Dogs truly are a man’s (and woman’s!) best friend. A constant companion, our dogs become an important piece of our everyday life. From puppyhood to those precious golden ages, each stage of your dog’s life brings joy to the people who love him or her.
Because dogs become a member of the family, it is essential that they are well-trained, with a sense of security within the family. While teaching your dog to respond to “sit,” “stay,” and other voice commands may seem a bit like parlor tricks, dog training is so much more than that. These interactions allow your dog to understand their place in your world and find security in each command. “Sit” always means sit, and your dog revels in knowing what their owner wants from them.
In this blog, we explore just how important and rewarding proper training is to the life of your dog.
When it comes to puppies and dogs, socialization is key. However, socialization isn’t what many people think that it is, explains dog trainer Kimberlee Welch (CPDT-KA, CGCE, CAP II) of Kim K9 Kompanion in Keene, NH. “Many people think that proper socialization means allowing their puppy to play with other dogs and learn how to interact with them. This is such a small piece of the puzzle; puppies inherently know how to be dogs, it is the human world that they need to learn to interact with.”
Kim believes in bringing puppies eight-weeks-old and over everywhere and allowing them to experience everything that the world has to offer. At this young, impressionable age, puppies are agreeable to many adventures. “I advise my clients to bring their puppies to the store, to the mailbox, to your friend’s house. Let your puppy explore the world and realize that life is all about the unexpected.” You can use treats or small portions of food, like RedBarn Grain Free Rolled Dog Food, to reinforce wanted behaviors. While socializing your puppy, ensure that they are comfortable and hydrated by bringing a supply of clean water with you. The Messy Mutts Travel Water Bottle & Bowl is an easy way to consistently have water available for your dog or puppy.
“Everyone wants the dog that they can bring downtown and sit on a park bench with,” says Kim, “so treat them that way! While these activities may be a bit more difficult with a puppy, dogs quickly acclimate to what is expected of them.” There is a caveat to this however; it is important not to push your puppy into uncomfortable situations that could create deep seated fears in the process. Learn to listen to your puppy and back off on the introduction if they seem at all worried or scared in any way.
On the Go
As you head out into the world with your new dog, this is the ideal time to teach proper manners and appropriate leash skills. Many people allow their puppies to wander aimlessly and pull toward an object that they want to investigate. This may not seem like a big issue with a small puppy, but it becomes an increasingly large behavioral issue as the dog matures.
Many dog and puppy owners like the PetSafe Easy Walk Deluxe Dog Harness when it comes to walking with your dog. This allows you to easily and safely control your dog without putting any unnecessary pressure on his or her neck. A long leash, like the PetSafe Cotton Training Lead 30′, gives your dog plenty of room to explore without any loss of control.
As your puppy seeks out new experiences, proper leash etiquette develops if you are consistent with your communication and always expect the same behavior from your dog. According to Kim, “Pulling on the leash is a learned habit that is easy to nip in the bud when it first surfaces, however, if you let your puppy continue to pull on the leash, it will be a difficult behavior to address in your grown dog.”
Adopt, or Buy?
Rescuing dogs is a popular and admirable option, with many incredible dogs being found through shelters and rescue missions. Owning two rescue dogs herself, Kim acknowledges that adopting a rescue dog comes with its own set of challenges.
“Shelters are a stressful situation, with strange noises, strange people, [and] lots of activity. It can be hard to properly assess a shelter dog to determine if they are a right fit for you and your family,” Kim explains. She advises her clients that it can take up to two months for a rescue dog to unwind and adapt to their new home after being adopted, so make sure that you are willing to put in the time and energy into this transition.
Evaluate your rescue dog’s training level and disposition after they have acclimated to your home and your lifestyle. As you begin to introduce your new rescue dog to various situations, Kim recommends using small treats, such as the Tricky Trainers Dog Treats: Crunchy Liver or the Grizzly Crunchy Training Dog Treats Green Pea and Kelp, to reinforce the behavior you desire. The PetSafe Treat Pouch Sport or the Ruffwear Stash Bag are easy and convenient ways to bring treats with you on the go.
Kim readily admits that adopting a rescue dog isn’t for everyone. “While I admire people who rescue dogs, I recommend buying a dog from a reputable breeder for many of my clients. You know more about the dog’s history and potential temperament this way, you also have a much better idea of what you are going to get.” She notes that this is particularly important for people with young children, older dog owners, and dog lovers who may not be equipped to address poor behaviors.
When it comes to dog training, it is essential to realize when to ask for help. “So many people come to me with dogs that have serious behavioral issues such as a history of biting,” explains Kim. “I help these dogs and do the best that I can, but I wish that people realized that I would be much more effective if people brought these dogs to me at the first sign of a problem.”
Unfortunately many dog owners are unaware of the signs of a stressed or scared dog; this means that dogs are pushed out of their comfort zone by well-meaning owners. “I recommend that every dog or puppy owner attend a training course, not only to help them train their dog but also to learn more about the training process.”
Signs of stress in a dog can take on many forms, with one of the most tell-tale signs of distress being a tucked tall. This unfortunately makes it difficult to judge if a dog with no tail or a curled tail is worried.
“People also equate a wagging tail with a happy and comfortable dog,” says Kim. “This simply isn’t the case. You need to take the rest of the dog’s body language into account when assessing a dog with a wagging tail. Frequently a dog with a loose wiggling body and a wagging tail is happy, but if the body is stiff and the tail is held low as it slowly wags, the dog is communicating something else entirely.”
Other signs of stress in a dog include a tightly closed mouth, heavy panting when the dog is not hot, consistent yawning, and anxiously licking lips. If your dog exhibits these warning sign behaviors in certain situations, the time to talk to a dog trainer and address the problem is now, not after a catastrophic event.
No Bad Dogs
Kim truly believes that there are no bad dogs, only dogs that have been poorly trained or not trained at all. “A lot of times, when people bring their dogs in for remedial training on behavioral issues, I start with the basics for that dog. They need to feel safe and trust people before we can go any further, and then we need to establish the lines of communication and respect. For the most part, with the right approach and patience, the dog’s behavior can improve.”
In many cases, these are issues that would be addressed during a puppy training course, however Kim reports that puppy class attendance seems to be at an all time low throughout the state. “It’s really too bad that dog owners don’t understand the value of a great start with their puppy,” Kim laments.
A well-trained dog is a safe dog. Not only is it safe for people to be around the dog, the dog is much less likely to be surrendered to a shelter. Dogs that pull or run away from the owners may end up lost or worse yet, hit by a car. The time invested in dog training will result in increased enjoyment and sense of security for both the dog and the owner. Dogs like to feel comfortable in their environment and know what is expected of them; proper training helps to facilitate this.
“The fact of the matter is, a well-trained dog is a better citizen in society,” concludes Kim.
For information on Kim and Kim K9 Kompanion, visit www.kimk9kompanionnh.com.