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Pro Tips for National Train Your Dog Month: A New Pet Owners Guide
By: Brianna Gunter
Whether you adopted a new puppy during the holidays or decided to kick off the New Year with a new canine friend, congratulations on becoming a dog owner! No matter what kind of dog you’ve welcomed into your life, it’s important to foster a healthy relationship with them through dog training. Fortunately, January is National Train Your Dog Month, and there’s no better time to start your pup on the path to success.
Most people already have puppy potty training and general house training on the list, but teaching your new pet verbal commands should be on there as well. By setting boundaries now and providing useful training for your dog, you can strengthen your pet-owner bond and even help ensure your pet’s safety down the line.
What is National Train Your Dog Month?
January was first designated as National Train Your Dog Month in 2010, launched by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). The month serves as a campaign to promote the importance of dog training and how it benefit pets and their owners everywhere. The APDT has stated that the month of January made sense for this campaign because it is historically among the most popular times for people to adopt a new puppy or dog.
Pro dog training tips for new pet owners
Puppies in particular have a lot of learning to do in their early months. So while you’re puppy-proofing your home, scheduling first veterinary appointments, and stocking up on treats and toys, be sure to leave time for dog training.
To really get the inside scoop on some essential dog training tips for new puppy owners, we spoke with professional dog trainer Jeff Tinsley. Based in Seattle, Tinsley has 20 years of experience in the field and specializes in rescue dogs and behavior modification.
Start at the best age for training a dog
Amid all the excitement that comes with adopting a new pet into the family, dog training sometimes sits on the back burner. But for the most effective results, you’ll want to get started right away.
“Puppy training can start as soon as you get your pup,” Tinsley says. “Old dogs can learn new tricks, but they forget how to learn, and like humans, dogs get set in their ways and do not like change.”
Along with this, Tinsley stresses that dogs are creatures of habit, and adult dogs “do not think outside the box easily.” While it is possible to train dogs past puppyhood, it is more challenging and will take longer for them to become accustomed to basic commands. So when you do adopt an adult dog rather than a puppy, it is crucial to begin training as soon as possible and prepare for the long haul.
Begin with the 7 ‘crucial canine commands’
Puppies may have short attention spans, but they’re also known for being able to grasp a variety of trained skills during the first months of their lives. When it comes to basic commands every dog should know, Tinsley has what he calls “the crucial canine commands.” Useful in a variety of everyday scenarios, these seven commands include:
- Leave it
- Drop it
While some dog owners may choose to pursue more advanced training with their pet, it’s important to have the basics covered first with the crucial canine commands. Once your pooch masters these, she’ll have a solid foundation for learning more complex actions.
Practice patience and positive reinforcement
Just as when you learn a new skill or activity, training your dog will take time and steady repetition. That’s why it’s important to stay positive and calm even during the more frustrating moments. Praise your dog whenever they do get things right, and be sure to have plenty of healthy treats on hand to help them associate following your commands with rewards. And instead of overindulging your pup on treats alone, head scratches and loving pats can also work as positive reinforcement.
Socialize your new puppy
Dogs that are comfortable around other dogs and people are better able to stay calm in stressful situations and stay on their best behavior when out in public. Many new puppy owners coincide training with dog socialization, which is great for making sure Fido will be able to play nicely with others long into the future. According to Tinsley, “Socialization is most beneficial from birth to 20 weeks.”
Enrolling your puppy in group dog training classes is a good way to introduce them to other dogs in a controlled, disciplined environment. If you have any friends who’ve recently adopted puppies, you can also schedule puppy playdates and practice training together. Before you start any socialization with your puppy though, make sure they are all up-to-date on their canine vaccines.
Be consistent with your dog’s training schedule
Many pet owners make the mistake of letting training start to slip and fall to the wayside once they get used to life with their new dog. And just like dogs with short attention spans, some humans simply start to lose interest in keeping up with a training schedule. This can especially happen once the pup starts to respond more readily to commands and appears to be catching on.
In reality, this is a vital time where consistency (or lack thereof) can make or break everything you’ve built with your pet.
“Set good boundaries from the beginning and be consistent,” Tinsley says. “Do not let bad habits develop by slipping in early training and supervision.”
Make dog commands a regular part of your pet’s life
Think about a skill you learned as a child that you haven’t done in years. If you were to attempt it now, there’s a good chance you’d be a little rusty. Dog training is similar in that it needs to be practiced regularly in order for your pet to stay ready and responsive. Try making commands a regular part of Fido’s everyday routine (for example, saying “sit” and “stay” at meal times) to keep him sharp.
Why dog training is so important
When you invest the time to train your new dog now, you’re doing both of you a great service. Not only will your pup’s ability to do things like sit and lay down on command be impressive to others, but their willingness to listen to you can potentially be lifesaving in an emergency. If they’re about to eat something harmful, for example, the “drop it” and “come” commands can prevent harm. In a more drastic scenario, being able to call your dog in the event of a fire and have them come to you right away can lead you both swiftly out of danger.
Of course, pet safety is just one benefit of training your dog. Successful dog training instills an important sense of trust between you and your pal. This strengthens your bond and general happiness in one another’s presence. It’s also worth noting that dog training helps keep your pet’s brain active and alert.
In addition to the tips we’ve outlined here, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers offers a wide span of helpful information on their website. Happy National Train Your Dog Month!
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This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.