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11.21.12

Training tips for dogs

Taking care of a dog may seem like an easy, fun task, but many struggle with teaching their dog basic commands.  These commands, such as sit and stay, are important for your dog's safety and will also make your life with your new friend much more enjoyable.

Training should start right when the dog is brought to their new home.  Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said whether teaching a young puppy or an old dog, commands should begin right when the owner gets the animal.

"As puppies, they are quite eager to learn.  It may take a little patience, but start with the little commands," she said. "Even if you acquire your pet when it is a little older, many are still quite capable of learning basic commands."

The training should begin with basic commands, such as sit and stay, which are easy for most dogs to master.  Teaching these basic commands allow the animal to learn your training system.  After successfully teaching them basic commands, Eckman recommends teaching the dog heal, come, and not to jump on people.

"I think the most important commands deal with listening to your instructions and are for their own safety such as sit, stay heal, and come," she said. "Teaching them not to jump on people is also good manners!"

To train a dog, Eckman said it is best to use simple one or two word phrases combined with hand gestures.  Reinforcing good behavior and mastering of a skill with a reward is a great way to train a dog, she added.

"Saying 'sit' coupled with a simple hand gesture works well and reward them when they get it," Eckman said.

Another tip Eckman suggested is training the dog in a place the pet will not be easily distracted.  Instead of teaching the dog a skill at the dog park, for example, teach the task at home where there are not as many distractions.

"Have them master the skill at home or in a quiet environment initially before adding the additional challenge," she said.

If the dog is struggling to grasp the command, consult your veterinarian about the next step.

"I think all dogs learn differently and need different rewards, and that is where discussing with your veterinarian what your goals are is very important and they can help you in this area," she said. "They can discuss with you the methods you are using and the goals you are trying to achieve, then point you to a resource such as training classes or books that fit your methodology."

There are multiple methodologies used to train dogs, ranging from positive reinforcement when the command is followed to punishment and negative rewards.  Eckman said it all depends on the owner's beliefs and goals for their pet.

Training classes are another option many pet owners consider.  These courses are often offered at local pet stores and by obedience training facilities.  For recommendations on training courses, Eckman said to ask friends who have been to the classes and veterinarians for their recommendations.

It is not always necessary to send a dog to a trainer because many basic commands can be taught with patience and time.

"Dogs learn at all different levels-some just take longer than others to learn it," Eckman said. "Be patient and reinforce the good."

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at /pet-talk.

Suggestions for future topics may be directed to cvmtoday@cvm.tamu.edu.



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