Dog owners have questions, and dog trainers have answers. Most of the questions that dog owners have are due to the fact that their dog is doing behaviors that they dislike. That is where the answers from the trainer comes in handy. One thing that must be mentioned before continuing on here is that the dog training industry is unregulated. This means that anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer and can give any type of answer without any proof that it will work or no mention of any side effects that could come from the advice given. So do your research before hiring a dog trainer. Click here for more information on that topic.
So lets get into some secrets to a happy, healthy, relatively stress free life with your dog.
1. Consistency is Everything
What does it mean to be consistent? It means providing things your dog enjoys after it does behaviors you enjoy and ensuring that your dog doesn't get anything it enjoys for doing behaviors that you don't enjoy. Getting good stuff for behaviors will most likely lead to reinforcement of those behaviors which means they will continue to happen in the future. So if you're providing good stuff for when your dog is lying on its bed instead of standing underfoot in the kitchen, you'll see more lying on the bed in the future and less underfoot in the kitchen.
If you're consistent about consequences you'll find that your dog is doing less to aggravate you. Be consistent about ensuing your dog isn't able to get into stuff when left alone. This can be done by utilizing a crate, a gate, or a dog daycare that is properly staffed and understands dogs.
Dogs also benefit from routines. If you're consistent about when they eat, train, and exercise things are much easier. If you're dealing with a dog that is eliminating in the house, one of the first things to do is get him on a strict schedule. If you live in a home with multiple people, ensure that everyone is being consistent.
2. Exercise is a Must
A lot of issues that people deal with on a daily basis are the result of a dog that hasn't had its needs met. It is a must to provide an outlet for your dog's energy. If you do not, your dog will find an outlet and it's going to result in frustration on your part. Yep, there goes your shoes, your wall, your socks... You'll end up chasing your dog around the house trying to catch him so he'll drop that forbidden object. A questions we get often as trainers is how to prevent the game of keep away. Well, with a young dog, it's inevitable that it will happen from time to time if there are management fails, but the best offense here is a good defense. That defense is helping your dog release its energy in an appropriate fashion.
You can provide exercise in multiple ways. One is to work the your dog's brain. This can be accomplished by doing 10-15 minute training sessions where you either working on regular obedience behaviors or you can even get fancy with it and teach tricks. Teaching tricks is a great way to improve your training skills as well. Click here to learn more about teaching tricks.
The other more obvious way is to do physical exercise. Walks, fetch, jogging, tug... There are so many ways to do it and a lot of it will get you exercise too. At least an hour of physical exercise for a young dog is a must. You've probably already caught on, but if you don't you'll regret it later.
3. Training is a Must
If you want to live in harmony with your dog then it's highly recommended to teach them skills like sit, down, stay, leave it, and come. Stay is one of the most valuable behaviors especially when you have multiple dogs. We use stay often when we are trying to get one dog outside and we don't want the other two to follow. Instead of getting into a power struggle trying to body block or overpower the other two, we ask them to go to their beds and remain there while the other dog goes outside. In return for this behavior they get a small food reward.
"Leave it" comes in handy in so many ways. We use the behavior of "leave it" in place of the word "no." Anytime that we would say "no" to our dogs we ask them to "leave it" instead because this is a behavior we have taught them. This behavior means to give up, or back off. "No" to a dog means nothing and the human ends up repeating it until they're voice gets louder and it startles the dog so it stops the behavior. This falls under the power struggle that we work to avoid.
4. Rewarding Behaviors is a Must
Food is usually the easiest reward that can be given. We recommend having small treat jars placed strategically throughout your home so you always have access to a reward to give at the opportune moment. This comes in very handy when you're having your dog stay, or come. The goal with rewarding behaviors is that it is going to serve as reinforcement which means the behavior will happen more frequently in the future. If behaviors that you like happen more frequently in the future, then you're going to be happy because if your dog is doing wanted behaviors, it isn't doing unwanted behaviors.
Different situations call for different rewards. If your dog likes to bolt out of the door, you can teach him to wait and if he does, the reward can be going outside. If your dog is very motivated to greet a person, that person serves as the reward at that moment. If your dog is pulling on leash to get to a fire hydrant, that hydrant could be the reward. All we need to do is teach/ask for behaviors and then provide access to the thing the dog wants when done correctly.
5. Socialization is a Must
A dog that is sequestered in a home all day everyday is very likely to develop issues when he finally gets to experience the world outside the home. Socialization is about building positive associations with the things that the dog comes across. If you're walking your dog and he sees a person, you can provide a piece of food for your dog noticing the person. With repetition, your dog will start to associate people it sees with stuff it likes. This is just a quick example. Ultimately though, it is extremely important to get your dog out so it can see the world and build positive experiences.
One of the mistakes people make is thinking that a dog will build the association all on its just be experiencing this stuff. It will most likely not work that way for your dog. And if you're using "training equipment" like shock collars, choke or pinch collars you could be helping your dog build negative associations. You can learn more about that here.
Take a look at this video for a real world example of socialization: