Training Tips

Whether you have just brought home a new puppy, a shelter dog, are wanting to get started in performance sports or just want to enrich the life of your dog. Click the topic name to see the tips!

Tips for New Puppy Owners

Bringing a new puppy into your home is a joyous experience! Caring for your new puppy though, can sometimes seem like a daunting task! Setting up your home environment in a way to avoid problems early on will greatly aid in the training and bonding of your new puppy! Using management to prevent problems from occurring will help to alleviate the need for correcting or scolding your puppy thus helping to build safe and fun relationship.

Socializing your new puppy to people, different environments, other animals and strange objects is a must to give your puppy a full, stress free life and prevent incidents of fear aggression or fear submission. Done improperly though, it can do more harm than good. Exposure to new people and situations should always have a positive association in the mind of the puppy. Using treats, toys and play can help your pup enjoy new environments, people and animals.

If your puppy is showing signs of stress during exposure or socialization, it is best to gain a little distance to where the pup is comfortable and then allow the pup to gain the confidence to move forward. You’ll want to reward your pup for positive interactions but be careful not to fall into the “oh poor baby” routine. Instead, try to alleviate any stress by encouraging your dog to play or become animated in new situations. Never force your puppy into a situation that he is fearful of. This will only increase his fear.

When socializing to other dogs, it is important to choose these interactions carefully. Pups of the same age or maturity is a good place to start. Adult dogs with solid temperaments and good dog language skills, that have shown a tolerance for puppies is ideal. Never allow your pup to interact with an “unknown” dog. What he experiences now will affect him the rest of his life. Unsupervised play parks are not advised. A puppy class with emphasis on socialization and play-training is recommended.

Housing for your puppy should include a crate. The crate is a safe place for your puppy to be when you can not actively supervise your puppy. It should be viewed as his bedroom rather than a cage! The door should be left open much of the time so that the puppy can go in and out at will. Crate training your puppy should be done in a non-combative manner. When you do have to place your pup in the crate be sure to give your pup something pleasurable to do, such as a stuffed kong or favorite chewie. Start with shorter periods when possible. If your puppy is crying or barking in the crate, try to ignore him and only allow him to come out when he has settled down for a minute or so.

The crate should be used for short term confinement. For a young puppy, no longer than an hour or two except at night.

OUCH! Sharp puppy teeth hurt! When playing with your puppy, try to avoid using your hands as “playthings”. Have something in you hand that is okay for your puppy to bite on. Your puppy is teething and needs to have an outlet for his chewing. Keep in mind as well that puppies use their mouths not only to eat, but to play and explore, much like we use our hands! If your puppies teeth do make contact with skin or clothing, all interaction and play must end immediately, for several seconds.  Turn  your back and ignore your puppy or if necessary physically separate yourself through a door or ex-pen.  After a few seconds of social and physical isolation, begin playing with your puppy again.  You’ll need to repeat this several times to allow your puppy to make the association between, teeth on skin mean end of play, but soon your puppy will realize that if he wants to continue to play, he needs to work hard at not putting teeth on humans!

When housetraining your puppy it is your responsibility to make sure that he gets outside regularly and frequently to eliminate. Puppies have very small bladders and bowels and will need to relieve themselves often. It is up to you to make sure they do it outside! If your puppy ALWAYS eliminates outside, he will seek to get outside when he has the need to eliminate. Don’t carry your puppy outside. Let him walk so that he learns the route to the door.

Tips for Owners of Adolescent Dogs

Dogs hit adolescence between 6 months and a year old. Many owners don’t feel the need for training until their dogs become “teenagers”! This can be the most difficult time for many owners. It’s important that clear leadership (the cub scout kind, not the dictator kind!) is in place and that management is used to prevent your dog from inappropriate behavior such as running off, jumping on people or becoming destructive. “Impulse Control” exercises are an important part of everyday life for an adolescent dog.

For the adolescent dog a “nothing in life is free” program help your dog earn his keep through good behavior. Teach your dog that before he can eat his meal, he needs to sit patiently. Require a sit or down before you pet him or throw the ball for him. Use meal times as training times.

Adequate exercise is a must for the adolescent dog. Find ways to wear your dog out at least twice a day! This will go along way in heading off problem behaviors caused by an abundance of energy! A tired dog is good dog!

Tips for new Owners of Adult Shelter Dogs

Bringing home a dog from the shelter can be very rewarding. Often times though, you may not see the true personality or temperament until your new pet has been in your home several weeks. It’s important that during these first few weeks (sometimes called the “honeymoon period”) trust is built and an appropriate relationship established. “Impulse control and deference” exercises will help a shelter dog feel more secure and confident in his new environment. Positive methods should be used to teach your dog house manners and to look to you for guidance and permission. Lots of play and exercise will help your new dog relieve the stress involved with his relocation.

Some dogs coming out of shelters will have to deal with stressors or fears that can result in inappropriate behaviors. These can be anything from lunging on walks, resource guarding, fear of strangers or other dogs resulting in aggression, to shyness or timidity which prevents the dog from having a full, active life.

A specific behavior modification program should be put in place for these dogs. Behavior modification programs often include desensitization and counter-conditioning. They should not include punishment or physical corrections of any kind. It is important that you consult with a trainer or behaviorist with experience in behavior modification programs and is willing to work with you long term. With the right treatment plan, these dogs can become great family companions.

Tips for Owners of Senior Dogs

The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is absolutely not true! As your dog ages its important to keep both his body and his mind active and healthy. Teaching tricks is a great way to maintain your dogs cognitive and learning skills. Besides that it’s just plain fun!

As dogs mature and age they can become less active than their adolescent counter parts! You may find the need to change the amount you feed your senior dog so that unhealthy weight gain doesn’t occur, especially if you are using food treats for training.

Regular vet checks and a “baseline exam” can help your veterinarian determine the health needs of your senior pet as he ages. Often these exams can mean the difference in having a few extra years with your companion.senior dog, Every Dog can be a Wonder Dog!

Tips for Owners of Performance Dogs

The greatest assets to the performance dog and handler team are a strong and trusting relationship, superb attention skills from the dog and an understanding by the handler that training is a reciprocal process, one that is both a science and an art. These skills should start early in the team’s performance sport career for optimum success.

It’s important that attention be taught in a fun, non-threatening manner, creating a dog that willingly seeks out a connection with it’s handler. Attention exercises should be the core of every performance dog’s repertoire. Impulse control and deference exercises should be an everyday part of the performance dog’s normal routine. And turning “work” into play should be the handler’s goal.

Clear communication and consistent criteria are practices that every performance handler should apply during the training process. This speeds the learning process and training becomes fun and less frustrating for both dog and handler.

There are performance activities available for all breeds and mixed breeds. Adding a performance activity to your dog’s life will bring both rewards and challenges that will enhance your relationship and create a bond like no other.