January was National Train Your Dog Month, But It’s Never Too Late to Start!
By Sandy Modell
Each year, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the largest professional association for dog trainers in the world, chooses January to be “National Train Your Dog Month.” The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness and promote the importance of proper training and socialization for both the dog owner and the well-being of their dog. And even though we’re a month late, you can start now!
According to the U.S. Humane Society, more than six million dogs and cats are turned in to animal shelters each year. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policyhas found that most dogs are surrendered to shelters for common behavior and training issues that could easily be solved with the help of a professional.
Research shows that training and socializing dogs when they’re young can reduce and even eliminate future behavior problems. Puppies start learning the minute they are born. So, if you recently brought a new bundle of cuteness into your home, be aware that they are learning from the moment they arrive. Waiting to start training, socializing, and exposing your puppy to the world around them is no longer the opinion of canine behavior experts, veterinarians or trainers who have stayed abreast of current research. In fact, not starting training right away can lead to behavior problems and a lack of socialization toward people, other dogs and the environment in which they live.
Starting the training process right away will also help to build a positive relationship with you, as you teach your new dog how to navigate the human home and the neighborhood. Teaching basic foundation skills of sit, down, stay, come, walking nicely on leash and self-control will go a long way toward having a dog that is a joy to live with.
Training can be the one thing that makes or breaks a dog’s chance to stay with their new family. A dog, after all, is a dog. I call them party animals. They like to bark, dig, jump, and chew, among other very normal, but inappropriate, dog behaviors.
Often, it’s not because they’re “bad” dogs—it’s because they haven’t learned how to be “good” dogs. Some dogs are more resilient than others and adapt more easily from their past lives. Others find a new urban environment scary, with new noises, sights and sounds. They need desensitization and counter conditioning to help them get comfortable in their new world.
New dog owners, or those who haven’t trained a dog in many years, may try a bevy of temporary fixes that usually make the problems worse, like isolation from daily home life, coupled with a lot of yelling or worse. They might turn to the internet and find outdated training methods that are harmful to the dog, like the use of shock collars. Dogs are often just plain confused. They don’t come to us understanding English and haven’t learned good impulse control. The result is a dog who is ill-equipped for life in a home.
Remember that training your dog is both beneficial and can be a lot of fun. Dogs thrive on mental stimulation. They love the chance to learn and practice something new. But more than anything, they relish the opportunity to bask in your undivided attention as you work toward a common goal together. Time spent training is time spent building a strong bond based on trust and cooperation. Isn’t that what having a dog is all about?
This makes every month the perfect month for pet parents, new and experienced, to take the time to train their canine companions. With consistency, well-timed praise, rewards, a level head, lots of practice, and the guidance of an experienced positive reinforcement dog training professional, you and your pup will be learning and growing together.
If you would like to learn more about National Train Your Dog Month, visit the campaign’s website and the Wholistic Hound Academy website for additional resources, tips, and information on our upcoming Winter 2019 classes.
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 and socialization, adult dog manners, behavior modification, agility, dog sports, 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.