"Training is not a luxury, it's a key component to animal care. Is feeding your animal something you do only if there is time? It's just as important, and you have to make time to make training happen." Ken Ramirez
This time of year we tend to be full of New Year Resolutions. Two years ago the The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) decided to start a major public relations effort to inform the public that training your dog can be easy and fun. No surprise the APDT picked January because many households chose the holiday season to purchase puppies from breeders or adopted from shelters and rescues. January also marks our societies efforts to start new positive habits. But a entire month dedicated to training your dog? Sounds like a challenge, however, I feel that January is the perfect time to start training your dog. Training doesn't need to be time consuming, I train my dogs anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes per day. Not only is training easy and fun, it's tiring for dogs. Training can build a bond that lasts forever.
Why Should I Train My Dog?
According to the APDT, there are many benefits of training your four legged friend, here is a list of their top 10 reasons to train your dog:
- Puppy classes provide the experiences and opportunities for your puppy to develop interaction skills with other puppies, with people, and in new environments.
- Puppy socialization has been found to be critical to the psychological health of adult dogs.
- Training classes provide dog owners the skills and knowledge for dealing with common, normal dog behaviors—including house training and chewing.
- No matter what age you start training your dog, foundation training provides the basis for any activity, behavior or job you want your dog to do.
- Training provides dogs with the basic good manners, such as polite greeting when guests arrive, walking nicely on the leash, and coming when called.
- A trained dog is a fully participating member of the family for the dogs entire life.
- Training enables you to choose from among a broad range of activities and dog sports to participate in and enjoy with your dog such as dog agility, Rally-obedience, dancing with your dog, tracking, search & rescue, sledding, water rescue trials, obedience, carting, reading programs, therapy work, the list is endless.
- Training has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in his or her “forever” home.
- Training builds your mutual bond, enhances the partnership and enriches the relationship you share with your dog.
- Having a trained dog is a joy for both you and your dog!
What Should I Train My Dog?
Recently I read a great little training tip on Karen Pryor's Clicker Training website. It was training advise for pet parents of dogs that bark at everyone (and everything) that walks by or approaches your house. Sound like your dog? Try this clever method is written by Kiki Yablon, KPA CTP.
Don't mind your dog giving a woof or two when people pass or approach the house—but want him to stop when you've got the message? First, temporarily block access to the window or door where your dog tends to bark.
- Next, train a cue that for you means "that'll do" and for the dog means "hey, I have something delicious for you over here." My suggestion: "Thanks!"
- Start far away from the window. Stand right in front of your dog. Give the cue, followed immediately by a click and a small, soft, meaty treat right in front of you.
- When the dog starts to brighten up at the cue—before the treat even comes out—move to the side, so he has to turn to you to get the treat. When he starts turning, switch to clicking the turn.
- When the dog is turning quickly, move a few steps away and switch to clicking movement in your direction. Work up to having the dog follow or chase you into another room to get the treat. If you have a dog that loves to chase, this can be an extra treat. Click when your dog has found you in the other room.
- Move to the window or door where the dog usually barks. Get in some good practice when nothing's happening outside. Then stand close to the dog again, wait for passersby, and give the cue the instant your dog begins to bark.
- When he's responding well, give the cue from farther away, increasing your distance a few steps at a time.
- Remember that your cue will reinforce whatever comes just before it. Be sure you cue the dog after just a woof or two.
Your goal is for the dog to come away from the window to find you on the "thanks" cue. When you've accomplished that, try skipping the cue. Your dog may come to see why you haven't thanked him yet! If that happens, reinforce him for coming to find you. Keep it up and your dog may begin to skip the barking altogether.
Although Kiki doesn't discuss in detail in her article, I like to baby gate my dogs away from the "party places" (windows) while I'm not home. That way they don't have the opportunity to practice their barking skills while I'm not home to train the correct behavior.
As a dog trainer, I've found that not all dog training needs to take place in a dog training facility. Some dogs are much more successful with a private trainer within the home setting. Whether your dog has behavioral problems or just needs a few reminders that the house guests are not launching pads, January is the perfect time to start working on the less desirable behaviors.
Amy Turner, BS, APDT Member