Dog Training 101

dog training1 300x229 Dog Training 101

In dog training, jerk is a noun, not a verb.
Dr. Dennis Fetko

Getting a dog is a serious commitment and not one to be taken lightly. A dog will impact your lifestyle, influence your finances and you will want to consider the emotional impact the furry one will have on you too. Sure, puppies are adorable but puppies grow up to be dogs and dogs are a fair amount of work. But, if you have made the commitment then it’s not work at all. Your dog’s behavior can, and often does, rest squarely on you, the human and that is why it is so critical to take into account the time it takes to properly train a dog.

The word “train” can seem a little daunting but fret not. Unless you are raising dogs to breed or show, all you are looking to do is teach the dog basic behavior, sit, stay, down, stop chewing my shoes, get off the couch, etc. A well-trained dog is more likely to stay with their original human while an untrained dog can become very frustrating, very quickly. Recently, I read a statistic that 96% of all dogs that end up in a shelter have had no training.

If you decide to hire a trainer, make sure you do some research on them and that you understand, agree with and are comfortable with their methods. Also, make sure that they are able to explain themselves thoroughly. However, should you decide to train the dog yourself, here are some very basic steps to get you started:

  • Socialize your dog with everyone and everything. This can’t be stressed enough. If a dog knows how to greet a stranger or interact with children it will make your relationship with your pet (and your neighbors) all the better.
  • Crate training. Crate training, not punishment. Dogs like to have a place they can go and hang out. Yep, they will whine and cry at first but, done correctly, they will eventually come to enjoy their little doggie dojo.
  • Getting them acquainted with their leash and their lead. Nothing is worse than having a dog “walk you”. Getting your dog familiar with walking on a leash at your pace can be done early and picked up pretty quickly.
  • Repetition and consistency are paramount to the basic commands. Again, you don’t need to train your dog to be a show dog but you do want them to be obedient. A few minutes a day of repeating the sit command, the stay command and the down command will go a long way to helping your dog understand boundaries and what you expect from them.

I know from personal experience the inherent challenges in training a dog. Our current Pit Bull mix, Rufus, is more than a handful. He was a sickly pup, having survived parvo and double pneumonia, so he spent a large part of his developmental months in isolation. So he was never properly socialized with other dogs and his only human interaction was with vet technicians and vets.

By the time we were able to take him home, socialization was extremely challenging and it continues to be. We consulted a couple of trainers who provided some good advice and guidance, but at the end of the day Rufus was going to be Rufus and we would have to work with his personality. So we began to measure our success in very small steps. Even 18 months later, Rufus is still Rufus and while our tiny success steps occur more frequently, we’re still working with him because that was the promise we made to him and to ourselves. We love the bugger.

Keep in mind that dog training is not something that can be done a few times and then forgotten about. It requires constant maintenance and is in no way a guarantee against other behavioral abnormalities that may develop later on. If you have made the promise to yourself and the dog, then doing some very basic work with the dog early and often will make them more pleasant to be around and help you bond with your pet so they can provide you with many years of the unconditional love they so willingly give us.

Keith R. Higgons lives in Brooklyn, NY with his girlfriend Deirdre and their dogs Ruby, a Frenchie and Rufus, a Pit Bull Mix. He has his own blog at keithrhiggons.com.

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