January is here…the start of a new year and new beginnings! It also happens to be “National Train Your Dog Month”! Whether you got a new puppy for the Christmas or you have an older dog that needs a little training, this is a great time to start. There are lots of different methods of training, and trying to figure out what will work for you and your dog can be frustrating. Starting out, stick to the basics and keep it simple; this will make the process more pleasant for both of you!
If you’ve just added a new furry member to your family, start by picking out a good name – something short with a strong consonant at the end that allows them to hear it clearly when said. Then, say it often while petting or playing, always positively, so they learn to associate it with fun things, rather than negative. After they know their name, teach them to “come” by using it: “Come, Fluffy”! When they do, use positive reinforcement such as a treat or lots of praise. After they’ve mastered this first command, move on to “sit” and “stay”. Always remember to let them know when they’re doing something right. Never reward any bad behavior.
Speaking of bad behavior, jumping could be considered one. It seems harmless and cute when they’re little puppies, but as they get older and continue to do this, it won’t be as cute. Believe us, Grandma isn’t going to approve when she comes to visit and little FiFi greets her with dirty paw prints on her nice white slacks! When you come home and your dog greets you by jumping on you, try ignoring them or even turning your back on them until they settle down. Once they do, then turn and give them the attention they’re looking for. Never pet them while they’re in the jumping position; this will only reinforce that bad behavior.
Another behavior that could be placed in the “bad” category is nipping. Again, this is cute when they’re little but if they’re allowed to continue doing it, it can lead to bigger problems down the road. When they’re playfully biting at your hand or pant leg, try trading them for a chew toy or a bone. They’ll enjoy that more anyways. This method can be used for chewing also, when you find them with your favorite pair of shoes.
Remember that dogs “live in the moment”, meaning that two minutes after they’ve done something, they’ve forgotten about it. When they do something naughty, use your chosen training technique right away so they can make the association between the bad behavior and the correction. Consistent repetition is the key in the training process and will reinforce what they are learning. Lastly, always end your training session on a positive note. Let them know they’ve pleased you by giving them a treat, praise, lots of petting or just some play time. This will make them eager to join you again in your next session! Happy New Year and happy training!