Here we are at year TEN of APDT's National Train Your Dog Month! Many of us start out the new year trying to implement big changes in our lives and, frequently, by the end of February those lofty intentions have dwindled away. Don't let training your dog fall into that category! There are some straight forward ways to help prevent this from happening.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind:
1) Training is a great way to bond with your dog. It enhances your partnership and opens up the world for your dog because they are welcome in many places. You can take them with you to parks, dog friendly stores, pet patios and much more!
2) Training is more successful if it is fun....for BOTH OF YOU...even if you are working on a frustrating behavior issue. Adjusting training criteria so that it is not overwhelming to your dog and causing the unwanted behavior to appear helps training be more pleasant for all concerned.
3) Training is a family affair. Taking into consideration limitations and age of the people involved, training involves the entire family. Maybe one person is introducing the skills being trained and getting the learning process to a certain place before hand. That is great! Just remember that everyone in the household needs to know the cues and understand your dog's body language. This will go a long way in preventing problems in the future.
4) Practice throughout the day! Instead of setting a big chunk of time aside to focus on training, sprinkle it in as you go about your daily activities. This helps your dog learn that your expectations are consistent no matter what the time of day or what is going on around you. We are teaching our dogs every moment of every day and they are constantly learning from us. Additionally, it is easier to find a minute to ask for a few repetitions than it is to find an hour to work on dog training.
5) Training takes time and maintenance! Every dog learns at their own pace and, just like with humans, if they don't use it, they lose it! Break things down into comfortable slices for your dog. Don't expect them to perform a task at college level (i.e. at the weekly Farmers' Market) when you have just worked on it at the kindergarten level (i.e. your living room).
Just like learning takes place all the time, it is important to practice what you have trained, even if it is not part of daily life. You may not need that skill often, but if you don't practice, it won't be there when you DO.
Enjoy your dog and teach them new things or improve on "old" things this month and every month!