Dog Training Techniques
So now that we have covered the basics of deciding to own a pet, choosing the right pet and basic needs, it is time to move on to one of the most questioned subjects. “How to train your dog.” This topic is one of my favorites to talk about because as a pet owner I was unaware of what was involved in the training process and I feel like it is important for new pet owners to understand how training works in order to have a good pet experience. I know I say this in just about every post but it is critical for pet ownership. Research the breed you are interested in having. You are probably asking “what does the breed have to do with it?” The answer is personality. There are some breeds that are just easier to train due to their breeding purpose and intelligence level.
Some working dogs like Australian Shepherds are easy to train due to their urge to please their owners as well as their high intelligence. They are also really athletic and can be trained for shows. Chihuahuas can also be a good breed for training due to their brain power. So I guess I lucked out with that one. On the other hand, Pitbulls can be stubborn and hard to train if you don’t start early and stay consistent with the training. When I adopted Piggy, she already had basic training. I just had to work with her a bit so she knew what to expect in her new home. Although she is by no means a wild child, she can be a little stubborn with listening to commands on walks if something has her attention. Also remember that every dog is different. It is helpful to know what you may be getting yourself into with the breed you choose but remember that not every Aussie will be a breeze to train just like not every tall person will be great at basketball.
Potty Training Your Pooch
A great training technique to start with is potty training. The first thing to know about potty training is that it does not happen overnight. It takes time just like with our human babies. If your dog senses your frustration, they may get anxious and have more accidents. It is also good to keep in mind that getting a puppy vs. an older dog may require more time since they will need to go out more frequently. The main thing I learned when potty training Jack was that I had to get him on a good feeding schedule. At the time I had not considered this because he was not the type of dog to keep eating his food because it was there. Since he was a grazer, I figured it would be fine to just leave his food out for him to eat when he wanted. WRONG. This way of feeding made potty time difficult. Jack did very well with peeing outside, but he would come inside to poop and at odd times so I never knew when he had to go. I got some advice from my vet who introduced me to the concept of a feeding schedule. I chose a breakfast and dinner time for him. I also took him on longer walks. Eventually I was able to figure out when Jack had to go and his potty schedule became regular.
For a while I did use puppy pads which I feel helped him a lot. Jack knew that the pad was where he was supposed to go potty instead of all over the house. Eventually I transitioned him to just going outside to use the bathroom. I realized that I was not walking him long enough so Jack thought that it was normal to pee outside and poop inside. How I got Jack to understand that he needed to poop outside was by giving him a treat every time he went outside.
The Trick With Treats
The trick with training your dog is positive reinforcement. This does not mean that puppy gets away with bad behavior. My tone is very different with bad behavior and good behavior. It means that you may get better results with rewarding a dog for the good things they do vs. only acknowledging the bad behavior with scolding. Your dog will eventually associate a wanted behavior with a treat. Now when I take Jack out and he poops, he will sit and wait for his treat because he knows he did what I wanted him to do. Some dogs are people pleasers so I would use that to your advantage. Both my dogs are very treat motivated which helps with a lot of my training. Piggy for the most part is well-behaved. I did not have to work hard at all with her since she already knew basic commands. The only issue I have with her is her high prey drive for cats, which I will save for another post.
Jack on the other hand has a bad habit of barking and lunging at people and other dogs. He has gotten better with his encounter with people but we are still working on his interaction with other dogs. My secret is using treats. Whenever we are on walks and I see a person, I pull out a treat and make him sit. At this point, Jack is fully focused on the treat. Once the person passes and is out of sight, Jack gets the treat if he remained seated and quiet. After a few times of repeating this cycle, Jack now associates sitting quietly with a treat. This concept can be used with any type of training. I use the same method with crate training.
Piggy was already crate trained and potty trained when I adopted her but I still use this training technique for her since I use treats as a reward. Jack was my learning experience. What I learned was that a dog’s crate was a safe place/bedroom. At first, I had an airline kennel. Jack was okay crating for bed but was not okay when I went to work. I was not comfortable leaving him out because we had not yet mastered potty training. Treats were not enough of a motivation for him just yet. Once he outgrew his kennel, I got a wire crate. This was a better fit because he felt more secure. Now that I have a second dog I feed them separately in their crates to prevent fighting. This routine of feeding and treats helped both dogs love their crates. They love their daily cuddles after work but at bedtime Jack rushes to his crate to settle down.
I have heard of and seen some people use puppy pads inside a dog crate. I personally would not recommend doing this because it may cause confusion with your pet. Dogs naturally do not go to the bathroom where they sleep so teaching them to use the puppy pad in their crate is the same as teaching a human child to go to the bathroom in their bed. Ample playtime outside their crate and frequent walks can prevent unwanted accidents.
By now, you all are probably thinking that I have a perfect Pitbull and a wild and crazy Chihuahua. I definitely lucked out with Piggy and Jack is a little socially awkward but I feel like both are great dogs. Jack was my learning experience and I use what I learned to reinforce what Piggy was taught. Treats are awesome tools you can use when training your pet. Remember that your pet has to follow your schedule and your rules. Anytime they exhibit the behavior you are looking for whether it is a simple “sit” command or jumping through a hoop, be sure to reward them so that they understand what you want them to do. Whether you decide to crate your pet or not, make sure your pup sees its crate as a safe place so they will want to crate when you need them to. Be sure to drop a line in the comment box.