Saturday, February 15, 2020

The First Five Things To Teach Your New Dog

Congratulations, you have just acquired a new dog! Regardless of age, breed, or how you got your new best friend, there will always be the important first task of training her to be prepared for your life together.
Whether you’re starting out with a puppy who needs the basics from scratch, or an older dog who may simply be adjusting to a massive change in his life, there are five key behaviors every dog should know to make his life (and his owner’s) safer, happier and easier. Some of these behaviors are pretty typical, and your new dog may even already have a pretty decent handle on them. However, it is very important to reinforce these commands with you, their new alpha, as the issuer. A dog will have a baseline for behavior in every individual relationship she has, based on expectations, hierarchy (real or perceived) and trust. Therefore, reinforcement with positive, consistent discipline techniques is always critical from everyone who handles the dog.
Remember, it is always easier, kinder, and more effective to reward and reinforce positive behavior than it is to train out negative replacement behaviors if you are lax in these early training techniques.
Below, you will find the five behaviors you should focus on now to lay the groundwork for any other training you wish to pursue with your new dog; whether for a working animal or family pet, these five skills will lay the groundwork for excellent bonding and cooperation between you for many years to come.

1. Come/Stay/Go
This is the trifecta no dog can live without, and as such they are being treated as one behavior for the purpose of this article.  Every dog needs to be completely reliable to obey when they are given these directives from you, their safety could depend on it.
It is important to socialize your new dog to a variety of settings, including indoors and out, being around other animals and different types of people, and riding in the car. In each situation that your dog will naturally encounter throughout her life, it is important that she understands these three commands are non-negotiable.
Suppose one day you are walking your dog out to the car after a vet appointment, and suddenly the link on her collar breaks away from her leash. You may be in a busy lot or surrounded by strange animals in an environment your dog considers stressful and possibly unfamiliar. It is imperative that despite her anxiety and confusion, she listens immediately if you tell her to stay or come so you can put her leash back on her, or take hold of her to guide her to your vehicle if you cannot put the leash back on her due to the broken collar or leash.
Training your dog to go in a signaled direction is also vital. For example, in a fire, many animals will hide, or become disoriented as to how to get out of harm’s way. You may not be able to safely reach her, and therefore, also be unable to tell her to come, but being able to tell her to go in the right direction to escape through an alternate route may very well save her life.
These training commands are also important in a variety of potential situations with other animals, both other domestic animals and, in some cases, wildlife that may potentially pose a threat of harm to you or your dog. Therefore, it is important to make sure she understands these three words in any situation at any time, and follows them unerringly.

2. Heel
Closely related to the previous set, but not quite the same, is the command to heel. This tells your dog to drop whatever he is currently focused on and return to your side immediately. Training your dog to heel will help prevent various undesired behaviors and situations, especially if you wish to train him to be off-leash with you away from home.
It is important to remember that, as with come, stay, and go, it’s important that your dog obeys a command to heel consistently, whether he is in a calm, familiar setting, or if for any reason he is anxious or confused. This training will be useful to keep him in reach, and in line, no matter what distractions or unexpected occurrences take place.
Heel has the added benefit of being a shared command in your new dog’s training. While the commands in the first set are entirely dependent on your dog’s focus and obedience, heel will require your participation, too. Your dog will depend on your location and openness to obey your command, and therefore this can help reinforce bonding with your new dog.

3. Potty and Housebreaking Training
Let’s face it, any advice about training your new dog would be remiss if it didn’t bring up the topic of housebreaking. If you’ve adopted an older dog, maybe you’ll get lucky and she will already be housebroken. Even some puppies get the concept fairly quickly, especially those of the highly trainable breeds, such as herding dogs like border collies and heelers.
Search the internet, library or any trainer’s or veterinarian’s published materials and you will find a plethora of advice on all sorts of house training and how to accomplish it quickly and thoroughly. Some people will go the tried and true route of teaching the dog to go outside on command or during walks. For others, crate training may be a part of this process, to help avoid accidents around the house. Some dogs, especially smaller ones (size or age), may take most easily to using dog potty mats, which come in a range of sizes and absorbencies, and even an increasing number of formats (recently, mats with attachments for males to aim for when lifting their leg have been introduced).
The exact form of housebreaking you decide on should be what is best for you and your new dog. This decision should be based on factors such as your time availability and the age and size of your dog. Know his maximum wait time between bathroom breaks, and remember that puppies and dogs up to age 2 may have occasional accidents even after they are considered housebroken.

4. Leave It!
Dogs are curious creatures. This is a given despite breed, age or background. They see something they don’t recognize or quite understand, and they are often instantly fully invested in checking it out. This can pose a problem for a variety of reasons, including if they spot something potentially harmful like a dropped pill or other dangerous object. Or, they may simply run up and eat or steal something off the ground of unknown origin, or that was, at the very least, not intended for them. The answer to this matter is train your new dog to leave it by deliberately expanding her attention span and patience.
Start by having your dog sit facing you. Place a treat or toy you know will hold her attention, and be perceived as a worthwhile reward, in front of her front paws. When she bends down to take it (make sure she remains sitting), simply guide her back up to an “at attention” stance and say firmly, “leave it!”
Have her wait five seconds, maintaining focus on you and not the reward, then let her take it. For most dogs, treat rewards work best for this behavior, rather than toys, simply because they can then be consumed and you can start over. However, use what you know will work well for your dog. Gradually and patiently increase the time from 5 seconds. You should make sure that your new dog learns to leave something enticing untouched on command for a minimum of ten seconds, so you have time to retrieve the item if it is something she shouldn’t have. Teach a counterpart command, that sounds unique to her other commands, to let her know she can have whatever it is only when you say so. For example, tell her to leave the treat. After five seconds, point to it (touching your finger to it or the floor, ideally) and say “take,” or, “you can have it.” Be sure to practice both the leave and take commands daily as you lay the groundwork for training with your new dog. Also, make sure she doesn’t always get the item. At least half the time, you should take it and remove it from reach. Of course, make sure you offer her something else as a reward for having obeyed you. In this case, exuberant praise is often the best choice over another tangible item, just to make sure she doesn’t confuse leave it for a trading exercise.
Not only can leave it help prevent your dog from getting into something harmful, it is also useful to help deter her from destructive behaviors such as shoe chewing or confusing her toys with other objects, such as a child’s toys, which may not be suitable, and she is likely not welcome to claim.

5. Be Nice!
Of all the training commands for your new dog, this one might just be the most important for some. Some dogs, no matter how sweet or submissive with their owner, may display aggressive or simply undesirable behaviors with others. These can generally be worked out over time with more advanced training, but it is wise to start with the blanket command “Be nice!”
When a dog is being nice, he should be sitting or standing calmly near you or the individual you wish him to “be nice” to. He should not be overly excited and waggy, nor should he be growling or snarling.
Be nice can help deter unwanted attacks from an overly territorial or protective dog. This is extremely important, especially with certain breeds that may be viewed harshly if an attack leads to any sort of litigation or report.
This command will also work well to train your new dog not to continue undesirable behaviors such as jumping up, pawing, chewing/biting, and snarling. Use the command consistently and firmly. If your dog snaps or snarls, say “Be nice!” and remove yourself from his reach. Be sure never to point at a biting dog, or a dog who may be considering biting, as it is  often seen as a threat, or at the very least, a target.
If you are trying to stop unwanted, non-aggressive physical behaviors, such as pawing or jumping up, say “Be nice!” and turn your back to your dog, crossing your arms in front of you so he cannot reach you to interact. Do not speak or look at him for several seconds. Most dogs do not like being socially cut off, and removing yourself as a source of attention and affection, even for a few seconds, will make the point clearly that his behavior is inappropriate. It will remind him of similar tactics his mother likely used to deter excessive roughhousing, if she didn’t feel it warranted a warning nip. Your point will be made quickly, without unhealthy disciple methods, and likely leave a lasting impression. Done consistently, you should see his use of these unwanted behaviors drop off quickly.

So, there you have it. The five things your new dog should learn right away. Some dogs thrive on training and you can teach them many more behaviors and tricks after these groundwork commands are established, but any and all dogs should be able to master these with patience and consistency. Remember, positive reinforcement when taking the time to teach positive behaviors is always easier, faster and kinder than trying to correct bad habits later. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but starting now will be best.


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