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INTRO TO TRAINING
People have been training dogs for centuries. Some dogs are trained to hunt, some for companionship, and some are trained to assist people with disabilities. But whatever the purpose, we believe that training should enhance the pet/parent relationship by promoting balance and stability. The Doguroo training staff has provided the information below to assist you and your dog in achieving that balance. You’ll read several variations of three important terms below. Refer to these throughout your training pursuits:
Expectations: Be realistic about what you and your dog can accomplish and how long it will take
Patience: Understand that successful training does not happen overnight
Manage Expectations: It’s important to set realistic, achievable training goals for both you and your dog. This may require a bit of soul-searching on your part. Understand your own level of patience and commitment before embarking on a training regimen. A well-trained dog adds balance and stability to the pet/parent relationship, but the process requires a calm persistence and determination.
Next, know your dog. Understand their normal attention span to gauge how long they’ll be able to focus on a training objective. Also determine how different your training objective is from what they’re used to doing. It’s generally easier for a dog to catch on to a desired behavior if it’s similar to what they’re accustomed to. That said, don’t be afraid to set high, but realistic expectations. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks – it might just take a little longer.
Finally, only correct your dog when they know what’s expected of them. Correction before they can distinguish between what’s right and wrong only breeds confusion and can set your training back.
Balanced Approach: There are “positive” and “negative” approaches to training. Doguroo endorses positive methods, but it’s important to achieve a healthy balance between correction and positive reinforcement. Over-correction, at best, might teach your dog what NOT to do, but it will also likely cause them to shut down before your training objectives are reached. On the other hand, being overly positive with little correction teaches that every behavior, whether desired or not, is correct. A truly balanced approach can be tricky and requires the patience we mentioned above, along with high self-awareness. Rule of thumb: correct problem behaviors once expectations have been set, and immediately reward desired behaviors.
Short, Positive Sessions: Let’s say you’ve determined that your dog has a pretty long attention span… That might eventually land them near the “top of the class,” but it doesn’t mean that either of you can, or should, endure marathon training sessions. Dogs generally learn most effectively in short, positive intervals – no more than an hour or so with breaks. Shorter training sessions can have more impact and retention power because you’re able to end on a positive note before your dog gets bored or loses interest. Brief, focused lessons keep training fun for you and your dog, and are proven to yield faster, more accurate results.
High Value Items: Most dogs have that special treat or toy that they just can’t resist. When playing the role of Trainer (or even Trainer’s assistant), it’s your job to know what that item is. High value treats, toys, or even words will add impact and meaning to your positive reinforcement. For some dogs, a piece of kibble might do the trick. For more savory snackers, try hot dogs, sandwich meat, or a new toy. Find your dog’s high value item and give them something to work for.
Importance of Exercise: All dogs need exercise, to one degree or another. It increases metabolism and helps pump blood and oxygen to the muscles, organs, and brain. But exercise is also one of the requirements of a successful training program. Here’s why..
Exercise helps to drain nervous or pent-up energy that can make holding your dog’s focus more difficult than it needs to be. This is especially true with higher energy breeds (if you have one, you know it – many sporting, working, and smaller breeds fit this bill). Second, exercise improves your dog’s mood and health – most healthy dogs are happy dogs. And happy dogs are more willing and eager to follow direction and learn. Finally, exercising WITH your dog can strengthen the pet/parent bond and helps to build trust. So for better training results, try taking a jog with your dog or playing fetch in the backyard before your next training session.
Regular Check-ups: Physical health is an aspect of evaluating a dog’s behavior that is sometimes over-looked. Most physical ailments can directly influence behavior and result in signs of lethargy, selective hearing, and even aggression. Make sure your dog receives regular check-ups with a veterinarian and rule out behaviors caused by health issues before beginning training.
COMMON BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS
House Training: House training is one of the first obstacles a pet parent will face with a new puppy or a dog that is not used to being indoors. Achieving the desired behavior, like every other training goal, requires patience and persistence. The two most common methods of getting your dog to use the bathroom outside are frequent potty breaks and crate training. Frequent potty breaks are all about favorable statistics. The more often your dog goes outside, the more likely they are to use the bathroom outside. Eventually they will become accustomed to going outside and find smells and locations they prefer in your yard over items in your house. Crate training involves placing your dog in a crate for longer and longer periods of time until they become comfortable. Most dogs do not like using the bathroom in confined spaces and will “hold it” until you let them out. Just be sure to let them outside before having free roam of the house. Finally, praise your dog every time they use the bathroom outside. Keep the learning process interesting and fun.
Nipping/Mouthing: Dogs learn to play at an early age by nipping and mouthing at their siblings. As they get older, mouthing can go from cute to troublesome. In a pack environment, other dogs eventually teach them that excessive nipping is bothersome and unacceptable. Away from the pack, it’s your job to nip this habit. Practice avoidance when your dog is nipping. Turn away and do not inadvertently encourage the behavior by making noises or gestures. Then show them what you expect by giving them something they should have in their mouth like a toy or a bone. Once your dog sees that you don’t enjoy their mouthing and that they have more appealing options, they should drop the habit.
Inappropriate Chewing: Most of us have something in our house that bears the mark of an over-active chewer. Before you get too upset over that shredded area rug or the splintered table leg, remember that dogs use their mouths in much the same way that we humans use our hands. So give your dog something to do! First, make sure your dog gets regular exercise to burn off that energy that might be used for chewing later. In addition to exercise, bones, chews, and the latest generation of tough toys are great options for over-active chewers. It’s your job to let them know what’s OK to chew and what’s not. Consider crate training your dog for times when you’re not able to monitor them or putting up temporary barriers to guard their favorite household items. Always monitor your dog with bones, chews, or toys to avoid complications from choking or blockages – at least until you are familiar with their chewing style and rate of consumption.