(WTNH) — January is National Train Your Dog Month. Michelle Douglas of The Refined Canine has some tips on how to prevent future behavioral problems for dogs of all ages.
For puppies, the most critical developmental need is socialization. Puppies are usually curious and social, but if they are not exposed to all kinds of people and circumstances during their social imprint period (up to 12 weeks old), then they can develop fear or anxiety. This can lead to behavior problems later on. Exposure when they are young is important to prevent fear of people, fireworks, vacuum cleaners, nail clippers, baths, and more. It is also time-sensitive for puppies to learn to be gentle with their mouths. You can help by finding a puppy social class or play group, by feeding your puppy out of food-dispensing toys, and by teaching and practicing gentling at home.
Do not treat training as a scheduled event. Insert training into your daily routines. Each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce good behavior. Have your dog simply sit and look at you, or practice tricks to get food, attention, or play. Practice sit and wait at mealtimes and doorways. Practice training exercises while you are waiting for food to cook. Short training sessions at times like these can help to make training part of your regular routine, and good manners become a part of every day.
Despite what they say, old dogs love to learn new tricks. The more you do with your dog, the more reliable your training will be. Older dogs do great in classes too. Find fun activities or a fun refresher course to enhance your relationship and give your training an extra boost.