Whether you plan on getting a new puppy for Christmas or just want Fido to finally nail the “sit” command in time for your relatives to arrive, it is never too late to begin training your dog. Here are some tips for having a well-behaved pooch just in time for the holiday season.
“The first few commands are usually basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, walking on leash, and most importantly, to come when called,” said Elizabeth Bachle, a technician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences pharmacy and an agility instructor at Puppy Love training. “These are a great foundation to training more complex behaviors and can keep your pet out of harm’s way.”
New puppy owners often get caught up in the excitement of having a four-legged friend to play with and forget that training them early on is most effective. However, don’t believe the saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Even your loyal, more seasoned companions can improve on current techniques or learn new skills.
“Training your dog not only rewards good behaviors, but can also prevent unwanted behaviors before they begin,” Bachle said. “I would highly encourage new puppy owners to attend a group class to socialize and create a strong foundation of learning, but dogs of all ages benefit from a new challenge.”
During training, it is important to use positive reinforcements when they’re showing progress. Rather than punishing Fido for all the things you don’t want him to do, concentrate on teaching him what you do want him to do. When your dog does something good, convince him to do it again by rewarding him with a treat or a nice, long tummy scratch.
“One of the most important decisions you can make for your dog is the training method you decide to use at home or in group classes. There are many methods out there but I highly encourage the use of positive reinforcement techniques, such as clicker training, and discourage the use of punishment when training any dog,” Bachle said. “Punishment can have a lot of negative effects, including fear, aggression, or distrust, while reinforcement is effective, builds confidence, and makes training fun for you and your dog!”
If you’ve tried training them one-on-one at home but seem to be getting nowhere, training classes can be a great alternative. Providing them with the opportunity to interact with other dogs and their owners in group classes can be a great way to socialize and expose your dog to new situations and distractions in a safe environment.
“The foremost benefit of group classes is the guidance and knowledge of an experienced instructor to help troubleshoot, advise, and assist you to accomplish your training goals,” Bachle said. “Many trainers offer private lessons and behavior solutions in the case that you need more individualized help.”
Most importantly, remember to be patient. Like children, dogs have short attention spans and learn at all different paces. If done with patience and persistence, training your new puppy or faithful Fido can be an enjoyable bonding experience for you both. Having a well-behaved dog will be a gift that keeps on giving this holiday season.