Welcoming a new dog into your home is an exciting and rewarding experience. As a dog owner, you have the opportunity to build a strong bond with your new pal through effective training methods. Training not only teaches your dog essential skills but also enhances their overall well-being and strengthens your relationship. Who doesn’t love hanging out with a well-behaved, reliably trained dog?!
In this comprehensive guide, Dog Dynamix will delve into the core fundamentals of dog training. Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or seeking to brush up on your training techniques, this article will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips to set you and your new friend up for success.
- Understanding the Basics of Dog Training:
Before diving into training techniques, it’s important to understand the underlying principles of dog training. The four quadrants of learning, while definitely confusing when first diving into them, are important to understand so you can learn how to best work with your dog. When dog owners think of the word “positive”, they usually think of “feel-good”… but that isn’t the case here! Positive in the quadrants of learning simply means we are adding something to the equation, whereas negative means we are removing something. When you give your dog a treat for good behavior, you are using positive reinforcement, meaning we added something to the training picture that increases the likelihood our dog will do that again. When we use a leash to correct jumping, we are using positive punishment, because we added something that will help make the behavior decrease. When training behaviors, we want to discover how to best use rewards, praise, and consistency to motivate and encourage desired behaviors in your dog, but also how to decrease naughty behaviors from happening! Understanding the four quadrants can be daunting, but it’s important.
- Essential Skills Every Dog Should Have:
When we first begin a dog training program, we start with one of the MOST important skills; engagement with the handler! If your dog won’t pay attention to you when distractions are around, your dog is likely lacking the desire to engage with you! This is not something dogs always do naturally… it can be “hard to be “sexier than a squirrel” to your dog. I always joke with my clients that the most important thing in dog training is learning how to be more interesting than the dirt, and that comes with lots and lots of reps of teaching your dog to engage with you on their own. Once our dog has some nice focus and attention, we can move on to starting new skills, like name recognition, capturing heel position, and shaping the bed. We can also begin luring sit and down, and adding names to them once our dogs can easily follow the lure. A well-trained pooch should be able to walk on a leash without pulling, come when called (yes, even around squirrels), go to their bed and stay there when asked, wait at the door, leave it, and hold a stationary position.
- Problem-Solving: Addressing Common Behavior Issues:
Many pet owners encounter behavior challenges with their dogs such as excessive barking, chewing, jumping, digging, and leash pulling. One of the biggest unintentional mistakes new dog and puppy owners do is to give their dogs too much freedom too quickly. Whenever a dog trainer gets a new dog or puppy, whether it is their own dog or a client dog in for training, the first thing they do is limit freedom. This removes the ability to be destructive immediately, but also prevents problem behaviors such as pottying in the house, digging holes in the yard, and counter-surfing. The more a dog practices these behaviors, the more likely they are to do them again in the future. Remember our quadrants above; if a dog jumps on the counter and eats a piece of pizza, they have been positively reinforced for that behavior! This means bad behaviors can become habits very quickly. Using a crate while unsupervised helps prevent dogs from getting themselves into trouble, while learning how to settle when alone. While supervised, dog owners should keep a leash on their dog in the house so they can interrupt bad behavior as it occurs. And, a big one here… DO NOT WALK YOUR DOG UNTIL THEY ARE TRAINED TO DO SO! The more we allow our dogs and puppies to tow us around on a leash, the harder it becomes to retrain their leash skills. Focusing on engagement, rewarding a loose leash, capturing heel position, and avoiding overly exciting areas until the training is solid will go a long way in preventing fido from dragging you into a lake after a goose.
- Socialization: Building Positive Interactions:
Socialization is a vital aspect of a puppy’s development. Properly socialized dogs are more confident, well-mannered, and adaptable to various environments. We can help our dogs grow into well-balanced dogs by fostering positive interactions whenever possible, but almost more importantly… by focusing on NEUTRAL interactions! If our puppy is used to being able to play play PLAY with other puppies all day, or being able to greet every stranger on the street, we risk oversocializing them! Dogs that have been over-socialized tend to be dog/people obsessed, pulling towards them on a leash at any opportunity, and can even begin developing leash reactivity (barking and lunging on leash). Check out this blog about over-socialization for more info on this problem.
By understanding these fundamentals of dog training you can foster a harmonious relationship with your four-legged companion. Patience, consistency, and structure are the pillars of successful training. Remember, training is not just about obedience; it’s about nurturing a strong bond, ensuring your dog’s safety, and promoting their overall well-being.
We hope this guide has equipped you with the knowledge and confidence to embark on a fulfilling training journey with your pet. Embrace the joys of training, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the remarkable transformation that awaits both you and your beloved canine companion. And if you need help, reach out to Denver Dog Dynamix, or Dog Dynamix Ohio. We’d love to help you on this journey.