Saturday, June 4, 2011

31 Days to a Better Dog - a training makeover for your dog Part 1











By Mychelle Blake
Mychelle Blake, MSW, CDBC a certified dog-behavior consultant.

PetPartners, Inc the provider of the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan thought the readers of the Barking Bulletin would find the article as interesting as we did. Mychelle Blake the author, graciously agreed to let us reprint the original article in our current edition. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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As a dog trainer, I often hear owners saying they were surprised to find out how a dog would change their lives. Alisa, from Greenville, South Carolina, tells of her experience with her new puppy, Moka, a Flat-Coated Retriever: "The one thing I forgot about having a puppy is how much time they take initially. She is a puppy, so I knew we would have to train her, and I knew we would have to watch her, but I forgot that I have to watch her closely until she learns what is allowed and what is not allowed. It's like having another baby!"

Sometimes new owners find that the dog they've taken on is a mismatch for their lifestyle. Jeannie Loeb, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says excess energy posed a problem. "I found myself having to wake before dawn every morning to walk the dog (not at a leisurely pace!) for about an hour. Then my husband and four children would take the dog for a walk during the evenings. And yet, this was not enough exercise for her and so she was getting into all sorts of mischief at home."
But don't despair. With preparation, consistency, and a plan, you can mold a well-mannered pup and brush up on the etiquette of older dogs. Start now! Every interaction with your dog is a training opportunity.

Getting Started

When beginning training, it's a good idea to sit down and write out a plan. Tracking daily interactions with your dog can help you to see how you are progressing with basic manners. If you live in a multiperson household, it can assist with one of the key issues to watch out for in training-consistency!

Take your written plan and post it in a common area of your household where everyone can see it-on your refrigerator, on the family computer, or even above your dog's bed or crate. Make sure all family members enter their data in the chart. It's also important to take the time each day to discuss progress, such as at the dinner table, or while you walk the dog together as a family at night.

1.Invest in a good set of baby gates and use them to keep your puppy from getting into trouble in your house.

2.Get a variety of toys for your puppy, but only leave four to five down at any time. Rotate them regularly so your puppy doesn't get bored and try to play with inappropriate objects-like your shoes!

3.Begin crate training. Aside from helping with house training, having a dog who is comfortable in a crate can be a real asset. Crate-trained dogs are less stressed when they need to be confined due to an illness or during transport.

4.Start looking for training classes now, especially those leading to the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy® or AKC's Canine Good Citizen® program awards. You may find a listing of CGC evaluators and S.T.A.R. Puppy trainers at www.akc.org. Also, check the APDT website's trainer-search feature at apdt.com.

5.For multiperson households, create a "cue chart," listing all of the behaviors you are trying to teach and the corresponding cue words. That way everyone stays on the same page and your puppy will learn faster!

6.Use your dog's bed or crate as part of his training regimen-you can train him to do a "go to bed" or "crate" cue by bringing him to his bed or crate and rewarding him for staying. This is a useful behavior to have when visitors come over, or when you want to eat a meal at the dinner table without your puppy underfoot.

7.Have you "puppy proofed" your home? If you have, it's time for a recheck! Review your puppy's access to your household furniture and goods often, as things may change when the puppy gets bigger and more active.

8.Socialization Tip: Visit your veterinary clinic often with your puppy to help him learn that it's a great place to be. Bring a handful of treats or a favorite toy with you, and have the puppy meet the staff.

9.Food-stuffed toys are a great way to keep your puppy occupied while you are busy. Fill the toys with kibble and other treats, or even regularly feed him his breakfast and dinner through these toys.

10.Reinforce the four-on-the-floor rule! While it's cute now for a little puppy to jump up on people, this will quickly get annoying as he gets bigger, especially with medium and large breeds.

11.Get your puppy used to being handled right away! Gently play with his paws, ears, tail, head, and body while rewarding him with treats or getting to play with a favorite toy. A dog who is comfortable being handled will find veterinary and grooming visits much less stressful.

12.If you have children in the house, make sure they understand how to play properly with the puppy; don't allow any "roughhousing," which can increase mouthy and nippy behavior.

13.Socialization Tip: Visit dog-friendly stores with your puppy. Some businesses that typically allow dogs include home improvement stores, garden nurseries, and of course, pet-supply stores.

14.Teach your dog the "name game"-call your dog's name in a happy, excited tone of voice and reward him when he looks at you. Wait until he is no longer paying attention, and repeat. This game teaches your dog to pay attention to his name.

15.Vary the rewards. Every dog is different, so have the family make a list of what your dog enjoys-try to use a mix of food and non-food rewards, such as toys, praise, brushing, or getting to go outside. Every dog's list of "favorites" will be unique.

16.Socialization Tip: Many coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor areas allow you to sit out with your dog. So enjoy an outing and latte with your pup.

Part 2 will be posted later today.

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