Celebrate National Train Your Dog Month by using basic behavior-modification tactics
The holidays are over and we at Rover.com are turning our thoughts to the year ahead. What can we do to make our daily lives more enjoyable? If you’re a dog owner, a happy household is influenced by your pet’s lovable and frisky but sometimes vexing behavior. While many owners are intimidated by the prospect of launching into a program of “dog training,” don’t be. In celebration of National Train Your Dog Month, Rover.com has come up with some simple ways to interact with your dog that will make your daily life happier.
Reward behaviors you like. And don’t reward behaviors you want to eliminate. The
ASPCA says that, regardless of the dog training methods you use, you’ll get positive results only by controlling the consequences of your pet’s behavior. Dogs are eager to please you and they love to be rewarded, so it’s up to you to teach them which behaviors you want from them.
Gain insight into how dogs learn. People and dogs, although we love each other, are different species. Dogs have many skills, but understanding the complexities of human speech is not among them. They can successfully learn one-word commands, though, if you consistently use the same simple word for the behavior you want—“sit,” “stay,” “come”—and if you reward and/or praise the behavior when the word is used and your dog complies. The ASPCA says dogs learn only through the “immediate consequences of their behavior.” So dogs are like us, and every other animal, in that way: they want to get pleasant things and avoid unpleasant ones.
Use “real life” training. Instead of viewing “dog training” as the equivalent of having to spend long, inflexible hours in a school classroom, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers recommends that you view your dog’s learning as a constant process that can take place anywhere, every day. The APDT suggests “real life” training practices like using the “come” command in daily activities (summoning the dog for meals, and calling him away from the front door when he hears noise outside, for example). Practice the “sit” and “stay” commands when you’re busy doing daily chores like cooking, eating meals, or working on the computer. Your dog will learn to keep quiet and calm while you’re occupied with your tasks.
Learn ways to teach basic commands. All well-behaved dogs should know at least five basic commands, says the Animal Planet website: heel, sit, down, stay, and come. Teach all these commands by rewarding correct behavior with small food treats. Many owners start with the “sit” command because it can be the easiest for your dog to master. Hold the treat above the dog’s head and he will tilt his head back to see the food, causing his rear legs to fold. As his legs bend, say “sit.” When he is fully sitting, reward him with the treat.
Enjoy your trained dog. A well-trained dog is a happier dog, says the American Dog Trainers Network. He can participate in more activities with you and other humans and pets, he’s mentally stimulated, well exercised, knows his limits, and he’s safer. On the other hand, an untrained dog, as well as the humans and other pets around him, suffers from his misbehavior. Consistent, steady, regular training makes a dog even more fun to have around, and your bond with your best canine friend will continue to grow.