This blog covers the following critical actions owners must take to positively shape their dog’s behavior: (1) Train and socialize as soon as possible; (2) Lay the correct foundation with help from an expert; (3) Reinforce regularly and positively. Read now to help your dog become the confident, happy and trusting best friend you deserve.
1. Train and Socialize Early
Simply put, training can’t begin too soon. Upon weaning at about eight weeks of age, puppies are fully capable of learning simple tasks, such as walking on a leash and the “sit” command. While length of formal training will depend on your behavior goals for your dog, the must-have commands he should master are “sit,” “come,” “down,” “stay” and “leave it.” Also note that dogs undergo developmental stages. Between 14 and 16 weeks of age puppies are often more fearful. Back off training as necessary armed with the knowledge that this is temporary and your patience will pay dividends.
Like training, early socialization is imperative to having a well-behaved dog. Allowing your dog to socialize with other dogs in a safe and controlled environment as early as possible will save you loads of remedial training and mitigate the risk of aggression. Consider daycare at least several days a week, or sign him up for weekly “pack walks.” For a no-cost option, see if you can find neighbors and friends with dogs who might join in on rotating, in-home “play dates.”
Regular walks in diverse places are also invaluable to socialization. Introducing your dog to new sights, sounds and smells teaches him that new experiences don’t have to be scary─they can even be fun! This not only builds his confidence, but cements your mutual bond.
2. Lay the Foundation with a Professional
Dog training isn’t rocket science, but it does require a deep understanding of how dogs are different than people. What we think is an intuitive way to address an unwanted behavior is likely wrong. Sure, loads of books have been published about dog training, T.V. is now host to a plethora of dog-related educational programs, and the Internet is flooded with articles, blogs and videos on the subject.
But nothing replaces the opportunity to watch and learn from an expert interacting with your dog. Your timing, body language and subtle nuances of execution are critical to dog training success. This is tough to get from reading and watching shows. You’ll save heaps of time and money by hiring a professional out of the gate.
3. Reinforce Daily, Keep it Positive
Don’t forget that training is ongoing. Dogs learn things every day whether you intentionally teach them or not. Regularly reinforce the basic commands and establish a set of household rules that all family members agree to and understand how to apply. And remember the importance of catching your dog doing something good, then praise, praise, praise!
While reams of books and articles have been published about the best training techniques, positive reinforcement is the Golden Rule. The goal is for your dog to positively respond to you because he wants to, not because he’s afraid of the consequences if he doesn’t. Does this take more time, patience and understanding of how dogs think? Yes. But it sure beats the alternative of a fearful dog who’s likely to use aggression as a defense mechanism.
So remember: Start early, reinforce regularly, and get help from an expert. Your dog deserves it and you’ll be rewarded with a confident and trusting best friend.