10 Tips on Dog Training: A Veterinary Technician’s Guide
Published on January 31, 2019 by A. Rothstein
Did you just adopt a dog and need some tips to train them? Training a new dog or puppy should start when you bring them home. Puppies can start learning when they’re born. Experienced, compassionate breeders begin to socialize and handle puppies immediately. When puppies can walk and have their eyes open, they’re capable of learning some basic commands. An important tip to keep in mind, although puppies have short attention spans, they can understand simple commands like down, stay, and sit when they’re as young as seven or eight weeks old.
Tip #1: Attitudes About Dog Training Are Changing
For many years, traditional training was delayed until a dog was at least six months old. However, most canine experts agree that by the time a dog is that age, it’s in the juvenile phase of life and some excellent opportunities for training may have been missed. Dogs learn behavior and skills from experience and repetition. Another tip to think about is that by the time a dog is six months old, they’re starting to develop behavior that carries over into adulthood. A dog owner should curb problem behavior when it is first notice, so it doesn’t continue.
If a dog has learned behaviors that you don’t want to continue or hasn’t been taught correctly, training will take longer. It’s best to get off to a good start by teaching simple commands when your dog is still a puppy. Young puppies are capable of learning much more than some people believe. Training a new dog takes a lot of time and requires patience but is worth the rewards of having a well-behaved dog to share your life with.
Tip #2: The Best Training Methods
A tip that many experts on animal behavior agree on is that positive reinforcement and gentle handling are essential when training dogs, especially young puppies. One method that’s effective with puppies seven or eight weeks old is Food Lure Training. Commands that puppies can learn with this method are down, stand, stay and sit.
You can use a puppy’s favorite toy or small bits of food to entice them to learn commands. If the reward for obeying the command is very appealing, it will be easy to teach your puppy. Begin by showing the puppy the reward, then giving a command. Here are a few examples of how this method works.
- Hold the treat or toy over the puppy’s nose, then gradually move your hand backward which should make the puppy go into a sitting position.
- Holding the food, draw your hand down toward the floor and use the command “down.” Reward your puppy with the treat.
- Hold a bit of food in your hand while the puppy is in the “down” position and gradually lift your hand while using the command “stand.” When the puppy responds, reward them with the treat.
- Standing a few feet from your puppy, hold the treat out in front of you while saying “come.” Reward the puppy when they come to you.
- Hold the food down at high level and say “heel” while walking forward. Reward the puppy when they respond.
Tip #3: How Often Commands Should Be Repeated
The idea of the lure and food reward method is that you should use the command once. Proceed slowly, so the puppy gets the idea. The treat in your hand is what motivates the puppy to obey. Once the puppy obeys, secondary reinforcement like patting or verbally praising him, helps him to understand. In the early stages of the training, keeping a leash attached to your puppy’s collar can aid in controlling him. An important tip: your puppy doesn’t understand the words you’re using. The key is to get your puppy to associate the word and his actions with the reward.
Tip #4: When You Should Stop Using Food as a Reward
When you begin training your puppy using the lure and food method, you will allow the puppy to see the treat in your hand to get the puppy’s attention and guide them into the correct position for the command. When the puppy realizes that when they obey, they get a treat, you can start hiding the treat in your hand.
At the same time, give the command or use the hand motion the puppy has learned. Before too long, they’ll understand that even though they can’t see the food, they know they’ll get a reward for obeying your command. When the puppy understands your commands, you can gradually start to withdraw the treat and reward with verbal praise or by patting the puppy.
Start giving your puppy a treat at random times; every third or fourth time they obey your command should be sufficient. In time, the puppy will understand that the secondary reinforcement methods you’ve been using, an affectionate pat and verbal praise, have more meaning, and they’ll start to obey even when they know that’s their reward.
When training begins, you should save the commands strictly for the times you’re working on obedience. As the dog matures, you can start giving the commands during other times of the day, and they’ll soon understand that they must obey.
Tip #5: How Much Training Time Is Necessary
A good training tip is to keep the sessions short, especially with a young puppy. Spend at least 15 minutes each day working on commands, but it can be done in short periods of about five minutes each session.
It’s a good idea to have everyone in your family teach the commands. The puppy should first learn “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down,” and should learn to obey no matter what room they are in. Practicing the commands in every room of your house and getting the family involved will help the puppy to relax and feel more comfortable in their surroundings.
Tip #6: When Socialization Should Start
Socialization should begin as soon as you bring your dog home. Most puppies go to their new home at between seven and eight weeks, and it’s never too early to begin. Puppies naturally accept people and other animals, are eager to explore their surroundings and are enthusiastic and uninhibited. They should be exposed to a lot of different situations from between the ages of eight and 14 to 16 weeks of age.
A lot of trainers will recommend introducing puppies to new experiences and people each week, so they become comfortable and enjoy new, fun experiences. Make sure your puppy isn’t exposed to a situation that could evoke a fearful response.
Tip #7: An Essential Developmental Stage
Some new dog owners have concerns when their dog begins to develop fearful tendencies when they reach 14 to 16 weeks old. The reason for this behavior is that the puppy is starting to mature and may become wary of different situations and people. This is a critical stage in a young dog’s life.
Some owners report their dog seems more fearful, will cower and sometimes refuse their favorite treats. Owners should watch for these signs and keep their dog as relaxed as possible. Never expose your dog to anything that they may feel is overwhelming during this stage.
Tip #8: How to Work with A Distracted or Excited Puppy
Puppies have different personalities as people do. Some puppies are more headstrong than others during training periods. An excellent way to get a stubborn puppy to respond is to use a leash and head halter for more control. Head halters don’t hurt dogs, and they’re instrumental in getting a stubborn puppy to respond to commands. If the puppy isn’t responding to commands, you can use a very gentle correction by applying a small amount of pressure on the lead which will get the puppy to respond. When you get the puppy to obey, you can release the amount of pressure you apply to the head halter.
When you use food as a reward for obeying commands, a small bit of food usually works best with most puppies. However, some young dogs respond better to a tasty treat or a favorite toy. Use whatever method works best with your puppy.
With a lot of young puppies, training right before mealtime is practical since the puppy is hungry and learns that when they obey your commands, they get a treat. When you start working with your puppy, choose an area in your home that’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of distractions. You want your dog to focus on you. The reward is the motivation for obeying, so that’s what the puppy is focusing on.
Tip #9: Commands That Every Dog Should Know
Well trained dogs are happy, confident, and eager to please their owners. Each of the commands that dogs should understand and always respond to have a specific function. Your puppy should always obey these commands whether you’re at home, at the veterinarian’s office, in the dog park, or visiting friends.
Come – The most important command that your dog needs to learn and obey is to get your dog’s attention and call them to return to you.
Sit – Any dog training program will include teaching your dog to sit on command.
Down – When your dog lies down with his belly to the ground, it puts them in a submissive position and helps you gain control.
Stay – When a dog is well-trained. they will stay where the owner says.
Heel – It’s necessary for dogs to learn to walk alongside their owner on a loose lead, without lagging or pulling ahead
No – The vital word No that all dogs must learn.
Off – Tells your dog to stay down and not to jump up on you or someone else. It also keeps your pet off the furniture.
Tip #10: Importance of Enrolling in a Class
Owners who have never adopted a puppy before may want to consider an obedience class. An experienced trainer can guide novice owners through the steps of training and teach more advanced techniques for any training problems you may be encountering. Another excellent reason to enroll in a class with your puppy is that you must practice the techniques you learn in class during the week so that you can keep up with others in the class.
By enrolling in a class, the trainer can help you to deal with any problem issues when they arise rather than dealing with them later. The trainer can teach techniques to correct the problem, so you and your puppy understand what’s expected of you.
Finally, training classes are an excellent way to expose your puppy to new social situations while you’re in a controlled setting. Another advantage is that your puppy will make friends the same age. You can arrange times for them to play together even when you complete the class.
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