Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has declared January to be National Train Your Dog Month. Too often, owners relinquish their dogs to shelters because an untrained puppy is no big deal, but an untrained dog begins exhibiting behavior problems if the unwanted behavior is allowed to continue. How many phone calls have I received from owners complaining that their dog is attacking people at the front door or won’t come when called resulting in the dog getting into all kinds of trouble? When I ask these owners if they’ve taught their dogs what to do instead, I often hear a description of punishment for bad behavior instead of a description of how their own dog training efforts failed.
Now we know that if you’re reading this blog, you’re a responsible dog owner. You walk your dog, provide lots of environmental enrichment for your dog and train your dog. In fact, the best environmental enrichment for most dogs is training. When I ask owners what environmental enrichment they provide for their dogs, the first thing most owners mention is exercise. I know, I know, a certain famous dog trainer has convinced dog owners that they must exercise their dogs into the ground to be a responsible owner, but I’ve got good news. Domesticated dogs need 30 to 45 minutes of vigorous exercise per day, just like us. Have you ever seen wild wolves exercising? Geez. What dogs are missing in their daily, domesticated lives, is the opportunity to analyze, decision make, and act. You know this is true if you’ve ever tried getting your dog’s attention when he’s stalking or chasing a squirrel. January is a great time to think about exercising your dog’s brain. What better time to tire out our brains than when the weather is bad?
Owners don’t train their dogs for any number of reasons: I don’t have time, I don’t know how, training is boring, my dog is fine the way he is, etc. Well, let’s take these excuses one at a time. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 10,000 times, if we all just trained our dogs for 5 minutes a day, we’d have beautifully behaved dogs. Trust me, 5 minutes a day will get you the best trained dog in town.
If you don’t know how to train dogs, that’s OK. I don’t know how to fix my car, repair my plumbing, or remodel my house. If I had the inclination, I could buy books, DVDs or take classes to learn how to do these things, but I choose to hire professionals. That’s why we offer Day Training services to our Companion Animal Solutions clients. We train our clients’ dogs for them and then we conduct hand off sessions with our clients to teach them how to maintain the training that we’ve installed. Once most owners see how smart their dogs are and how quickly they learn, they become excited about training their dogs. Some even sign up for dog training classes to learn more.
If you’re the “do it yourself” type because of temperament or budget constraints, check out our Book and DVD Recommendations on the Companion Animal Solutions web site. If you want to take a class, search for classes that use positive reinforcement based training and don’t forget to look for fun classes like agility, fly ball, tracking or tricks.
Now for that pesky “dog training is boring” excuse; Of course dog training is boring if all you ever do with your dog is sit, stay, come, and heel. Try some trick training instead! Trick training is incredibly fun while you’re doing it but it’s also fun to show off your dog’s trick repertoire to your friends and family. If you want to learn how to teach your dog tricks, I highly recommend the 101 Dog Tricks book/DVD set. I also love the Take A Bow Wow DVD.
Lastly, the old, “my dog is fine the way he is” excuse; Well, yes, your dog is wonderful but your dog would be so much happier and the bond you share with your dog would be so much deeper if you communicated with your dog for 5 minutes a day. Training a dog (or any animal) is communication, pure and simple. It’s such an exhilarating feeling when you see the light bulb of understanding dawn on a dog’s face. You wouldn’t expect your relationships with your family members or co-workers to be sustainable without at least 5 minutes of communication a day, so why expect a truly good relationship with your dog to exist with less?
And for all of you cat and parrot owners out there, training is wonderful environmental enrichment for your pets too. Many cat owners are stunned when I recommend clicker training for their cat’s increased environmental enrichment (or to solve a behavior problem). Don’t let those cats fool you. They are highly trainable. Check out our Cat Behavior and Training Recommendations on the Companion Animal Solutions web site. I especially like the Clicker Training Cats kit for beginners. Let’s not forget the owners of our feathered friends either. We have Parrot DVD and Book recommendations for you too.
The same principles of training and learning apply whether you’re training a dolphin, horse, parrot, cat, or dog. So at Companion Animal Solutions, we’re declaring January to be Train Your Pet Month. Please send us your stories and videos of your training experiences. We’d love to share your journey of learning and bonding with your pets. We hope that one of your New Years Resolutions will be to get clicking!