Obedience training and socialization
When you get a new dog – whether a puppy or an older dog – one of the first things you should do is begin training. The sooner you begin, the sooner you establish your leadership and authority, the sooner you bond with the dog and the easier it will be train your dog. Most behavioural problems stem from actions that are natural for your dog and need to be corrected or redirected by a loving, patient human.
When your puppy is 8-12 weeks old, the age when he is ready to be taken from his mother to a new home, is critical for the development of your dog. This is often called the ‘fear period’, so all efforts should be made to avoid any traumatic experiences for the pup during this time. What he learns during this period will stick with him as part of his personality and habits for the rest of his life. If he has very scary or negative experiences during this time, it will be difficult for him to overcome them.
Why Train Your Dog?
There are many reasons for training your dog well. The bottom line is that a well-mannered dog is more pleasant both to those he lives with and those he comes in contact with, and will live a longer, happier, healthier life.
A well-trained dog:
- Will let you check his body for injuries or health problems and give him medication when needed. It can be very difficult and frustrating having a sick dog that needs medication on a regular basis but fights with you every time you try to give it to him. Training to let you handle him increases the likelihood of your dog living longer, and will help you catch health problems before it is too late.
- Will be easy to exercise with. There will be little or no straining on the leash and running away from you, making daily exercise a pleasant time for both of you.
- Knows what is expected of him and will consequently be less stressed and happier with you.
- Will be treated better and appreciated by strangers on the street, guests in your home, as well as your neighbours. Most people do not like dogs jumping up at them when they come to visit, and neighbours find constant barking frustrating. A well trained dog will help you build positive relationships with people rather than negative ones.
- Will understand the hierarchical structure of his home: you are the leader and the final authority.
- Will be saved from potentially harmful situations because your commands will bring him back to your side or keep him by your side when he is in danger.
- Must still be supervised. Dogs are not always aware of dangerous situations and should not be allowed to roam free regardless of how well trained they are. Boundaries still need to be created and maintained.
Obedience training classes can be very helpful for both you and your dog to set the foundation and standard for training and to help you get started with the basics. However, it is very important to continue what you learn in the environment he will be living in.
Trainers and Training Methods
- Quality trainers are well-informed and up-to-date on training techniques and many different training methods. These include positive reinforcement methods that are based on current scientific knowledge of learning theory.
- Use humane training methods; avoid those that will cause physical or psychological harm to the animal, particularly those that use pain, force and intimidation to control dog behaviour.
- Communication is very important in quality training, and a good trainer will communicate well both with you and with dogs.
- Observe a training class so you can get an idea of how it functions and whether or not this is the training that would best suit you and your dog before you apply for classes.
- You should not hire a trainer unless he or she has been recommended to you by at least one reliable person.
- Trainers will genuinely love working with dogs and both you and the trainer must care for your dog’s individual well-being while training.
- Quality trainers will attend training seminars and conferences to stay up-to-date and continuously improve their methods and training sessions.
- Good trainers put ethical standards above profit-making.
Training should be fun for both of you! Make sure training sessions don’t drag on too long, and be sure to reward your dog with praise, food or toys for good behaviour and scold sparingly. Frequent punishment will lose its meaning if your dog gets used to you saying “No!” or “Bad Dog!” on a regular basis. Effective scolding is immediate and curt.
Your tone of voice is very powerful in communicating to your dog and will say a lot both in scolding and praising. If you are careful in how you use it, punishment will never need to be more severe than a brief verbal scolding.
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