quality to help them learn a new command. Commit to small increments of time to spend training your dog. Even just 5 minutes a day of practicing a command, along with a healthy training treat, will result in building a habit.
Dogs, just like their owners, need mental stimulation, especially when a dog is young. Help them focus their boundless energy on learning a simple one-word command for 5-minutes a day. Then each week, you can increase the time little by little and add new commands to practice. You do, however, want to avoid going overboard. Mental stimulation does tire out dogs, so keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and breed of your dog. A dog from the working class will have longer stamina than a small breed.
Be Confident - Whether you're training your dog to sit or learning to walk on a leash, the training is actually going to start with the dog owner. Dogs can be incredibly wise and will quickly pick up on your feelings. So if you are nervous, anxious, or frustrated, it's guaranteed that your training session will not go as you're hoping because your dog will become confused or intimidated by what you're projecting. Really focus on maintaining patience and a positive and calm yet assertive attitude. And remember, however, your dog responds to the training, never make it personal. Dogs are never intentionally trying to frustrate their owners!
Start Training Young - An advantage that puppies have is that they are easily adapted to learn fast because of survival instincts. Simple obedience commands, such as "sit," "down," and "stay," can be understood as young as 7 to 8 weeks of age. Essentially as soon as a puppy learns to walk, they are already learning other things every day so begin early. Remember to use positive reinforcement and gentle teaching methods. After the age of 18 weeks or about 4 months, the capability of puppies to learn actually begins to slow down.
The saying that "old dogs can't learn new tricks" is invalid. If you've adopted an older dog, they can still learn new commands, but know that it may take more time and patience since they have other learned behaviors to overcome.
Don't Train Alone - Training your dog doesn't just mean teaching them a set of commands, but also how to behave when other dogs are around. Socialization is a vital part of helping your dog become well behaved in any situation, so as soon as your veterinarian clears your new puppy to meet other dogs, be sure to socialize them at least once a week.
Try dog parks, dog walking groups, or find a friend or neighbor with a dog and ask if you can join them on their walks. Training a younger dog alongside an older and already well-trained dog will make it that much easier for your little one to learn new tricks or commands. Ask a friend or find someone through a community group, like maybe a group on Facebook, that you can ask to join you for training your dog. And then, after the training session, let the dogs have some free time for play. Much like playdates for kids, playdates for dogs teach them skills for getting along with other dogs and help get their puppy energy out, so hopefully, everyone gets a good night's sleep!
Have Fun! - When some people think of training their dogs, they automatically get stressed out. As we mentioned in tip #2 above, your attitude is vital for your dog's success, but we understand maybe it is really stressful to you. If that's the case, we are always in favor of working with a professional trainer that can help you. Any good trainer will involve the owners in the process and guide you so that you're not totally out of the picture. But know that you can still do training on your own with some resources and make it FUN!
Fun for your dog would be to change out their treats for rewards so that they are motivated by a variety of different textures and flavors of treats – of course, make sure the treats are appropriate for your dog's age. The Combine Dog Co. has a great selection of goodies that you may want to share with your dog as you train them.
You will likely be using a food reward when training your dog at the beginning of your training, but eventually, you'll want to move away from food treats, so your dog simply obeys the command. When transitioning over to non-food rewards, then you'll want to pile on the affection.
You can also reward your dog after their training session with a long walk, playtime at the dog park, a beach, or lake, or reward them with a new toy. Getting out of the house for either a game of catch with your dog or just to catch a sunset is why you got a dog in the first place. Investing the time to train your dog will help create a deeper bond with your dog, and you'll learn what motivates them, making communication with your dog easier. A well-trained dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog means a happy dog owner!