January is National Train Your Dog Month. At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, we believe you should make dog training a priority all year long. Dogs of all ages can benefit from training. When it comes to training your dog, there are many ways it can be tackled. From one-on-one training sessions between you and your dog, to training classes, to an in-home trainer, there are a variety of ways you can work on gaining an obedient dog.
Training your puppy or adult dog has so many benefits:
- Creates a well-behaved dog
- Provides a way to distract a nervous or anxious dog by giving them something they know how to do
- Offers an opportunity for you to bond with your dog on a regular basis (your dog will start to look forward to the training sessions!)
- Gives you the ability to rein in an overly excited dog when he/she needs to be calm
- Helps keep your dog out of danger (e.g. having your dog sit and stay instead of running out in the street, etc.)
- And the list goes on….
A dog with behavior problems (anxiety, aggression, inappropriate chewing, accidents in the house, etc.) can create stress in a household. Dog training lays the groundwork in either helping to prevent or correct these problems. Of course, if your pet has any behavior concerns, the first step is to talk with one of our doctors to make sure there is not a medical reason for the problem. If the problem is determined to be behavioral, we can make recommendations that can help address the undesired behaviors.
For dog training, you should start as early as possible. This could mean starting as soon as you adopt a new puppy, or a new adult dog. But it’s never too late to start training your dog, so even if you have had your dog for years – go ahead and give it a try! You will want to teach your dog at least the basics: sit, stay, down, come, heel. From there, get creative! Some dogs will shake, others will give a ‘high five’ or roll over. You might even find your dog likes to try some agility moves. When you work on training with your dog, use lots of praise and positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviors. Gradually increase the level of difficulty so that your dog can attain the goals and have a positive experience.
It’s important to note that once your dog learns some commands, he or she will need to practice them. So whether you teach them yourself, take a training class, or have a trainer come into your home, you should build in some practice sessions on a regular basis. If you can set up a time each day that you work for a few minutes with your dog – he or she will stay up to speed with the commands, and you both will enjoy the interaction and bonding time!
Many dogs can benefit from training classes that are held with other dogs. These classes provide opportunities for socialization, and they challenge your dog to be able to perform the commands even in the face of distractions (the other people and dogs). Sometimes dogs do better with one-on-one training. Perhaps they learn at a different rate (slower or faster) than the other dogs, they are distracted by the other dogs, or they have aspects of their behavior that need to be addressed in their home environment.
Lawndale Veterinary Hospital regularly recommends Marcia Martin (Marcia’s Best Dogs) to our pet owners looking for an in-home trainer. Marcia works on skills including: training your dog to have good manners (basic commands, housebreaking, crate training, play biting, jumping up, walking on a leash); introducing new dogs into a multi-dog home; making foster dogs more adoptable by improving manners; and helping first time dog or puppy owners understand their new pet. She can also help work through behavioral training problems specific to individual dogs. Marcia loves it when people can see the good side in their dogs who may be having behavioral issues that can be corrected with training. She finds a lot of joy in giving pet owners the tools to address training problems quickly and effectively. Marcia also helps owners understand the importance of knowing how children and dogs need to relate. Many injuries can be avoided if their is an understanding of how children should behave around an individual dog. Finally, since Marcia believes in the value of matching a dog with the lifestyle of the family, she encourages people to consider talking with her before they adopt a new dog. She can work with the family to understand what type of personality would be the best fit, and she can help do the research to find the right dog!
So, no matter what age your dog is, it’s not too late to start working on some training commands. Your dog will enjoy the time together, and you will enjoy the rewards of an obedient dog.
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS