Make sure that you are setting your dog up for success in their new home by following these Ten Training Tips. Too many dogs are relinquished to the shelter each year for problem behaviors that could have been prevented, here's how to get your dog off on the right track:
#1 Confinement Area: A safe, cozy area in your home where your dog can stay whenever he is unsupervised. An appropriate confinement area will facilitate house training, prevent destructive behavior and can be an important tool when working dogs through issues related to fearful, anxious or aggressive behavior.
#2 Potty Training: When bringing a new dog into a new home, do not assume that house training will carry over. For the first 3 days you should take your dog out every 1/2 an hour. Accompany your dog on leash, and reinforce with a high value treat when they do go potty. Not only will this teach your dog to potty outside, but it will also ensure that your dog learns to go potty as soon as they go out - without getting distracted by sights, sounds and smells. After 3 days you can modify your dog's schedule based on your individual dog's potty habits.
#3 Feeding Schedule: The average adult dog should be fed two times per day. Pick up any food that is not finished after 5 minutes. Feeding schedules facilitate a good training program by building value for food. It also allows you to monitor your dog's health. Keeping your dog on scheduled meals will allow you to recognize loss of appetite; a red flag that your dog is not feeling well and should be seen by a vet.
#4 Learn About Dog Body Language: The most dog savvy people are experts at reading canine body language. Listen to what your dog is trying to tell you by learning about stress signals and appeasement gestures. Recognizing early warning signs of fear, anxiety or hyper-excitement can save you time and frustration by treating early warning signs before they manifest into serious problem behavior. Proactive training leads to happier, healthier dogs.
#5 Introducing Dogs: Neutrality is important during early stages of relationship development. When introducing two dogs allow for parallel interaction on a long walk in neutral territory. Dogs should only be allowed to greet when they are in a calm state. This might take 5 minutes, 20 minutes or multiple greetings. Be patient. When bringing them back into the house be sure that there are no bones, toys or food laying out which could trigger a fight.
#6 Introducing People: Use your powers of observation when introducing a dog to new people. Recognize signs of stress and lead the dog away if necessary. People should never force unwanted petting. A dog that licks their lips, issues a low tail wag, nervously licks a person or slowly and submissively exposes their belly is exhibiting stress signals and is asking for space. Over time aggressive behavior can develop when stress signals are repeatedly dismissed.
#7 Introducing Kids: Careful supervision is a must. Kids should be taught how to interact with dogs appropriately and should not be encouraged to hug, kiss or lie on top of a dog. Adults should look for signs of stress and lead the dog away if necessary. Dogs and kids should be separated by a baby gate or crate if close supervision is not possible.
#8 Basic Training: Training promotes good emotional health by establishing attention, impulse control, trust and communication skills. Look for positive reinforcement trainers that make learning an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. Don't wait for problem behavior to start training, be proactive.
#9 Training Toolbox: Set yourself up for success by having the necessary training tools; a training pouch, high value training food, a clicker, training toys, a long line and a training mat.
#10 Natural Instincts: Provide opportunities for your dog to practice his natural instincts. This is a great way to burn energy and reduce stress that may otherwise contribute to behavioral issues. Activities that fulfill your dog's natural instincts can build confidence, be a great relationship builder and unleash your dog's full potential.
BONUS TIP: When adopting a new dog use a long line when bringing your dog to open parks. Do not let dogs off leash for the first 6-12 months that you have a dog as it takes time to properly bond and learn everything there is to know about a dog's individual temperament. Dogs should only be allowed off leash in open spaces once you have trained a reliable recall, and proofed this training in the presence of high level distractions.
Fill out the behavior assessment form on legendsdogtraining.com if you would like us to outline a customized training and wellness plan for you and your dog. Let us know what you think of these training tips in the comment section below, and become part of the team by liking Legends Dog Training on Facebook and contributing to training discussions.
Article written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT-KA of Legends Dog Training. Legends Dog Training is based in San Diego, California and uses training methods that promote trust, communication and respect for a dog's individual needs.
Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT
Certified by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers