Did You Know That January is National Train Your Dog Month?

National Dog Training Month
The companionship of a dog can bring years of enjoyment and a deep love for an animal you probably didn’t realize was possible. However, few dogs are ideal house pets without a major investment in training. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dog owners report the following issues as being most problematic: 
Excessive barking 
Jumping up on people 
Pulling on the leash while walking 
Digging up the yard 
Eliminating in the house 

Before you give up on your dog, you may want to consider professional training. This is an especially good time since January is National Train Your Dog Month sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Some people realize too late that dealing with these behaviors are more than they bargained for when getting a dog. They quickly become frustrated and surrender their pet. Unfortunately, this makes things even more challenging for the dog’s next owner if she is lucky enough to find one. During National Train Your Dog Month, sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, we urge you not to give up on your dog and to make an investment in professional training if necessary.

What Causes Problem Behavior in Dogs?
What looks like deliberate misbehavior to you can make perfect sense to a dog. Take aggression, for example. Your dog barks and lunges at other dogs to protect his turf and human family. Often, a problem behavior is the only way your dog knows how to cope with the stress in his life. You should never take your dog’s actions personally. Animals don’t act out of revenge or spite as people can because their behavior is instinctual. Working with a professional trainer can help you understand the motivations for your dog’s problem behaviors and devise a plan to modify them.

Dog Training with Operant and Classical Conditioning
Operant and classical conditioning are two tools that professional dog trainers use to modify behavior. The first type involves using positive reinforcement as well as non-physical punishment when necessary. Trainers never punish a dog for reflexive behaviors outside of her control.

With operant conditioning, your dog gets a reward each time he displays a desired behavior. Over time, you decrease the rewards so your dog only gets recognized for the best behavior. This strategy, called intermittent reinforcement, encourages him to keep trying to please you to get a reward. Negative reinforcement may include taking something away that your dog enjoys, such as a favorite toy. Eventually he gets the message that engaging in a certain behavior makes the toy disappear.

Dog trainers who use classical conditioning also refer to it as associated learning. As an example, dogs learn early in life that their owner grabbing a leash and heading towards the door means it’s time to go for a walk. It takes consistency to teach your dog that one action equals another action.

Check Our Canine Library or Ask for a Referral

If your dog isn’t at the point of needing professional intervention, we encourage you to check out the resources available in our canine library. We have teamed up with Veterinary Partners to bring you this valuable information. You simply look up the topic you’re interested in to find articles with more details on dog training. Another option is to go directly to the website for the American Association of Dog Trainers. 

We wish you success in your dog training efforts and know that you can do it. Nothing beats the reward of living with a well-trained dog. 

Photo Credit: TransientEternal  / Getty Images

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