Among the many responsibilities of dog ownership, perhaps one of the most vital in the beginning is ensuring your dog receives proper training. Establishing the rules of your home and gaining their obedience early on not only saves you a world of trouble down the line, but it will also strengthen the bond you share.
For many of us, obedience school is a luxury we have neither the time nor money to afford. That's why we've put together some tips for those of you who are looking to train your dog in a time-friendly and affordable fashion at home:
Making sure your dog understands where they can and cannot relieve themselves is one of the first steps you need to take in establishing your house rules. Like everything else involved in training, housebreaking requires patience, diligence, establishing a routine, and understanding how to respond to good and bad behaviors. Make sure to praise them when they go in the spot you teach them, but when they have an accident do not ever physically punish them. Negative reinforcement like this does not teach your dog what they did wrong, it only teaches them to be afraid of you. A firm "No" is what you want in these scenarios, to let them know what they did is not okay without causing a breach of trust. One of the best things you can do for your pup is to set a schedule and take them out at the same times each day. You will also need to learn to watch for the signs your dog is giving you that they need to go, which leads us to our next tip.
Like any other relationship, the bond with your dog is a give and take. You are not the only one communicating; learn to listen to what your dog is telling you by paying attention to their behaviors. Their movements, noises, and how they react to toys, treats, and other dogs all tell you what they are feeling. They cannot say it in words, so you have to be observant. For example, when your dog starts pacing or circling in front of you at home, they likely need to be taken outside to go. If their tail is tucked or their ears flat, or they are drooling and/or whining excessively, they may be anxious or scared. In which case you'll want to try to locate the source of their stress and comfort them. Your furry friend relies on you for everything; being a good dog parent includes not being neglectful of their needs and feelings.
Much like children, dogs will test you to see what they can get away with. If they bark at you when they want something, like a toy, and this is not a behavior you would like them to learn and repeat, you need to tell them “No” every time. If you don’t let them on the couch, never let them on the couch, even under abnormal circumstances such as having family stay over who don’t know the rules. Letting seemingly little things slide here and there sends mixed signals that will cause your dog to continue unwanted behavior. It may get tiring at times, but you have to be vigilant. As with your reactions to your dog's behavior, consistency is also key in your commands. When it's time to let your dog outside to do their business, go for a walk, get them to sit or stay, you should pick phrases that you make sure to use almost every time. Although they may not understand your exact words, dogs pick up on phrases that signal what is to follow.
As mentioned previously, praising your dog's good behavior is extremely important. Not only that, positive reinforcement has been proven to be one of the most effective training methods. While it's important to be firm in reprimanding your dog when they exhibit bad behavior, your training should not be centered around negative responses. Instead of waiting to scold them when they misbehave, be proactive in their training and focus on teaching behaviors you would like to reinforce then follow up by rewarding them when they listen and when they start to exhibit these behaviors unprompted.
By the time you've made it to this step, it's likely become clear that you will need a great deal of patience throughout this process. Properly training your dog does not happen overnight. In fact, it’s one of the most challenging things you will undertake as a pet owner. Be patient and understand that they are still figuring out what it is you want from them, and give them time to learn without getting frustrated or angry. Take time to observe and learn your dog's behaviors, body language, likes, and dislikes. Find out what treats they love and reward them for good behavior. Investing time into understanding your furry loved one will help create a strong bond full of love, respect, trust, and obedience. It may not always be easy, but it will be worth it.
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