Who trains whom?

Have you ever found yourself thinking that you needed to get home to feed the dog? Most of us have. If you've ever owned a dog for any period of time and taken that time to care for your dog seriously, then you've probably picked up a number of habits related to taking care of the dog. Feeding time is a big one. Letting your dog out after meals and before bedtime are others. These little rituals have become natural habits. That's pretty much what dog training is like.

Training your dog is an absolute necessity

A well-trained dog is truly a joy to live with. An un-trained dog can be a real nightmare. If you fall in the latter, you know what I mean, but there's still hope, no matter how old your old dog's tricks are.

Without training you're actually putting your dog at risk, especially if there are any danger areas in or around your home and who doesn't live next to a street that has traffic? Our little 4 legged friends are very strong willed, more so than most other dogs. That's why strong training is an absolute necessity.

I'm a firm believer in training, and I thought we had covered all the basics and then some. She was about 6 six years old, she always came when called, followed all the basic obedience commands, yet she loved to chase squirrels. One day we had just come home from a short trip that she had accompanied me. We had pulled into the garage and had not yet shut the overhead door. I had sat her down on the floor and was turning to close the car door when she spotted a squirrel in the front yard. In less time than it took for me to close that door, she was off chasing the squirrel. We have a lot of trees in the front yard that that squirrel could have gone up for safety, but instead it darted across the street. Now our street isn't a busy road by any means. It's just your ordinary neighborhood street. On this particular Sunday morning there happened to be just one car on the road, but it was enough. The squirrel ran free, but my dog never saw the car and was gone forever.

The point is that no matter how much you train your dog, there's always more you can do and continue to do. Training takes a great deal of time, patience and firmness (for you and your dog).

Here are a few basic rules of dog training to give you some idea of what's involved:

  1. Start today if you haven't already. Dog training should begin the first day of the dogs arrival, no matter what the age of you or your dog.

  2. Housebreaking is the first thing to learn. Whether your dog is a puppy or one that has some age, housebreaking will need to be introduced and practiced until it's mastered. Additional training can wait for puppies until they reach their 3rd month.

  3. Training is based on the alpha leader principle. That is: there is one authority in the house—you! Your dog must understand that you are the authority figure. You must set clear limits for the dog and you MUST insist that the dog acknowledge you as the alpha leader. If you fail to establish this relationship, your dog will just refuse to obey.

  4. Be consistent. Always use the same words in your training. That's the only way you dog can begin to understand what your sounds mean. For example: Come, sit, stay, no! Don't say "Come here," one time and whistle the next, and then "Come."

  5. Reward and punishment. Always follow commands with one or the other. Punishment can be in the form of no reward or treat, or a verbal punishment—usually in the form of a sharp "no." Don't use the dogs name when handing out punishment. Always use the dogs name with a reward. This reward punishment system establishes a connection in the dogs mind for the events immediately preceding the event. Use a gentle voice for praise, a stern voice for scolding. The dog must learn that a short, stern "no" means something and requires an immediate change in action.

    Punishment should not include yelling, and never hitting. Punish a dog by picking it up by the scruff of the neck and shake it only briefly. This DOES NOT mean to pick up the dog clear off the ground and shake it violently.

  6. Provide plenty of activity and exercise for your dog. They will enjoy the challenges associated with training if they also have plenty of time to play with you. In other words, don't make all of your contact with the dog just training. There is training time and play time.

Dog training requires patience and firmness to be effective. It also requires consistency. This is especially true if you have multiple family members. It's just as important to train everyone in the family on how to handle the dog so that everyone is on the same page, especially the dog.