January isn’t just the beginning of a new year, but it also marks a month of raising awareness for the socialization and training of man’s best friend. January 2014 is National Train Your Dog Month, and the fourth annual event focuses on teaching and reinforcing the basics — those everyday commands like “sit,” “stay,” “wait” and “down.”
So in honor of this year’s National Train Your Dog Month, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks to start you off on the right track.
Before we get started, remember the importance of patience and persistence when training your dog. Keep your training sessions brief, consistent and focused, and reward your dog when he behaves appropriately.
- Reinforcing sit and stay: There are a handful of times – such as mealtimes, having visitors over, or “going for a walk” — when it’s better to have a patient animal than an overexcited one. To help your dog better sit and stay, introduce it to a situation that would normally excite it, like going outside. Command it to sit (consider using your hand to point to the floor as you say “sit” to train it with hand signals as well) and then slowly walk toward the door and open it. If your dog bolts for the door, close it and start over. Your dog will soon catch on and approach the door when instructed. Reward it when it behaves correctly and repeat the exercise when it’s time to go outside again.
- Down: Getting your animal to stay down is helpful around dinner time, when “counter surfing” and begging are common behaviors. Teach him to stay down by picking a spot nearby in the room where he can see you. Instruct him to sit, lie down (tap the floor with your hand to command your dog to lie down) and stay. (Show him your hand in the “stop” formation as a means of telling him to “stay.”) Then sit at the dinner table or prepare your meal in the kitchen, occasionally checking on your dog and giving him the “stay” command signal with your hand. If he gets up to come over to you, calmly take him back to the spot and repeat the exercise.
- No jumping: Many dogs are overjoyed to think every visitor is there to see them and nobody else, and for some dogs, the result is jumping on people. To correct this behavior, always try to have your dog either sitting or standing on all fours when guests enter the home. It’s only natural that your dog will want to greet the new guests, but you can control how your dog greets them. Begin the exercise with a leash and have your dog sit when guests walk in. Instruct your guests to turn and ignore the dog if he begins to jump and only allow guests to pet him if he is sitting. If your dog behaves appropriately, shower him with lots of praise.
Remember, this year’s National Train Your Dog Month focuses on the basics, so think about how well your animal handles such commands, and consider giving your dog a refresher or its first lessons. Start with the three tips above and expand from there on other problematic behavior your dog might exhibit.