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Dog training is an essential part of owning a pet and offers several benefits. Learn more about the importance of dog training as well as how to do it.
01/17/2023 | Sniff & Bark
Getting your dog to “sit,” “stay,” or “come” on command may not be the first thing you think about when adopting a pet. But teaching your dog a few tricks is something that all responsible pet owners must think about at some point.
Dog training has several benefits — not just for you but for your pet. It strengthens your bond with your fur baby, helps it become a well-adjusted member of your household, and provides vital mental and physical stimulation. It is so essential that January has been hailed as National Train Your Dog Month since many pets are adopted around the holidays.
Whether you’ve adopted a puppy, an adult, or a dog in its later years, the good news is it’s never too late to start training.
Join us as we list the benefits of training your pet. We’ll also discuss some common training methods, basic commands you can start with, clarify some misconceptions about dog training, and more.
7 Benefits of Dog Training
1. Strengthens Your Bond
Dog training doesn’t happen overnight. It entails short but consistent sessions that teach mutual respect, trust, and confidence over time. Also, dogs love pleasing their owners so engaging in training that uses positive reinforcement through treats, praise, and pets helps cultivate a stronger relationship between your four-legged pal and you.
2. Makes Them a Well-adjusted Member of the Family
A well-adjusted dog that knows even a few basic commands is a joy to have around. It can be taught to relieve itself in designated areas, to calm down when it gets too rowdy, and other socially acceptable behaviors.
The difference dog training makes can spell the difference between a canine that is stressful and high-maintenance and a pet that knows how to respect proper boundaries and is a welcome presence.
Plus, spending all that time with you provides tons of opportunities for socialization! This means that your canine will be more accepting of other dogs, animals, and people. Everyone, from members of your household to your vet and even dog trainers will find your dog easier to handle and be with.
3. Provides Mental Stimulation
Since your dog needs to figure out the desired behavior to earn treats and praise, training provides your furry family member with valuable mental stimulation.
Why is mental stimulation important?
It helps dogs learn, prevents boredom, can help reduce unwanted behavior (like chewing on your things), lowers stress, helps them sleep better, and is ultimately important for an overall healthy dog.
If you train outdoors and teach commands like “heel” and “fetch,” it can also give you and your dog physical exercise and fresh air.
4. Helps Keep Your Dog Safe
Too many dogs unknowingly put themselves in danger by running into busy roads, attacking other animals, and other risky behaviors. Consider how such instances can be prevented if you engaged in sit-and-stay dog training.
By training your dog, you can exert greater control over precarious situations even if you’re outside together.
5. You and Your Dog Can Be Models for Dog Training
When other dog owners see the benefits of having a well-behaved dog like yours, it will encourage them to train their own pets, making you and your fur baby unofficial advocates for having disciplined and well-mannered dogs.
6. You Can Get To Know Your Dog Better
How quickly does your dog learn? What’s the most effective way to teach your pet? What does your canine respond to most?
You’ll learn so much about your dog’s behavior and motivations during your training sessions that you wouldn’t learn any other way.
7. It’s Incredibly Fulfilling
If it’s your first time training a dog, you may feel uncertain if you’re doing it right but with a little patience and perseverance, you’ll eventually get the hang of it. When you finally succeed in teaching your dog its first trick, you’ll be one proud fur parent!
From there, you can build on your dog’s repertoire of tricks and teach it increasingly challenging commands.
What Is the Best Age To Train a Dog?
You can start training your puppy when it’s seven to eight weeks old. Start with basic and gentle training like socialization (getting it used to people and other animals) and teaching it to sit, stay, and come.
Even if your dog is older, you can still train it. Older dogs may not learn as quickly as younger ones but they may be able to focus for longer periods.
The Truth About “Letting Your Dog Be a Dog”
Thankfully, most owners are aware of the importance of training their dogs. It’s estimated that 46% enrolled their pooches in an obedience class while 45% trained their dogs themselves.
But why are there still people who don’t train their dogs? One of the most common reasons we hear about is they’re afraid of suppressing their dogs’ natural instincts, of “not letting their dogs be dogs.”
Is there any truth to this and should you be concerned?
It’s true that dogs are members of our families but that still doesn’t make them people. There are some fundamental differences in the way they think and function. Essentially, canines are pack animals. In a pack, there is an established leader who calls the shots. In an ideal scenario, that should be you, the owner.
As the pack leader, it’s up to us owners to assert control over our pets so they look up to us with respect, confidence, and trust. After all, we know what’s best for them and we can keep them from dangers that they may not recognize!
An article from Dog City aptly describes the need for dogs’ hierarchical pack mentality:
They thrive in an environment that provides stability, predictability, structure, and consistency, and the majority of behavioral issues with dogs are a result of this lack of hierarchical framework. Without it, the dog is confused and feels the need to lead the human owner– which can have disastrous consequences, particularly when cohabitating in an urban environment…
By becoming the pack leader that your dog needs, you can fully enjoy all the benefits of owning a dog.
Behaviors That Make You the Pack Leader
Now that we know the importance of dog training and why you need to be the pack leader, how can you teach your dog to recognize you as the alpha dog?
Animal behaviorists and dog trainers generally recommend:
- Being assertive and calm
- Leash training so the dog follows you and not the other way around
- Ignoring your dog when it barks for something
- Following established mealtimes with no free feeding in between
- Avoid feeding it from the table and discourage it from begging for food while you’re eating
- House training an adult dog or puppy by not giving it free rein in the house until it is properly potty trained
- Discouraging your dog from jumping on people
- Not letting your dog mount you
- Conducting obedience training throughout your dog’s life
Sobering Reality of Zero or Poor Training
When dogs exhibit behavioral issues due to poor training or lack of training, many of them end up in shelters where they face a great risk of being euthanized. Around three million animals from shelters are euthanized annually.
Here’s another concerning statistic: Based on information from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the most common reason why pets are rehomed is pet problems. Forty-seven percent of dogs were booted out of their “forever homes” due to issues that encompassed aggressive behaviors, problematic behaviors, health problems, or because they grew too big for their owners. As you know by now, several of these can be addressed through training.
The Easy Way To Get Started With Dog Training
What is the most effective method of dog training? When it comes to training dogs, the general consensus among vets is positive reinforcement. This means rewarding your dog for the behavior you want rather than using punishment when it does something wrong.
You can administer positive reinforcement by rewarding your dog with pets, treats, or praise when it successfully performs the desired action. For example, you issue the command for it to sit. When your dog sits, you can give it a reward to positively reinforce the behavior.
Dog Training Hand Signals vs Oral Commands
Should you teach your dog hand signals or oral commands? The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends using both because it allows your canine to use more of its senses (sight and hearing) to understand what you want. A study published in Psychology Today revealed that up to 99% of dogs responded correctly to hand signals while only 82% of them accurately followed instructions that were given orally.
If you must choose between the two, you can use dog hand signals first since dogs can perceive them better than voice commands. However, if you’ve already begun with oral commands, there’s no issue in adding dog hand signals to your training.
Using hand signals has many advantages:
- It can make your pet learn to pay more attention to you.
- They can be issued and followed even if it’s noisy.
- Even if your dog becomes deaf with age, it can still follow you.
- It’s useful if you join obedience competitions and dog shows.
- Even if you’re far away from your dog, it can see your command.
Basic Commands You Can Start With
From “roll over,” “play dead,” “give paw,” and tons more, there are so many commands we can teach our favorite four-legged fido. Regardless of where you are in your training, here are a few basic commands that you can teach:
Recognizing Its Name
Difficulty level: Easy
Hand signal: Not applicable
Why you need it: Teaching your dog to recognize its name is the most basic lesson. This will help you get its attention when you need it and help your dog focus during training.
How to teach it: Most dogs learn this when you use their names regularly. Reward your pet with a treat whenever you call out and it looks at you.
Difficulty level: Easy
Hand signal: Starting with your hand at your side, raise it with a swooping motion until it’s in front of you and the palm is facing your chest
Why you need it: It’s an easy way to get your dog to calm down and stop whatever it’s doing.
How to teach it: Use a treat to manipulate your dog into a seated position. Hold it in front of your dog’s nose then move your hand slightly higher until it moves into a sitting position. When your dog sits, say, “sit” and give it a treat.
You can eventually combine this with “stay.”
Difficulty level: Moderate
Hand signal: Raise your hand from your side until it touches your opposite shoulder
Why you need it: Whether it’s to get your dog to quickly move away from something dangerous or because it’s feeding time, this command is useful in numerous situations.
How to teach it: Begin by keeping your dog on a leash then issue the command. When your dog begins moving toward you, reward it. Give rewards even if it moves toward you a little at a time until your dog gets the idea.
Difficulty Level: Hard
Hand signal: Hold your hand in a fist then open it
Why you need it: Dogs explore the world with their mouths which means they may eat inedible items that are dangerous for them. This command will teach your dog to drop anything that’s in its mouth and leave it.
How to teach it: There are three stages to this lesson.
- Hold a treat in both hands, preferably something with a strong smell. Hold one fist in front of your dog and say, “leave it.” Keep your hand closed even if your dog sniffs, licks, or barks to get it. When your pet stops trying, give the treat in your other hand.
Keep doing this until your pup starts moving away from your fist upon issuing the command.
- Eventually, your dog will look up at you as he moves away. When it does, reward the behavior.
- Finally, use two types of treats: your dog’s favorite and a less tasty reward. Place the less desirable treat on the floor. Put your hand over it and issue the command. If your dog ignores the treat and glances at you, remove the treat on the floor and reward your dog with the tasty treat.
As you progress in the lesson, hold your hand further and further away until your dog successfully ignores it even when you’re standing up. If your dog tries to get the treat, cover it with your hand or foot.
Other Training Options
While these are great commands to start with, you can also go for tailored dog training sessions. If you’re looking for affordable dog training near me, you can join group training classes which cost between $30 and $80 a class or $200 to $300 for an entire course.
Training your dog isn’t always easy but it’s necessary and has several benefits for you and your four-legged friend.