For the past few months my dog has been really misbehaving – he barks a lot, jumps up on everyone he meets and whenever I try to walk him on a leash, he ends up dragging me along instead! As a puppy he sure was a lot easier to manage but now that he is bigger I feel like he is getting the better of me. Is there anything I can do or is it too late to train him?
Proper training is an essential part of caring for a dog and is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure a long and happy relationship. All dogs need to be taught how to avoid causing offence to the family, friends, and anyone who they may come in contact with.
A well-trained dog is a joy to live with and can be given more freedom to enjoy a life full of fun and companionship than a dog that can’t be trusted. Although it is best (and easier) to start early, any age pet can learn if you persevere.
Methods of obedience training have changed drastically over the years. At one time training focused primarily on punishing unwanted behaviors, forcing the dog to perform certain commands and then rewarding it. Veterinary behaviours specialists in favour of the much more effective ‘lure-reward method’ now condone this ‘push-pull force method.’
Basically, this motivational training method rewards a dog with a valued treat (tasty foods, touch, praise) whenever a command is obeyed, thereby reinforcing it.
Start with simple one word commands – come, sit, stay etc. – and keep sessions short (10 minutes, 2 or 3 times daily) and in a quiet environment free of distractions.
Remember to have fun. Dogs learn best when they are highly motivated and moderately excited. Bear in mind that punishment does not work and the opposite of a reward is no reward, not punishment.
Punishment may frighten or excite your dog, which reduces his ability to learn. One can and should give negative directives such as ‘no!’ in a deep voice, but steer clear of anything physical.
Dogs instinctively want to please their owners but need to be taught how. Your veterinarian is a good source for further, detailed information on training techniques and resources available to help the novice owner.
Training takes time and patience, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Remember, despite popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks!