It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. Soon we’ll be waving our little ones off to the bus stop and tearfully sending our teenagers to college. But the excitement of the new school year is not just for kids. It is also the perfect time for you and your four-legged scholar to learn a few things–with training. Here are a few tips to help you and your canine make the grade!
Easier to Reinforce than to Correct
Just like kids in school, dogs should be rewarded when they do a good job. Human students may score a gold star for the right answer or a smiley face sticker on a well-done quiz. For our scruffy scholars, food is the biggest motivator and the best way to reinforce behaviors. We can also use other reinforcers such as balls, toys, and even belly rubs. Remember that the reinforcer must be reinforcing to your dog. For example, coming when called is one of the most difficult behaviors to train. Not because your dog is being stubborn or disobedient, there are just so many exciting things in their environment. We have a hard time competing. That’s where reinforcement pays off and we become relevant again. Each time you give your dog a treat for a good behavior, you are building a reinforcement history for the behaviors that you want. Be your dog’s big cookie!
Training will be successful if we give it our full attention and effort. It may take many times to get it right. Have you ever accomplished a hard task and rewarded yourself with a gallon of custard from the Dairy Godmother? Well, the same concept applies to training your dog! The more you practice and reward good behaviors, the more your dog will be successful in making the right behavior choices. Training doesn’t have to be arduous, but it is a lifelong journey. Dogs are party animals and would rather be spending their time jumping, digging, barking, etc., than trying to master walking nicely on a leash or impulse control. You can integrate training into your everyday life with short training sessions and rewarding good and calm behavior whenever you are with your canine companion. Repetition helps our dogs learn and remember what we teach them.
Learning should be fun for both you and your dog. Punishment based training is out and positive training is in. In a school setting, recess is used to break up the monotony of the day. The kids get some fresh air and play their favorite games. Apply the same concept to training with your dog. Take a break and play fetch or tug to release some energy. This gives both of you a chance to let loose and have some fun. Utilizing recess will break up your dog’s learning time and ensure that training is something he enjoys and looks forward to and you do too! Use their toys, balls and tugs as training opportunities and rewards. Your dog will be more motivated to learn if we incorporate play along with training.
Attendance is Mandatory
Teaching your dog to make the right behavior choices involves consistent training and practice that you both enjoy. Make training fun! Be sure to change the environment so things don’t get boring. Practice both inside and outside your home to increase reliability. The more distracting the environment the more difficult it can be to keep your dog’s attention and focus on you. Start with low distractions and work up to higher distractions. Set your dog up for success!
Dogs need to learn basic manners, along with life skills that will produce a well-adjusted and well-behaved dog. Training builds a positive lifetime relationship with your dog. When you train your dog, you will learn how to better communicate with them. Training also provides for mental stimulation, which translates into having a tired and calmer dog. A tired dog is a good dog! Challenge your dog with a few training exercises for ten minutes a day and you will see a change in their energy level.
Our Academy is gearing up for back-to-school as well. We have experienced, certified professional trainers ready to help you and your dog live an easier and better life together. We look forward to seeing you and your canine scholar at the Wholistic Hound Academy soon!
Sandy Modell, CPDT-KA, is the Founder and CEO of Wholistic Hound Academy, Alexandria’s award winning, premier canine training and learning center — offering classes and private lessons in puppy training, adult dog manners, behavior modification, agility, dog sports and canine fitness and conditioning, kids and dogs, pre-pet planning and pet selection. Classes starting soon! Visit www.wholistichound.com to enroll in our programs, and like us on Facebook.com/wholistichound.