Dogs love to be useful. Sure, physical stimulation is important and makes a dog happy (think long walks and time playing fetch). But equally important is mental stimulation. According to Tera Dschaak-James, certified professional dog trainer and co-owner of Training Spot (trainingspot.us), that’s just one of the areas folks neglect when training their dog. She chatted with us about some of the more common dog training pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Training a puppy can begin as soon as you bring them home, according to Pet MD. That’s roughly at 8 weeks. If your dog is awake and aware, you can be assured they are learning. Teaching good manners and starting early, even after adopting an adult dog, can make a big difference.
“If a dog has been practicing a behavior for 10 years, it becomes necessary to first stop practicing the behavior in order to learn a new, positive behavior,” Tera stated when discussing how some people wait too long to start training. “Start as soon as possible! All age of dogs can learn!”
Whether it’s obedience training or something as simple as allowing a pet to get up on the furniture, consistency among all family members is vital.
“If one person is enforcing a rule and the others are not, it can confuse the dog,” Tera said. “If the dog is not allowed on the couch, be consistent. Everyone must enforce the rule.
The same goes for behavior training. Using the same commands and reward structure in training class and at home can help keep a canine focused and avoid confusion. Have you ever heard someone describe their dog at “stubborn?” More than likely, it’s not the pup’s fault. The more likely scenario is that the dog’s family is being inconsistent, which leads to confusion. That confusion manifests as uncertainty, which can be seen as stubbornness.
Expect Short Bursts of Brilliance
Remember that a dog’s attention span can be rather short. Therefore, keep practices quick and concise to reinforce a new behavior or use management to help stop negative ones.
Dogs are not perfect. They will make mistakes and sometimes forget their training. It happens. And when it does, it’s important to relate to your dog on their level.
“Dogs do their best to do what we want,” Tera explained. “But they cannot communicate like us. It’s important to take a step back and discover what dog is in front of you at that moment and meet them where they are at.”
When you know which dog you’re working with, it can be easier to get them back on track, whether the issue is with obedience, potty training, socialization, or playtime.
Take Out Harsh Punishments
Nothing erodes trust faster than harsh punishments, states Tera. The idea that dogs have a pack hierarchy based on dominance and fear is outdated and incorrect.
As Tera has pointed out, words of praise, treats and other rewards work better than shock collars or choke chains. The trick is to discover what kind of positive reinforcement works best for your pooch. Some dogs like treats, but others simply want snuggle time or a game of tug-of-war.
Have Fun with Your Dog
Dogs need mental stimulation and human contact. That means it’s in their best interest to stay busy and active. That can include tricks, food puzzles, and more.
“It’s so easy to forget about the dog with our busy lives. Stop and play with them,” Tera suggested. “Play fetch or tug. Whatever they love. Give them that reinforcement of your time.”
Tera points out that dogs can learn words and memorize what you are saying. They can even learn the name of their toys or specific rooms in the house. That’s some great mental stimulation and interaction.
Coastal Has What Your Pet Wants
We have aisles stocked with beds, food, treats, and medications to keep your pet happy and healthy at your West Coast-owned and operated Coastal. When you stop by, be sure to bring Fido in with you. As long as they’re on a leash and well behaved, they’re welcome in our stores.