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Three Ways to Celebrate National Train Your Dog Month

Everyone is hard at work trying to keep their New Year’s resolutions—they’re working out, or making a tighter budget, or maybe dedicating their focus on spending more quality time with their families. In last week’s blog, we encouraged pet owners to consider their furry family members when making resolutions. And, considering that January is National Train Your Dog Month, we think that now is the perfect time to set some training goals for your pup!

Many canines that end up in shelters or, worse yet, abused by their owners, are really great dogs that could become beloved family members if the humans in their lives took the time to provide proper training and socialization. At BCARL, we believe that teaching proper training and animal welfare education will vastly improve the lives of humans and their furry companions.

And, since 2010, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has dedicated the month of January to educating pet parents about the importance of training and socialization for dogs of all ages. According to Pet Business Magazine, training:

• Improves the bond between pet and owner by allowing dogs and people to build trust and mutual respect, thus ensuring a harmonious relationship.

• Allows you to spend more time with your pet and provides a fun way to get to know your dog!

• Can help eliminate behavioral issues such as barking, digging, chewing, jumping on guests, and territorial marking.

• Enhances safety. Training can ensure your dog heeds your calls to return when off the leash or refrain from eating or touching something dangerous.

Unfortunately, a high percentage of pets adopted during the holiday season end up homeless by spring, simply because owners don’t have the right resources to properly train their pup. Even worse, some owners resort to physical abuse because they don’t have the tools needed to effectively train their pet towards good behavior. But all pets deserve a loving and caring home and an owner who is dedicated to training them and giving them the best chance at life.

National Train Your Dog Month is a time dedicated to promoting the benefits of training dogs to become happy and healthy companions.

Set a Goal

Proper training is a crucial part of your pet’s life skills for various reasons.

Training not only provides your dog with necessary mental stimulation, but reward-based and dog-friendly training methods set your dog up to succeed in life and enhances the relationship bond between owner and pet.

Is there something you wish your pup did better? Some of the most common obedience problems pet owners face include poor leash skills and jumping on house guests. Setting a goal for your pup can help you focus on what you want your dog to do, instead of focusing solely on negative behavior. Setting a goal or two a month will also help you both to not feel overwhelmed and will give your pet something tangible to work towards. The key is to establish specific behaviors or skills you’d like to work on and develop step by step training objectives.

Start small to set your pup up for success. For example, if you want to work on your dog’s recall when you call him to you from a distance, you could say your goal is to have your dog come to you from five feet away when you call his name, and then work up to the distance desired. And be sure to reward your pup each step of the way for positive behavior. Most dogs are very food motivated, so treats are a great way to nudge your pet in the right direction. Goals should be specific so that it’s easy for your dog to figure out what behavior earns rewards.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out The Spruce Pets article, Steps to Train Your Dog.

Commit to Ten Minutes a Day

Commit to spending just ten minutes working with your dog every day. Ten minutes isn’t much time, but you’ll be amazed what you and your dog can accomplish. Your dog won’t be able to focus for much longer than that, especially in the beginning.

And remember, training isn’t just about making your dog listen. It’s also about your dog’s emotional health, as well as his ability to learn, adapt, and thrive in a family setting. Plus, training can be fun and rewarding for both you and your doggo as you achieve new goals and learn new things together, further cementing your bond with your pet. Check out this Do’s and Don’ts List of dog training.

Do’s: Things You Should be Doing More Of

  • Focus on your dog and understand his natural instincts—never fool or tease him with confusing commands.

  • Be consistent with rewards and give them only when he’s successfully completed a task.

  • Be kind and patient—training takes time and a poorly trained dog reflects more on the skills of the trainer than of the dog.

  • Allow your dog time to understand the command and obey. He may not understand what you’re asking him to do immediately and that is fine, but he’ll get it eventually if you’ve provided clear instructions and ample practice time.

  • Once your dog has mastered a command, it’s time to practice it in different settings—like a busy street, among a crowd, etc. to ensure that your dog listens to you every time.

  • Reward your dog immediately after he completes a task.

  • Teach your dog one command at a time. Too many commands can become overwhelming for your pup.

Don’ts: The Things You Should Avoid

  • Don’t use your dog’s name in a negative way or to scold him, as he’ll learn to associate his name with the scolding.

  • Don’t give him treats before he completes a task fully.

  • Don’t give attention to your dog or potentially reward him if he’s behaving badly.

  • Don’t allow your dog to get away with things he’s not supposed to. Consistency is key.

  • Don’t ever hit your dog.

Know When to Seek Professional Help

If you’re finding it difficult to train your dog or you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start, consider buying a training book or taking a dog training class. Many local pet supply stores have beginner training classes that can help you gain a little confidence before transitioning to more advanced training.

A professional trainer can also help you learn the skills needed to make changes in your dog’s behavior. We encourage pet owners to ALWAYS look for positive (force free) trainers. Studies have proven that positive training works best with how animals learn. Your dog will repeat what he gets rewarded for, and pets very seldom understand what shaming actually or physical violence actually means or how to relate it to their behavior. Rewarding positive and ignoring and redirecting unwanted behavior is the fastest way set your pet up for success.

If you’re unsure about how to find the perfect dog trainer to meet the needs of you and your canine companion, take the time to do your research.

Ask pet owning friends about training classes they took with their dog, or if they can recommend a personal trainer. Chat with your vet or local rescue to find out if they have any recommendations. Or consider seeking out a local, professional, certified trainer online.

Some suggested resources including:

Having a happy, healthy pet means providing for them emotionally, mentally, and physically—and training is certainly a key component to a holistic plan for your pup.

Ken Ramirez, Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Animal Training at the world-class Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, expounds:

“Training is not a luxury. It’s a key component to good animal care. Everyone who has a pet should understand that basic fact. Training is a way to enhance the quality of life for our pets. It is far more than just teaching a dog to do a cute trick. Training is about teaching a dog (or any animal) how to live in our world safely.”

Lastly, remember that training your dog is not only beneficial for their overall well-being; it’s also a lot of fun and provides great bonding opportunities. Your dog will relish the opportunity to bask in your undivided attention as you work toward a common goal together and make priceless memories.

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