Drew Webster, CPDT-KA
When bringing any new animal into your home, think about your new role as a pet parent and acknowledge that it is your responsibility to teach your dog what your expectations for the home are. It is not his responsibility to know the rules in your house. Start before you bring your dog home. “Puppy Proof” your house even if you are bringing an adult dog into your home. Get down on the floor and see the world from dog’s eye view. If there is a low shelf in your food pantry, move the items for now. If there is a towel hanging on the oven, it can be a great tug toy for a bored dog in a new home, so remove this. If you don’t want the dog on the couch when you are away, put some chairs upside down on the couch. This prevents your home from having different rules and games when you are not home. Here are eight great things you should teach every new dog you add to your home…
- Love a crate and their new home. If you don’t trust the dog will be successful in your home, give him a safe and rewarding place to call his own. Crate training should be a positive experience, with small amounts of time in the crate in the beginning and more as you go.
- Focus games and a watch me exercise. A dog’s first language is body language. They pick up on gestures and movements with our hands and they tend to avoid direct eye contact. Teach dogs to take a treat after a glance toward your eyes. The more comfortable a dog gets looking directly at you – and the more rewarding the behavior – the better they will be able to focus on you when distractions arise.
- Gymnastics or moving commands like “Sit, Down or Stand.” You can teach a dog gymnastics using a lure or gesture, capturing the behavior when he does it himself or by placing him in a position. The best way is to find something motivating and reward the behavior frequently.
- Walking away and following me. All new dog relationships can be built without food through experience. Grab a long leash and go somewhere big and open and let the dog sniff around. Turn your shoulder and walk away from him. He will learn to follow because he doesn’t want to be too far away from the only thing he knows in this new place.
- Wait as a temporary boundary. Teaching dogs that they shouldn’t push through spaces like doors that are opening can be a life-saving command. Start with putting your body between the opening and the door and body language to teach the dog to WAIT and not rush through the door. Build a release command like “OK” to release him through the door. You can do this for the front door, getting in or out of the car and going into the pet store.
- “Stay” as a fixed position. Teach your dog that it is rewarding to hold a position. Start with short durations where the dog is rewarded for staying put and not breaking the position. People make the mistake of releasing a dog from a stay to run to them, so they are actually teaching a dog to break the position rather than stay put.
- Walking on a leash. Dogs don’t naturally walk on a leash; we have to teach them how to do it. This should be done with positive training methods and be rewarding for the dog.
- Come when called. The hardest thing for most owners to teach a dog is a recall command. If you want a dog to come when you call him, practice with frequent big rewards, not just when you need it. Your dog should always associate coming towards you with a good thing.