Importance of Training
Obedience training is one of the most important aspects of owning a dog. A well trained dog is a happier dog and is much more accepted in public. Training also strengthens the bond you have been building since the day you brought your new dog home. It strengthens the trust, communication, mutual understanding and respect. In addition, it also establishes your place as his leader.
An important aspect of training is socialization. Socialization should begin with puppies as soon as they have had their vaccinations and are safe to be outside. Always consult with your veterinarian to be sure your puppy is healthy enough to be in public places. A puppy that has not received at least his second distemper/parvo vaccination is at risk of contracting this disease. Never take an unvaccinated puppy outside, unless he needs to go to the vet and then CARRY HIM and do not set him down at the vet.
Puppy classes are an excellent way for your puppy to learn to interact with other puppies, new people and new environments. These classes also provide owners with information on common dog behaviors and what to expect at different stages of their puppy’s life.
Training can also save your dog’s life. Teaching your dog to sit, down, stay, stop and come on command are essential skills every dog should learn. If your dog were to get loose and is running towards a busy street, if he knows the word ‘stop’ and is trained to ‘come’ on command you can save his life.
Training is also important for a happy household. Arriving guests do not want to be greeted by your dog jumping on top of them. Your dog should be trained to sit on command and calmly greet your guests. A well-behaved dog will be able to enjoy family activities versus being banished to his crate or another room.
Common Behavioral Issues
Chewing is a natural dog behavior. Dogs chew for several of reasons: lack of exercise, boredom, stress and separation anxiety.
Dogs require exercise daily to tire them out and calm them down. They also like to be challenged mentally. Dogs were all initially bred for a job. For example, the Dachshund was originally used in Germany to chase badgers from their holes. Jack Russell Terriers, because of their high energy and stamina, were used to help hunt foxes. The German Shepherd was originally bred to herd sheep, as its name suggests. It may not be realistic to have your dog herd a bunch of sheep in the middle of a city, but you can teach him new tricks or enroll him in a tracking or agility class.
At home, invest in plenty of appropriate chew toys for your dog such as Kong’s, food puzzles, and chew toys. You can fill the Kong’s with peanut butter and or a mixture of food and water and freeze them overnight. If you catch him chewing on something inappropriate, do not get mad at him, this may enhance the behavior or cause resource guarding. Instead, you should do the following:
- Remain calm and assertive
- Take the object back. Make sure your dog is calm.
- Give your dog an alternative, acceptable chewing item.
- Be sure your dog knows that you control it instead of him.
Provide plenty of alternative chewing items both inside and outside. If you leave your dog outside unattended, even for a few minutes, he may become bored and start to chew on something outside or start another unwanted behavior such as digging.
Dogs will also chew when they are stressed or if they are left behind and have any separation anxiety. Prior to leaving your dog alone, again, make sure he is well exercised and fed. Provide plenty of chew toys.
Dogs with separation anxiety will exhibit signs of distress and behavior problems when left alone. Some of the most common signs of separation anxiety include:
- Barking, whining, crying and howling
- Excessive salivation
- Digging at the windows and doors
- Destructive chewing
- Urination or defecation
Dogs who are already comfortable in their crates can be trained to be crated when you leave. Caution should be used when crating dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety that have not yet been crate trained. They may become more stressed and injure themselves trying to escape from their crate. There are heavy duty crates that are more secure that can be purchased and you should work with an animal behaviorist on training your dog. If the onset of these behavioral changes are sudden with your dog and there was no change to any of your routines, you should have your dog checked out by your veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying medical cause for his anxiety and behavior.
Most dogs can be in stable homes and may never experience separation anxiety. However, a disruption to a dog’s routine may trigger the onset of separation anxiety. Here are a few examples of a few of those disruptions:
- Move to a new home
- Death of a family member
- Time you spend away from the home
- Time spent at the vet or a boarding facility
Separation anxiety takes time and patience to work through. Be patient don’t give up on your dog. It may take weeks or months for a dog with moderate separation anxiety to be able to be left alone. In the meantime, you can begin the process by starting with the routine you go through when you leave the home, but don’t actually leave. Put your shoes on, grab your jacket and keys and walk to the door, but don’t leave. Practice this several times a day. Don’t say anything to your dog. You can also walk into a closet and close the door or walk into your bathroom or out a side door, only waiting 1 minute before returning. Again, depending on your dog’s anxiety level it may take weeks or months to move beyond this stage.
Once your dog is comfortable with this routine, the next step is to exit through your main door and gradually increase the time you are gone. Do not rush this process. You should be gone less than 10 minutes. Practice as many times as necessary to get your dog comfortable. When you leave your dog, do not make a big deal about leaving him. You want him to know you are returning. Pick one word or phrase that you will say to him each time you leave, such “Be back soon” or “I’ll be back.” Just as discussed in the “Chewing” section, dog’s with separation anxiety are more apt to rest when left alone if they have been exercised prior to your departure and if they are left with plenty of chew toys to stimulate them. Provide them with ample appropriate and enticing toys, such as stuffed Kong’s.
If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe and he is unable to be left alone during his desensitization treatment, consider a doggie daycare, a dog walker, a dog sitter or leaving him with a friend or family member while you are gone. If you are consistently working your program with your dog and seeing no progress, you should consult a behaviorist and your veterinarian for assistance.
Although most dogs with separation anxiety can be treated, the best alternative is preventing it from the start. When you bring your new puppy or dog home, practice leaving him alone for short periods of time. Remember to provide him exercise and a stuffed Kong before your departure!
A dog’s defensiveness or overt aggression over his toys, food, space or his people is known as resource guarding. In multi-dog homes it is important from the beginning that dogs be treated equally. Meals should be prepared at the same time and dogs fed at the same time. However, dogs should be fed separately to eliminate the opportunity to have access to the other’s food.
If treats are given, treats should be given in order of good behavior, i.e. who sits first, etc. Dog’s play should always be monitored and high value bones such as rawhides should be restricted or monitored as those may cause fights or aggression.
If a dog begins guarding his food bowl by growling when you approach while he is eating there are a few steps you can take to resolve this behavior.
- Vary your dog’s feeding time so his internal clock is not expecting his meal at the same time every day.
- Change his bowl to a new bowl and change his feeding location.
- Pick up the bowl and pretend to fill it and place it down. Let him look at it. Wait for him to look at you. Praise him and then add a small handful of kibble.
- Allow him to eat the kibble. Once he looks up at you, praise him again and add some more.
- Repeat this until he finishes. Walk away and then return and add just a bit more. The goal is to teach him that he gets rewarded when you are near his food bowl.
- Feed like this for a week.
- The second week you will be using chicken as his meal. This high value food will reinforce you as a positive influence around his food bowl.
- Finally, the third week, you may return him to kibble, but while he is eating, you will want to toss in a very tasty treat into his food bowl.
If there is more than one adult in the household, you should both be participating in the feedings throughout the three weeks so your dog becomes comfortable with both of you feeding him. Children should never participate in feeding a dog that is resource guarding. If your dog is still acting aggressively during the first stage of this exercise, contact a humane trainer or behaviorist immediately. See the “Trainer” section of this packet for additional information or contact your veterinarian or behaviorists in your area.
An easy way to prevent resource guarding of food with a young puppy is to get your puppy used to you picking up his food bowl from the time you bring him home. You should also be able to put your hand in his bowl and remove it. A good habit to start with your puppy is having him sit and wait for you to put his food down and then give him a command to eat, this possible to do even if you are feeding in his crate.
Dogs not only will guard food and toys, but they will often times guard a specific individual in the family. If one individual is less respected by the dog, than this person should actually start taking on more of the responsibilities with the dog. The dog needs to understand that his care and food comes directly from that individual.
The dog also needs to be taught to respect the boundaries of the home. He should be taught to sit before entering different rooms, so he understands he doesn’t “own” the home. He needs to sit before going outside and you should always exit first. If he wants to be pet, he needs to be taught to “sit” to be pet. He will quickly learn to respect each individual as leaders.
Trainers and Training Resources
Selecting a Trainer
Your new dog is a member of your family, and as such you want the best for him. Dog certification and licensure is not regulated by any government agency. It is important to always do your due diligence before hiring a private trainer or joining a training class. Ask for recommendations for trainers from your rescue group, veterinarian, humane society, shelter, friends and family.
Then ask yourself, what type of trainer or class you are looking for? Are you looking for a puppy class, beginning obedience, specialty class, group class, private training, etc.? Another important question is what the goal of the training session is and what you would like the outcome to be? After you have narrowed your choice of trainers down to one or two, ask each one if you may observe a training session. If any of the trainers deny this request do not select them. Also, ask each trainer you are considering for references and contact these references directly. You should also spend time either on the phone or in person talking with each trainer about their training methods, equipment they use, how long they have been training, the types of dogs they usually train, and their prices. Trainers set their own prices and they vary greatly. You should consider what you would be getting during the training for each price. Additionally, be leery of any trainer who guarantees his work. You should be the one working with your dog alongside the trainer.
All dogs can benefit from practicing their social skills. However, for young puppy’s socialization is imperative. Puppies who are raised without ever leaving their home lack many basic social skills and fear many commonplace situations, such as meeting new people.
Growing up with limited exposure to the outside world, a dog has limited ability to deal with change. It is important that you handle all parts of your dog on a daily basis, giving him praise and small rewards with treats for relaxing. As your dog becomes more relaxed with your touch, ask others to begin handling him.
The checklist on the following pages is a printable guide for you to use as you begin to socialize your new family member to your home and the world. Remember to take it slowly, be patient and reward him with lots of praise and pets! Training takes time and work, but the rewards of a well-trained dog will be well worth all of you and your dog’s efforts!
Denver/Nearby Surrounding Areas
Summit Dog Training LLC
1409 E. Olive Ct, Bldg. B, Unit H
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Colorado Canine Consulting, LLC
Tim Sigwarth and Bryann Lynch