So, it’s Time to Train Your Pup… What’s next?

So, it’s Time to Train Your Pup… What’s next?

When should you start training your pet?

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior  “In general, puppies can start socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up to date on all vaccines throughout the class.”  The idea is to also start socializing your pet; with other animals and people.

Positive Reinforcement training.

Positive reinforcement training often uses verbal cues, hand signals, treats, clickers, toys, and even games to help modify behavior, correct bad habits, and even to teach tricks. Trainers use both positive reinforcement (giving rewards) and negative punishment (taking away rewards.)  Use anything that motivates and your dog enjoys.

What is clicker training?

Clicker training is where a clicker is used to mark desirable behaviors and then the behavior is rewarded. Since animals cannot understand what humans say to them, we have to communicate with them in a way they can understand, this is where the clicker comes in. A clicker is a small device that makes the same, distinct sound every time, and when paired with food, animals quickly learn that the click predicts something good is about to happen. Rewarding behaviors that are desirable are called positive reinforcement, and it has been shown to be a humane and very effective method of training animals.  When you combine positive reinforcement with a clicker, the animal learns exactly what behavior is being rewarded, helping them learn behaviors faster and increasing their bond to the owner.  The first step is teaching the animal that a click means they will get a reward. This is done by pairing the click with a treat repeatedly until the animal is anticipating a treat when it hears the click, now the training can start. When the animal does something the owner likes (sitting, going to the pet bed, etc.), the behavior is clicked, which tells the animal what they are doing at that moment is good and they are going to be rewarded for it. After repeatedly getting rewarded, the animal learns that when they do that behavior, good things are going to happen.  In addition to catching good behaviors when the animal happens to do them, clicker training can be used to shape behaviors, where target behavior is broken down into small steps and each step is rewarded. For example, you want to teach your dog to go lay on his dog bed, but you never catch him going to the bed to click and reward. Instead, shape the behavior, start by clicking when the dog looks at the bed, then when he starts to move toward the bed, then when he puts one foot on the bed, all the way to the goal behavior of him going to the bed and laying down.  Clicker training can be used for any behavior you can think of that the animal is physically capable of performing. If you’d like more information on clicker training or help getting started, your regular veterinarian can give you the information or make recommendations on sources like trainers or books.

Training your pet should be an enjoyable bonding time for both of you.  Talk to your veterinarian about what training methods they suggest and or look into local training classes.  Below are some instructions provided by the AKC on the 5 basic commands all dogs should know.

Teach your dog theses 5 basic commands: 

  1. How To Teach A Dog To Come
  2. How To Teach a Dog Loose Leash Walking
  3. How To Teach a Dog To Sit
  4. How To Teach a Dog To Stay
  5. How to Teach a Dog to Lay Down