Congrats on your new dog!!! Now what? Whether you have brought a new puppy or a more mature dog into your house. The next step is training! Why is this so important? Having worked with dogs for years, I’ve seen so many sad outcomes that result from the lack of even the most basic training. Such as the dogs being treated poorly because they don’t listen well enough for the owners to deal with them. Often in rescue, we see puppies get adopted and then months later the dog isn’t such a little puppy and those behaviors that were once cute are not so much anymore. The cute puppy jumping is now a dog knocking the kids over. The little puppy bites are now strong dog teeth that scare your guests. And that puppy that’s grown up, finds itself being returned to the rescue with the words, “He needs someone with more time”.
Regardless of the age of the dog you are bringing into your home, training is essential. It’s just like when you start a new job, you receive training. Somebody typically takes a few weeks to show you the ropes. Even if it’s the type of job you’ve done before, each workplace is going to have different rules. Your household rules for your dog are probably different than mine, and still different from the home they came from before. If your dog came from the pound, we don’t know if they had any rules at all. Dogs crave leadership. It is your job to teach the dog the rules of your house. Remember, whatever you are permitting you are training. If you allow your dog to jump on you, you are training them that is appropriate behavior, you or guests.
So where to begin… if you have brought home a puppy, there’s a lot of work that goes into getting them used to all of the guidelines of being a good dog. It doesn’t take hours a day. It takes commitment and consistency. Use the pup’s daily food intake to teach them the basics; sit, down, come, etc. Keep the puppy on a leash to help guide the dog into the position you would like them. Also, this is an important step to getting them used to the leash for walks. Always make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated before you venture out for walks! This same technique can be applied to older dogs who still need some work. Food is an awesome motivator. If your dog doesn’t have a high food drive, toys, playing fetch, giving affection can all be used for rewards.
When your dog does something that is against the rules. Tell him/her “no”. Correction can be done in a number of ways, standing on the leash to keep the dog from jumping, for example. A shake to interrupt unnecessary barking, compressed air to interrupt high anxiety dogs who are loading (when you see the anxiety building before they start barking or lunging at another dog). Consult with a trainer if you need more information on behavior modification.
One of the most important things to teach your dog is a solid recall. When a dog is running off and heading toward the street, the value of the command, “Here” or “Come” will become painfully obvious. Practice this one daily. Practice in the house, in the back yard, at the park. This is all about safety, as is the “leave it” or “out” command. Again, watching your dog heading for something that is poisonous or dangerous and not being able to call them off is terrifying. And also, you can see how “come” comes in handy here as well. I used to live in an area that toads would find their way into our back yards. I walked out and saw my dog stalking one and was so grateful she listened when I told her to leave it. Shortly after we received an email from the HOA warning us about the toads because several dogs had to be rushed to the vet because of poison from the toads.
When we are training dogs, we teach them to hold a command until released. If I tell a dog to “sit” they are expected to sit until released. This comes in really handy when you are standing at a busy street corner and have your dog in a sit. If he only holds the command while he has a treat over his head or until she decides she doesn’t want to anymore, you risk her lunging into the street and being hit by a car.
All of the reasons that I covered are all about safety and that is our number one concern. Really, we want you to enjoy your dog! Train your dog to fit your lifestyle. If you like hanging out on the patios at coffee shops and bars, train your dog to lay calmly at your feet and ignore all the people and dogs and chaos around. If you like to go out hiking, train your dog to hang close and have a solid recall off leash. If you have lots of company and parties, teach your dog to be calm in his or her kennel or “place”. The more that you train your dog to fit your life and the real world, the higher the chance that your dog will get to stay in his/her forever home.
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