Adult dogs that aren’t potty trained. Dogs that slip out the door and refuse to come back when called. Dogs that growl at or attack other dogs. Dogs that jump on owners and guests. Dogs that snap at people. Dogs that simply don’t obey.
These are just some of the issues that dog trainers are asked to address. Most of the time the problems have been building in severity since the dogs were puppies. In many cases, the owners have waited months or even years to seek professional assistance, often ignoring the problem until it’s so bad they feel they can’t live with the dog any longer.
Early training is an essential part of dog ownership. If you work with your dog before the issues develop, many problems can be completely avoided. There are many things you can teach your dog, but a few things are essential.
The first thing your dog needs to grasp is house training. When we invite dogs into our homes, it is essential that they understand that they may only “go” where we deem appropriate.
Housebreaking initially takes a lot of focus on the part of the owner, but the time needs to be taken to ensure it is done correctly. Making excuses for the dog or continuing to clean up after him is a bad idea. Owners may tolerate the mess for years then plan to re-carpet or buy a new home and decide either the accidents stop or the dogs go. As there are few people queueing up to adopt adult, unhousebroken dogs, these animals find themselves dumped at shelters or tossed into backyards and ignored.
Train your puppy or newly-rescued adult from the beginning. Consult with a trainer if you aren’t sure how.
In addition to housebreaking, there are several essential obedience skills every dog should know. The most important command is Come. It is critical that your dog return to you when you call him. The best time to teach this is when your dog is a baby, but all dogs can learn this skill.
The next is Sit. Sit is the first control behavior. You can use it to help your dog calm down, to keep him from jumping on other and to keep him relaxed when you’re snapping on his leash, getting him out of the car or preparing his dinner. Stay goes hand in hand with Sit and tells your dog to remain in position until you release him.
Leave It is also important. Dogs are inquisitive and often explore everything with their mouths. This can be dangerous if your dog wants to lick up a puddle of antifreeze or play with a venomous snake, or simply disgusting, such as when he finds a roadkill squirrel lying in the ditch. When taught well, Leave It can also prevent your dog from chasing the cat or jumping on another dog. Leave It tells your dog he is to ignore whatever it is until and unless you allow him to explore it.
In addition to these commands, it is important that your dog know how to walk calmly on a leash. Dogs should know to walk with slack in the lead, either at your side or slightly ahead. Pulling, gagging or being dragged are not acceptable leash behaviors.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that leash walking doesn’t matter because you can easily carry your dog. There will come a time when you need your hands for something other dog toting, and proper leash walking skills will give you this freedom.
Socialization, with other dogs and people, is another important goal for your dog, especially for your puppy. You must exercise caution, however. Puppies who have not completed their entire vaccination series should never be taken to dog parks, pet stores or other doggy-centric locations. Even training classes in places that allow the public’s dogs to enter should be avoided until your pup’s vaccinations are complete. If you need a trainer’s assistance, take private lessons in your home and ask the trainer for a socialization strategy.
There are many other commands and good things for your dogs to know that will make the relationship the two of you have even better. By grasping at least these essentials, however, you’ll be off to a great start.
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, has been training dogs for more than 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.