Through the United States, over 75 million people own pet dogs. Simply put, Americans are obsessed with dogs. Dogs have been bred to suit a variety of different lifestyles, with some people preferring small pets who fit in a purse, while others choose companions who can accompany them on hunting trips, or bolt through agility courses. We’ve long considered them man’s best friends, and with good reason. A dog offers the kind of loyalty and devotion that can’t be found in human beings. In fact, a lot of people consider dogs substitutes for human children. You’ve probably heard of the term “fur children” and perhaps rolled your eyes — until you adopted a dog of your own. Of course, as much as we may make dogs members of our family, they’re still animals. They are not born knowing the sort of niceties and manners that we expect of our pets. When you bring a new puppy home, as cute as they may seem, they can get into a lot of trouble. That new addition to your family has sharp teeth, and can easily chew up your shoes, ruin your nicely trimmed shrubs, and wreak havoc in your home. Many people are not prepared for this — or they assume that if they adopt an adult dog, it will be without behavioral issues expected of puppies. This is one reason why many people end up putting their dogs in shelters or rescues. Being placed for adoption, however, is never the fault of the dog.
It’s on the dog owner to take care of the training necessary to turn their wild and rambunctious animal into the well-behaved pet that they need. Dog training is crucial to the transition process when you adopt a furry friend. But as necessary as it is, you can’t expect the process to be easy. You’ll need guidance, as well as incentives like dog training treats. Although it’s recommended for newcomers to dog training to work with professionals, you’ll have to work with your dog well beyond the initial training. You can’t expect your dog to become a perfect member of the family after that first round of lessons; nor can you expect them to remember their training if you don’t remain consistent, and reinforce the tips that you are given with dog training treats, as well as additional training tools like leashes and clickers. Let’s look into what you should do when training a dog for the first time.
1. Identify Incentives
Dogs are not simple animals. For one thing, they’re rather intelligent — otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to train them in the first place. Every dog is different; they even vary from breed to breed. Therefore, different dogs require different incentives. Almost universally, however, dogs are motivated by positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement may come in the form of dog training treats, while other dogs are motivated by a certain tone of voice — most dogs do enjoy it when people talk to them in high pitched voices, though that doesn’t mean you have to “baby talk” to them. Other dogs are motivated more by the use of toys. While some dogs see dog training treats as the only valid rewards, other dogs will be just as happy — if not more so — when their ball is thrown, or when they get to play tug of war after they finish a trick. In recent years, dog trainers have started to use clickers. These simple devices make a clicking sound, which trainers employ when the dog performs a behavior correctly. Of course, for some dogs nothing more than the classic dog training treats will do. The issue with food-motivated dogs is that you have to find the right food — dogs have taste buds and can be just as picky as human beings — and ensuring that the dog training treats you use are both enticing and healthy. Some dog training treats are much like dessert or candy for your dog, and shouldn’t be given in large “doses”. If that’s the case — then what is the point of using dog training treats at all? It’s a better idea to use dog training treats that are good for your dog, and can, therefore, be used as often as possible. Most dog training treats are flavored to taste like red meat or poultry. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, and they are more motivated to eat treats that smell strongly like the type of food they want to eat. Therefore, you should buy dog training treats that are naturally flavored, and meat-based. Some people even feed their dogs treats that aren’t much more than meat, frozen and as natural as possible, with little to no grain. Dog training treats also need to be portioned correctly. You’ll want them to be large enough to give your dog the kind of incentive that they need, but small enough to avoid sating their hunger and keep them motivated. Essentially, you’re striking the balance between normal dog food, and the kind of treats that you would consider “special”. Think of your dog as you would a toddler. Ultimately, treats are what keeps them motivated. Whether that treat comes in the form of food, special praise, or a toy — it’s something that they aren’t necessarily used to getting on a constant basis, and thus they work harder to attain it. Treats aren’t necessarily the kinds of incentives you would use for every type of training, however. Though negative reinforcement — punishments — generally aren’t recommended for dogs, which can’t comprehend them the way humans would, reinforcements like treats do not apply to every technique.
2. Safety Barriers
It may not feel like your pug is descended from a wolf — but all dogs do link back to wolves. Wolves are the ultimate pack animals. Ultimately, a wolf pack remains within a particular territory. This means that they tend to carry out all their activities in the same area. If your dog gets used to the idea of relieving itself in the same area, it’s hard to break them of that habit. This is why it’s important to begin house breaking your dog early on — otherwise, you’ll be in for a lot of rug cleanings, and may even need new flooring down the road. With that being said, house breaking should not involve punishment. In the past, people believed that they should shout “no” at their dogs upon discovering them having an “accident”. This would sometimes even be following by pushing the dog’s nose in the place where they relieved themselves. This is useless; a dog’s mind cannot make the connection between the misbehavior — which they’ll see as natural behavior — and the punishment. They won’t understand why they’re being punished, and in the long term they may become fearful of their owners. The last thing you want is a fearful dog, for a fearful dog is a snappish dog. If you catch your dog having an accident, take them outside immediately, to where you want them to relieve themselves. This routine will establish that area as the correct “territory” for such natural behaviors. So much of dog training is about establishing a routine, after all. This involves both free periods, and times that your pet spends in a dog kennel. House breaking a dog can take some time. Therefore, you’ll probably want to put safety barriers up around the places in which you don’t want your dog to visit until they are housebroken. This will prevent any accidents in places that might be harder to clean. It can also prevent your dog from reaching the type of furniture you may not want them to chew on, or other valuables that shouldn’t be disturbed. House breaking a dog is about more than training it to go outside when it must relieve itself — it’s also about training your dog to behave properly in the house in general. Furthermore, these barriers can help establish a territory in your dog’s mind. Therefore, they will be less likely to visit areas in the house that you would rather they didn’t. This kind of establishment of boundaries is also important when you attempt to train your dog to keep off of sofas or beds. Remember that though you may become irritated with your dog breaking perceived rules, in their minds they are entirely unfamiliar with them. It’s up to you to introduce your dog to your own expectations, in a way that they understand.
We’ll admit from the outright — it’s easier to socialize a new puppy. An older dog can be properly socialized, but it’s often much more difficult to do so, for a number of reasons. An older dog is more set in its ways, while a puppy is malleable, its personality not yet established. If you’re adopting an older dog, you’ll have to look out for a friendly personality, and if you have children, you must make sure that the dog is tested with them first before you complete the adoption process. When adopting a puppy, you’ll want to make sure that it is socialized with kids — as well as strangers — from a young age. Some breeds are naturally prone to suspicion. Dogs that are bred for protection purposes, like German Shepherds or Rottweilers, are naturally closer to their families, and more suspicious of strangers. They’ll never be like Golden Retrievers, or Labradors, which are often more open and friendly to everyone. However, you’ll want to make sure that your dog isn’t fearful of strangers. The issue with fearfulness is that it can cause aggression. Your dog may bark, snap, or even attempt to bite at strangers. Not only could this put you in a good deal of legal trouble — it could lead to your dog being seized by animal control, and even put down. Training your dog to be friendly in public does not mean that it can’t protect you; a dog can be trained to bark in alert in its own home, without getting out of hand. Remember that your dog is a pet, not a tool, and you must place its own safety and happiness first. A dog should not be a substitute for a security system, and it shouldn’t be trained to be aggressive. It’s incredibly important, particularly if you have kids of your own, to train your dog to be tolerant of children. Children are impetuous, and even if you’re in public a child could run up to pet your dog without permission. Children are small, and your dog could hurt a child without even intending to do so. Therefore, you’ll want to train your dog through socialization as a puppy to tolerate a child’s pets, cries, and the occasional poke. Of course, dogs are not perfect; sometimes kids can unintentionally hurt them. It’s up to you to monitor your dog around unpredictable people, to keep both the people and your pet as safe as possible.
Dog training is crucial to being a good dog owner. It may be difficult to deny your pet anything — but learning when to say no and when to give them rewards is for their own good. A well-trained dog is a happy dog; and when you own a well-trained dog, you’ll be a lot happier too. Dedicate yourself to training, and keep it up over the years — you’ll have a well-trained dog in no time.