Dog Training 101: Top Tips for Best Behavior

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.

Since they cannot hold their bladder as long, puppies need to go out often while they are house-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.

When house-training your new pup, be sure to take them out often and establish a regular bathroom schedule

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.

Positive reinforcement is a great training tool for dogs.

Training Resources

Trainers:

Training Books:

The ASPCA also offers lots of tips and resources to help with many common dog behavior issues.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Get Your Pets Ready for Back to School

As summer ends and the kids head back to school, it is important to think about the 4-legged children in your life too!Boy heading back to school.

Dogs and cats need routines just like human children, and transitioning back to a different schedule — one that includes more alone time for them — can be tough.

The best way to avoid anxiety and possible behavioral issues is to have a plan in place to help your dogs and cats ease back into the fall and coming winter seasons.

Be Prepared

By now you know when your kids will head back to school (if they haven’t already). With that in mind begin preparing about a week (or two) before departure date to help everyone adjust. Get up earlier as you do during the school year to help your pup adjust to the new schedule.

Try to keep the rest of your pet’s routine as normal as possible with regular walks and feeding times. If feeding times change during the school year, start adjusting to the new times a week or two before so they don’t feel too many changes all at once.

Days can feel long and lonely, especially for dogs, when they have been used to human companionship. A morning walk or playtime in the yard is good bonding time and will help your pup get out some energy.

Keep Moving!

During the summer the days are longer and more people are around, which means more play time, walk time, and fun time. Once the school year starts, dogs and cats spend more time alone and get less exercise. Make sure you are keeping up with your dog’s exercise needs.

Bored dogs can gain weight and develop behavioral issues; it is not uncommon for dogs to “act out” once the kids are gone all day. Dogs need exercise and mental stimulation, so be sure to keep them active even when schedules change. While cats have a reputation for laziness, they do need exercise and stimulation as well, so don’t overlook their need for playtime.

Dog running with ball

Make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise before and after school!

A morning and afternoon walk or appropriate play time in the yard or park are often enough to keep man’s best friend happy. If you have a very active dog who needs lots of exercise and attention, consider a mid-day dog walker or doggy daycare to keep your pup busy and healthy.

Be Patient

Animals are sensitive, sentient creatures. They can sense changes and feel stress just like us, so remember to factor your faithful feline and canine companions into your changing routines.

Stressed, scared, or anxious animals can exhibit less than desirable behaviors — not because they are trying to be difficult, but because they are trying to express themselves. Stressed animals can bark, cry, pace, house soil, or becomes destructive.

stretching white cat

Cats need playtime and stimulation too!

While it would be easier If they could verbalize, if we pay attention, we can understand that they are communicating with us in different ways. Think about how you can minimize stress for your pet while you are away. Puzzle toys or food puzzle can provide great mental stimulation for bored dogs.

Soft music or quiet TV in the background can also help animals feel less alone; remember they are used to hearing noise and voices most of the stay. Stick with softer music choices and quiet television programs (think HGTV, not Cops) to help comfort. Remember, don’t select sounds that are overstimulating, which can agitate your pet.

Give Lots of Love

While it is harder for us humans, it is easier on our pets if we minimize the drama involved in our departures and arrivals.

When you leave in the am, make sure your pets are set up for the day, say goodbye, and go. Remind your kids that over-the-top farewells can actually upset your dog or cat who will anticipate that you are leaving. When you arrive home, greet your dogs and cats with love and affection without going over the top.

When you are home, make sure Fluffy and Fido get plenty of attention and tons of treats! Try to keep the rest of their routine as regular as possible so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Ensure they are happy and safe by petting them, snuggling with them, playing with them, walking them, and talking to them. 

Small child playing with dog.

Reduce back-to-school stress with proper transitions, regular routines, and appropriate playtime.

Remember, slowly transitioning back to the school routine, rather than lots of changes happening all at once, can help reduce anxiety in dogs and cats who have gotten used to having their pals around all summer.