Dog owners typically seek out training because of the good it does for the household, but the truth is, dogs are the ones who benefit from the experience. Dogs don’t inherently know or understand what’s expected of them. They don’t always know how to play well with others or recognize boundaries. However, with proper training and socialization opportunities, dogs can become wonderful canine citizens!
The Gift of Confidence
Although basic obedience is essential, such as adherence to commands like sit, stay, drop it, and come, there’s much more to dog training. Giving your dog the chance to learn and master various skills provides them with lifelong confidence and happiness. It also provides exercise, keeps boredom at bay, and strengthens the human-animal bond.
Leader of the Pack
Establishing yourself as your dog’s pack leader helps them figure out their place in the household. Certainly, reinforcing basic obedience helps with that (and keeps them safe), but using positive reinforcement training helps iron out any issues related to hierarchy and household dynamics.
Keep it Positive
Previous approaches to dog training involved punishing bad behavior, but it’s actually much more effective to simply ignore unwanted behaviors. Dog training that’s based on a rewards system (like healthy treats) involves only focusing on good behaviors, which satisfies your dog’s natural ability to please. Giving negative attention to unwanted behaviors can actually reinforce things, making it more difficult to banish bad habits.
Consistency is key to positive reinforcement dog training. If you see a behavior you like, your dog earns a reward. If you don’t like what they’re doing, ignore it entirely (they’ll eventually stop seeking attention for it) or re-direct them to something positive, like a chew toy.
When to Start?
Early experiences can shape a dog’s entire life, so it’s crucial to provide gentle handling and comforting exposure to various people/places for dogs younger than 4 months old.
The socialization period between 2 to 4 months is critical to shaping a dog’s personality and future reactions to different stimuli.
Adult and senior dogs can certainly be taught new skills, but they may require additional patience and understanding if they didn’t have a good experience earlier in life.
Goals of Dog Training
Giving your dog every possible opportunity to learn how to behave is critical to their health and wellness. The goal is to have a dog who reacts well to strangers, children, other animals, and is never a hazard to themselves or others. Planning safe outings is key to their understanding and reinforcing all the great behaviors you want to see. In other words, dog training and early socialization helps dogs thrive.