Did you know that January is National Train Your Dog Month? With so many dog adoptions taking place during the holidays, the turn of the calendar is a great time to take action to ensure pups and pet parents can enjoy the benefits of proper training.
More than just a few lessons on how to roll over, dog training introduces pups to socialization, promotes good behavior, and helps develop happier and healthier companions.
If you’re beginning the new year with a new friend, here’s a look at all the reasons why training is important—and how the right techniques can have a lasting positive effect on your pup.
Why Is Training Important?
Sadly, 6-8 million pets are sent to animal shelters, and roughly 4 million are euthanized every year. It’s a sobering fact with a relatively simple solution.
Studies have shown that most pets end up in shelters as a result of common behavioral issues that could be solved with the assistance of a professional. Unfortunately, many pet parents fail to introduce proper training because they see instruction as a luxury and not a necessity.
The truth is, training—particularly at an early age—is a key component to good animal care that can enhance a dog’s quality of life and reduce or even eliminate behavioral problems.
How Does Training Work?
Understanding the need for training starts with a reminder: dogs are domesticated animals descendant from wolves. In the wild they’re naturally self-sufficient – they need to be taught how to live in a house and with humans.
Depending on the dog, the breed, and the owner, your choice of training may vary. However, you should note that one popular technique of the recent past, “alpha” or “dominance training,” has been largely debunked.
Most trainers have pivoted to more positive, scientifically sound techniques and a reward-based structure that enhances the dog-owner relationship through positive feedback. With reward-based training, dogs are set up to succeed and—as the name suggests—rewarded for good performance.
Training Classes: How and Where?
If you think training your new pup amounts to a walk in the park, think again. Uncontrolled environments during early development can lead to bad experiences. Without proper training during what’s known as the “critical socialization period” dogs may develop bad habits and never learn how to interact appropriately with people or other dogs.
Fortunately, group training and professionally structured environmental socialization classes are a great way to overcome this and foster positive learned behaviors. While obedience training is great—with a focus on parent-pup communication and basic skills like sitting on command, coming when called, and loose leash walking—environmental socialization is vital.
Generally, for dogs under six months of age, socialization and play sessions in controlled surroundings that introduce puppies to all kinds of new experiences and stimuli can help set them up for success as calm, healthy, and psychologically resilient dogs. After the six-month mark, classes mostly focus on manners, impulse control, and relationship building. This is also when training repetition helps dogs learn to truly master commands like those listed above.
Once you’ve decided on training, you’ll need to find classes that work for you and your pup. Word of mouth recommendations can be helpful, so consider asking your veterinarian, groomer, or other pet parents for advice. If you are interested in signing up your dog at DOGPerfect for private training classes now or small group training classes starting this year, visit www.dogperfect.com/training to learn more!
What About Training Aids?
You don’t need much in the way of supplies to support training at home, but there are a few basics that can make it easier:
· Treats – A great tool for reward-based training, treats are inexpensive, readily available, and a perfect way to motivate and reinforce good behavior.
· Crates – One of the quickest and easiest housetraining methods, crates also offer a safe place to confine and comfort pups when you’re short on supervision.
· Collars and Harnesses – Depending on the training type, there are several collar and harness options to choose from. For positive reinforcement, we recommend a Martingale collar; for dogs learning to leash walk, a harness might be just the thing.
· Leashes – When selecting a leash keep it simple. Go with a standard six-footer and avoid retractable options as they may encourage wandering.
· Calming Aids – Is your dog lonely, scared, or anxious? You may need a Snuggle Puppy. This durable plush toy comes with a calming heartbeat that can help dogs of any age relax.
Remember: proper training is a necessity, not a luxury. From the classroom to the home, it’s essential your dog receives the instruction and reinforcement they need to start both pup and pet parent on the path to a healthy lifelong companionship.
About the Author:
Karen Bedsole is the professional dog trainer at locally owned DOGPerfect. She has been working in the dog-related field for 27 years. Karen has a passion for training owners and dogs and enjoys working on building the relationship between them. Sign-up for a free 30-minute training consult with Karen at www.dogperfect.com/training.