Back to School Training Tips

This Jack Russell Terrier is ready to graduate. (Courtesy image)

By Sandy Modell

ALEXANDRIA,VA- Holidays and vacations are such fun, but summer days are behind us now. Changes in our routines can be stressful for our dogs. They do better with consistency and structure—not old-fashioned, dominance-theory structure, just knowing how to navigate our human-centric world. When a dog’s routine changes or we haven’t set him up for success, it can affect behavior negatively. Here are a few tips to help you and your canine get back on the training wagon!

Easier to Reinforce than to Correct

Just like kids in school, dogs should be praised and rewarded for a good job. Food is their biggest motivator and the best way to reinforce new behaviors. (Other reinforcers are balls, toys, even belly rubs.) Remember that the reinforcer must matter to your dog. For example, coming when called is among the most difficult behaviors to train, because there are so many exciting things in your dog’s environment. It’s hard to compete with all those distractions. So when your dog does this or any new behavior well, reinforce, reinforce, reinforce with high-value rewards!

Repetition

Training succeeds if we give it our full effort. Some behaviors are harder to teach than others and may take many repetitions to get reliably right. Have you ever accomplished something difficult and rewarded yourself at the Dairy Godmother? The same concept applies to training your dog! The more you practice and reward good behaviors, the more successful your dog will be.

It’s a lifelong journey, but doesn’t have to be arduous. Dogs are party animals. They’d rather be jumping, digging, and barking than mastering impulse control or walking on a leash. But you can integrate short training sessions whenever you are with your canine companion, always rewarding good, calm behavior. Repetition helps dogs learn and remember what we teach. So remember to give your dog lots of opportunities to earn their reinforcements.

Recess

Learning should be fun for you both. In a school setting, recess breaks up the monotony. Kids get fresh air and to play favorite games. Apply this concept to training your dog. Take a break and play fetch or tug to release some energy. You can both let loose and have fun. Breaking up your dog’s learning time ensures that he enjoys and looks forward to training, and that you do too.

A session at Wholistic Hound Academy includes training and reinforcing “Down”. (Wholistic House Academy)

Attendance is Mandatory

Dogs need to learn the life skills to become well-adjusted, well-mannered companions. Teaching your dog to make good behavior choices requires consistent training and practice that you both enjoy, and through it you will learn how to better communicate with him.

Make training fun! Change the environment and the rewards, so nothing gets boring. Practice inside and outside your home to increase reliability. The more

distracting the environment, the harder it can be to keep your dog focused on you, so start with few distractions and work up to more.

Training also provides mental stimulation, which translates into having a 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 his energy level.

Time to Get Started!

Even if you’ve put off training, once you start (or get back to it), you will see changes in your dog’s behavior pretty quickly. It’s science! All living things will repeat rewarding behaviors.

At Wholistic Hound Academy, our certified, experienced trainers can help you and your dog live a better life together. We look forward to seeing you and your canine scholar 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 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, like us on facebook.com/wholistichound and follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/wholistichound.