Training Through Consistency, Clear Communication, and Fair Leadership
The Training Method
The beautiful thing about dogs is that every dog is different; their personality, temperaments, behaviors, learning styles, etc. An effective training program is tailored to an individual dog’s needs and learning style while focusing on maintaining a positive relationship between dog and owner. In humans, respect and trust are elements of a successful relationship between mentors and mentees; in a dog’s world, the same principles apply. Be mindful of your reactions to your dog’s behavior, remember, respect and trust are earned; fair leadership is crucial to building and maintaining a positive relationship with your dog.
The Pet Academy at Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital employs a science-based approach to training. This method is tailored to an individual dogs’ nature, their ability to be conditioned, and the effectiveness of rewards and consequences; this science-based approach aligns with The Pet Academy’s belief that clear, effective communication and fair leadership are the cornerstones to creating a well-rounded dog.
Well-Trained or Well-Behaved
A well-trained dog will do what you ask when they are asked, and a well-behaved dog offers appropriate behaviors without being asked. An example would be when guests arrive, as soon as the door opens the family dog is bouncing up with joy. “Sit!” they exclaim. And the dog does…for a moment…then they’re back to jumping on the visitors. Alternatively, a well-behaved dog knows how to greet people calmly with four paws on the floor without the owner having to command him. Can you truly teach an old dog new tricks? Sure, you can! The following tips will put you and your dog on the fast track to success!
Puppies under 14-weeks-old are in their critical socialization period. At this point in development, puppies are the least fearful which means they need careful exposure to the world around them to form the coping skills they will need as an adult. Socialization does not simply mean allowing your puppy to play with other dogs, there are many components which include: exposure to appropriate dogs (who are good with puppies, and at the proper stage of vaccinations), handling/examinations, grooming, nail trims, being crated, different surfaces, novel sounds (thunder, fireworks, sirens), etc. Never force your puppy into a situation where they are uncomfortable. Introduce new things slowly and reward them for looking to you when they are unsure. It is important to note that this critical window closes before the puppy is fully vaccinated which is why The Pet Academy at Kennesaw Mountain Animal Hospital created a Puppy Preschool Program to provide safe exposure opportunities in a controlled, sanitary environment with appropriate and vaccinated dogs.
Keep Training Sessions Short and Fun
When training your dog, have a clear idea of your end goal and reward when your dog makes small steps in the right direction. This will help your dog catch on quickly and be more engaged. Keep training sessions short to avoid frustration or burnout, reducing rewards as they progress. Play can be incorporated as a reward or break in between learning. Make it a point to end training sessions on a good note so your dog maintains a positive association with training.
Clear Communication and Consistency
To effectively influence a dog’s behavior, we must first understand how they learn. We can influence their behavior by controlling the consequences of that behavior. Behaviors that receive a positive outcome will be repeated whereas behaviors that do not will start to fade. Pick a few ground rules and incorporate them consistently into your daily routine. Perhaps having your dog stand calmly while you clip the leash on for a walk, sitting and waiting for their food bowl, etc. Effective communication and consistency are essential to your dog’s progression.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation
It’s important to ensure that you are meeting their physical exercise and mental stimulation needs. Provide appropriate outlets for energy such as walks, socialization with other dogs, fetch, etc. so that their energy is not channeled into destructive, frustrating, or even dangerous behaviors. Mental stimulation is also important and can be done in the form of training, nose-work games, sniff walks, and food puzzle toys. There are times when mental stimulation can be more beneficial than excessive exercise, particularly with very exuberant dogs. Try to incorporate both types of activities daily.