When you adopt a dog or add a new pet to the family, training is a critical part of establishing a routine and ensuring success. Here are some tips for training your dog as well as insight into different forms of training.
Beginner Basics: Establishing a Potty Plan
The most important first step with puppies (or even older dogs that a new to your household) is establishing a bathroom schedule.
Creating a consistent, routine is critical. Bathroom schedules must be routine to establish proper habits and teach dogs to understand that they go to the bathroom outside and not in the house.
Age is a good marker for a time frame of how long dogs can hold their bladder. The general rule of thumb is that dogs can hold their bladder one hour for every month of their age, so, if your dog is three months old, they can hold it for three hours. Please note that this is only a general calculation and that accidents happen during potty training.
For dogs less than six months old potty breaks will be more frequent and happen at regular intervals, such as 30 minutes after each meal and after they drink water. Dogs 6 months to 1-year-old can hold their urine and bowel movements for longer, but still, require frequent trips outside on a regular basis.
Often dogs will give you cues that they need to go out. Pay attention to signs, especially as you and your new family member are getting to know one another. As your dog grows and learns, you will become more familiar with their cues, such as going to the door or trying to get your attention another way, making it easier.
Remember, your dog is learning — it is up to you to provide proper structure and rewards for good behavior. Read more tips about house-training here.
Hiring a Trainer: When is the Right Time
One of the most common questions that dog owners have is when to enlist the help of a training. The answer is — the sooner, the better. Most trainers offer classes starting at 4-6 months of age. By then, your puppy should know some basic commands, such as sit, down, come, and possibly, stay.
Don’t worry if your dog does not have full command of these cues. Trainers are professionals and they want to help you as much as possible. Establishing an early relationship with a trainer will be beneficial to both you and your dog, especially if you a training refresher in the future.
Never Too Old: Teaching Older Dogs
We are all familiar with the classic adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, that is not true. Older dogs can and should still be learning as they continue to develop and mature. This is especially true when adopting an adult or senior pet — these animals often come from unstructured environments and need routine and training to settle into a new home. The good news is that more mature dogs often have a basic understanding of commands and house-training; they may just require a fresher as they are learning their new home and family.
Steps to Success: Types of Training
There are several different training methods for dogs and cats. Here is a look at some of the most popular:
Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is probably the most popular type of training. It is particularly helpful with potty training, as mentioned above. With this type of training, a reward (treat, praise) is given for good behavior, and bad behavior is ignored.
Clicker Training: This method is fairly popular as well. The premise is similar to positive reinforcement. The clicker is used to reinforce good behavior. When you give your dog a command, you click the clicker as they perform that command, so that they associate the click sound with getting a reward, such as a treat.
Relationship-Based Training: This method helps to build the relationship between dog and owner. This effective method is designed to let the owner and dog bond together while training. Read more about relationship-based training.
- Fortunate K9: Derry, NH
- Harmonious Hounds: Dartmouth, MA
- K9 Academy: Medford, MA
- K9 Top Performance: Reading, MA
- Doggie Fun and Fitness: Kingston, MA
- ReCurve K9: Hull, MA
- Boston for the Dogs: Roslindale, MA
- Excel-erated Learning, Pamela J. Reid
- How Dogs Learn, Mary Burch and Henry Bailey
- The Feisty Fido, Patricia McConnell, PhD
- Train your Dog like a Pro, Jean Donaldson
- Barking: The Sound of Language, Turid Rugaas
- On Talking Terms with Dogs, Turid Rugaas
The ASPCA also offers lots of tips and resources to help with many common dog behavior issues.