Have a new puppy? Planning on a new pooch as a 2013 holiday surprise? If so, North Bend resident and pet trainer at Le Chic Pet, Melissa Grant, has some advice when it comes to training the newest member of your family.
Humans have had a relationship with dogs for thousands of years. You’d think by now we’d know what we’re doing when it comes to training a new pup, right? Well, while we mostly manage to do right by our canine companions, sometimes we make some pretty big errors when it comes to training a new furry friend. Here are a few to avoid.
- Putting training off too long-This is oh so easy to do. You get that cute little ball of fur and don’t immediately let your pup know how things work in the human world. We let them jump up or pull on the leash because with a 5 pound dog it’s not such a big deal.
Suddenly that five-pound dog is a fifty pound dog and you’ve got a big problem. Training should start the moment you bring Fido home. Sure training classes may have to wait awhile, but the at-home training needs to start right away.
- Ignoring warning signs to future problem behaviors- I agree watching a tiny pup do naughty things is pretty darn cute. But remember not to reinforce anything you don’t want to see repeated later. If something scares your pup, don’t tease him and post the video on you tube. Help him to see that thing as positive not negative.
- Not understanding what motivates your dog to learn– Many times people believe they can train a dog without any kind of reward marker. We end up yelling at them when they are bad and ignoring them when they are good. Dogs need feedback on their behavior. Immediate praise followed up by whatever it is that they love most (food, toys, pets) is crucial to a positive training outcome.
- Listening to those who have no personal knowledge of their situation- I know all the dog TV shows are fascinating and some have some really good information, but they aren’t training your dog. Listening to some can actually be dangerous for your future relationship with your dog. If you need professional help, it’s best to get someone in your home who can see your dog. Please don’t take the advice of a television personality.
- Wanting their dog to be something other than a dog– This happens mostly with dog newbies. Expecting something unrealistic will only set you and your dog up for failure. Dogs bark and no amount of training will eliminate this behavior. They also need lots of exercise and attention. If you’re used to cats, get ready for something utterly different
- Letting human beliefs control how you treat your dog – I hear this one a lot. “My husband won’t let me fix the dog”” or “I think it’s mean to crate the dog.” Even though we bring dogs into our homes and treat them like a member of the family, they are not humans. Having a dog fixed is not akin to the same procedure in human beings. Similarly, getting your dog used to a cozy crate is not the same thing as you being in a cage. Try to remember this when you get a dog for the first time. It will make your life a lot easier.
- Having unrealistic expectations about your family’s participation in the training process- This is for Mom in particular. I know everyone says they’ll help and I know the three-year old is very excited about having a dog, but three-year olds aren’t very good at training and the lion’s share of dog care will end up on mom. A good long conversation about the responsibility of having a dog is a good thing before Fido comes home. If there are unrealistic expectations, sometimes that means Fido gets no training – and in the long run no one benefits from that.
- Not being on the same page with other adults in the household- This happens a lot. Dad wants to “wrestle” with the dog, but then you end up with the problem of the dog being too rough with the kids. Or Mom was raised with an outdoor dog and has a problem with Fluffy being in the house. If you have different styles of pup parenting, the only thing you achieve is a very confused dog. Make sure all the adults are on the same page, even done to what commands you’ll use. Training will go a lot smoother is you don’t confuse Fido.
- You are reactive, not proactive- This comes as a revelation to some people when they start training a dog. You don’t have to wait for the bad behavior and correct it. You can reward the absence of bad behavior. For instance, if you have a dog you know reacts to other dogs, you don’t have to wait for the reaction to happen and try to fix it. You can grab that little moment before the bad behavior and reward to absence of it. Catch your dog doing the right thing rather than the wrong thing.
- Not understanding you are training an individual dog, not the dog you had ten years ago- Lots of us had a dog growing up, but the dog you have now is not the dog you had then. You must train according to a dog’s personality and breed. If you had a sweet-tempered Lab growing up and you get a rat terrier as an adult, you must accept the fact that those two animals have about as much similarity as a Buffalo and a duck. Sure they’re both dogs, but they have vastly different motivations to do what they do every day. Train for what you have not what you had.
Good Luck and woof!