Tuesday, January 20, 2015

National Train Your Dog Month - Tips

National Train Your Dog Month

Here are ten great training tips to help you and your pet have a relaxing training experience!

1. Listen to your dog
 If your dog is showing signs of stress (lip licking, panting without being hot/exerted, tucked tail, half moon eyes), then maybe a break is in order. Your pet is trying to communicate with you that they are uncomfortable or stressed. 

2. Give them tons of affection!
  It's easy to let out frustration when a dog isn't quite grasping the training, but many owners forget to reinforce the good things! Be generous with praise! This helps build a positive relationship and a stronger bond, which will result in the pet wanting to please you by doing well in training! It's okay to be over the top with your affection!

3. Is your pet enjoying the reward?
   Treats are a great way to reward a pet. You don't need to buy high-priced treats that have "all dogs love them" plastered all over the bag. Use a special treat that you know your dog absolutely loves. Pieces of cheese, hot dogs, and peanut butter are among favorites! Small soft treats are especially great for training.

4. Say no to saying no!
   It's okay to say "no" sometimes, but it's not very effective in training. Be specific with commands. If your dog is jumping to greet people, instead of shouting "NO!" try calmly saying "sit" or "down." If you just say "no" the dog may think you want them to jump higher or to the left instead of the right. When you give your dog a specific command the dog knows exactly what you expect from him/her.  

5. Consistency is key!
   Make sure everyone in the household is on the same page. If you plan on attending a training class, take the family with you. If you are training at home, make a list of commands to put in a common space. If you taught your dog "down" and someone else is saying "lay," this can create inconsistencies and confusion in the training. Get everyone on board for your dog's success!

6. Make obtainable goals!
   You probably didn't become an expert in your profession or hobby over night. Don't expect your dog to perfect their training in one day. Learning takes time! "Normal" dog behaviors such as barking and digging will likely take more time to correct. You must also factor in the amount of time the pet was allowed to exhibit a behavior. If the dog was always allowed to jump on visitor's, then the behavior could take longer to correct. All behavior can be changed, some habits just take longer to change! Be patient and understanding. 
7. Feed them brain food!
   Never underestimate the power of high-quality food! Get a food with the appropriate amount of protein. Higher energy dogs need more protein than less active dogs. If you ate fast food that was high in fat and low in protein, you may feel sluggish and find it hard to focus. The same applies to dogs! In addition, the money you spend on better food will save you money on vet bills and will likely add time to your pet's life.

8. You get what you train, not what you want!
 Negative reinforcement is rampant in pet ownership. Has your dog ever been barking and you gave them a bone or toy to try to quiet them? If you have ever caved to your dog to get them to stop a behavior, you're actually rewarding them for that behavior! They learn that their pesky behavior will get them what they want out of you. Every interaction with your pet is a training opportunity. An easy solution is giving the dog a command before a reward. If the dog barks, ask him/her to "lay down" or "sit," then reward them for listening to the command.

9. Rewards are not bribery!
Treats are the easiest form of reward. Why not?! They work wonders! Make sure that the reward produces the treat; the treat should not produce the behavior

10. Let freedom ring!
   A dog should gradually earn freedom. A common mistake is giving the dog total freedom right from the start. This can often result in potty accidents and destructive chewing. Use training crates for safe zones for your dog and block off other rooms in the house. Once your dog's behavior begins to change, gradually let them explore more areas of the house.