One of the biggest reasons dogs end up in shelters, rescues, garage sale sites and craigslist has nothing to do with the dogs…it’s the lack of training provided by their owners. People who choose to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue know they are usually getting someone who comes with a little more baggage than their adoption papers and favorite toy. They come prepared to take on the training which was often overlooked before and help them become the best pet they can be!
Too often we humans get wrapped up into anthropomorphizing our pets and think of them as furry children. When they are little and cute we ooh and ahh and even chuckle at their helplessness and mistakes, and when reality sets in we get them into day care and preschool and reserve training for the classroom. But the fact is every species learns every second of each day! Daily repetition from home to school and back is the key to reinforcing knowledge and behavior we want see. Professional doggie day care providers and obedience trainers are awesome! But our dogs are OUR DOGS and we own the responsibility for providing for all of their needs so they can become “good canine citizens”. The sooner the training begins the better! Get them socialized to people and other dogs, and acclimated to diverse surrounding and stimuli.
Make it a habit to practice having your dog sit quietly until he is “freed” from the command. If you are out in your yard and a passerby stops, or if the doorbell rings when you are indoors, have your dog sit and wait quietly until you release him.
Planning a supply run to the pet store? Bring your dog along! There are other stores including some home improvement stores, lawn and garden centers, parks, outdoor cafes…heck every dog knows Brigs has awesome puppy cones and what bank doesn’t have treats for dogs?! It is an awesome opportunity to teach your dog your expectations, i.e. how to safely ride in the car and exit/enter the vehicle. How to heel on leash and focus on YOU for direction instead of lunging out of the door, bolting through the parking lot and marking the side of the building! A dog’s sense of security comes from learning to trust you as his loving and consistent leader.
Make his training as habitual to you as taking the mail from the mailbox or opening the refrigerator door. Practice “sits” and “down stays” ONLY when you are calm and relaxed. Do it at the dinner table, making a meal, talking on the phone, packing lunches, doing bills, watching TV. Do it OFTEN and be calm and consistent! We too often hear, “We’re just so busy now and have no time to train a dog” despite the fact the dog is 8 month old and lived there since 8 weeks.
Take your dog everywhere you safely can. Practice having him sit and wait after taking a short walk to relieve himself when picking kids up from practice, paying bills, wherever your routine allows.
The next step to having that dog everyone wants is to master the recall! Practice having your dog respond immediately to being called throughout each day. Is your dog mesmerized with chasing squirrels from the comfort of your living room windows? Call him! FedEx approaching? Call him away from the door. Does your dog bolt for the door to the car in anticipation of the trip…RECALL.
Just like us, pets respond to motivation. Study gets good grades (reward). Good grades have rewards (happy parents, great GPA). Eventually your dog will respond to praise and love, but start out with tasty bite size treats. Keep them in your pocket. IMMEDIATE reward when the command is complied with. A “Sit” command is complied with before you put the bowl on the floor. “Free” releases him to eat.
If you watch TV with pet stars, all of it stated with the basics. Find out what they want, reward them when they earn it.
Remember animals need routine and consistency. They are binary minded. 1 equals 1. Treats may be the motivation, but they attach the word command to the action to the treat. And overtime you have the pet you wanted and a bond formed with a dog who will love you up to and with his last breath.
You CAN do it if you have the commitment to do it. Just like the folks who will take them from the shelter and rescues. A little older and rough around the edges, people will adopt them, train them, love them and have that same eternal relationship.
Just like us, pets never stop learning!