Sit, Fido, Sit! – The Importance of Training

Originally posted on our blog on February 25, 2009.

Training your dog will always help strengthen the bond between your family and the dog! It also makes for a more harmonious and happy home and can be done at any age, however it is definitely critical for puppies! Puppies absorb the most in the first 6 months of their lives and training and socializing them is important in that time frame. However despite the age of any dog, training helps give us boundaries and establishes pack order in the home.

As much as humans love us furry friends, we are still animals and we don’t think the same or interpret signals the same way you do. One of the easiest ways to train is using the “Nothing in Life is Free (NILF)” technique. Dogs instinctively look for their “jobs” in life, many were bred to hunt, keep rats away, guard flocks, herd, etc. However the times have changed and many of us don’t have to do these jobs anymore.. this can lead to doing other things, things our humans don’t always want us to do, like chewing up their shoes. :D NILF training requires the dog to complete a task, as simple as sit, before any reward is given. The rewards can be play time, dinner, snacks & treats, etc. The dog must “work” for their rewards, this helps establish you as the leader and the dog can focus on listening to you and knowing that if he or she does listen, a reward is sure to follow!

Training and socializing outside the home is just as important as with you and your family. Look into local trainers and dog day cares to see if they offer training. These classes are a great way for your dog to get to know other dogs and be comfortable around strangers and people. If you want more individualized attention look for smaller classes or private sessions, this can help you address any worries or concerns you may have about your dog with the trainer.

If you want to take it a step further, I would suggest trying dog sports! Agility, flyball, dock diving are just a few of the dog sports out there. If you’re new to the scene, find a trainer who will work step-by-step with you to introduce your dog to dog sports. While it may look like fun and easy, an untrained dog can sometimes injury themselves in a sport. Mom and I just finished our first class in Fly Ball and we found out there was a proper way to turn in that sport and mom had to teach me how to do it.. otherwise I risk hurting my shoulders!

Some great resources can be found below:

Training Classes:

Training at home is great and something you should be doing regularly, however, training classes help dogs adjust to strangers and other dogs. For a list of local trainers click here.

Clicker Training – general description

Clicker Training.com – by Karen Pryor, she’s got some great books out about the subject such as Click for Joy!

Books:

Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

Online resources:

http://www.nsalamerica.org/pet_talk/training_dog.html

Forums:

There are lots of different dog groups online, such as dogster.com and discussdogs.com and evencraigslist.org. While these are great resources to get feedback and opinions, remember to be respectful and aware that sometimes you’ll have to agree to disagree with other people’s opinions and techniques. Your best bet is always to consult a professional trainer or vet.

To find a professional trainer near you, try checking with training associations. Here’s a few listed below:

Association of Animal Behavior Professionals

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers

Remember: The most important thing is that training should be fun! Treat it as a game and you’ll see some amazing results!