Animal Article
Beyond Body
Dog training tips and tricks
Kat dela Torre, DVM

Most of the time, how well a child behaves is a testament to how well his parents raised him-- the same goes for dogs too. Most aggressive dogs are not born with an innate level of aggression; dogs that have a tendency to attack were likely brought up in a home that did not provide the right combination of care, socialization,and discipline.

As their guardians, pet owners should make it a point to take into consideration the amount of time and money needed to properly train their pets or hire a professional to do so. When hiring somebody to professionally teach your dog, it’s advisable to discuss the trainer’s methodology and the amount of money you should set aside for the service. Some dog trainers charge by the hour, others charge for the whole course.

But if money is an issue or if you’d rather do it yourself, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind before you and your canine trainee have a go.

To potty train your dog, you can start as early as 2 months of age. A useful tip from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is, the frequency (in hours) in which you take your puppy outside or to his designated area is roughly equivalent to his age. In other words, a 2-month old puppy should be taken outside every 2 hours and not longer. A puppy has a very small bladder so even if he already understands where you want him to do his “business”, his bladder might decide otherwise.

New puppies can also be taught some basic obedience as soon as he’s had the chance to adjust to his new home. Cesar Milan, known to many as the Dog Whisperer, advises to show your puppy that you’re the leader of the pack. Teaching your dog who’s in control doesn’t mean that you should make your pet be scared of you. You should teach your puppy to respect you instead.

Puppies know they’re doing what you want them to do by the tone of your voice, your body language or through the use of a clicker or a reward. Instead of punishing your puppy for doing the wrong thing, reward him when he gets it right. This is called positive reinforcement. A lot of trainers favor this method over negative reinforcement because it strengthens the bond between owner and dog. Punishing your dog can also result in training him but it may also result in having your dog become afraid of you.

In teaching basic commands, be consistent. For example, in teaching him to sit, just say “sit” without adding extra words or his name. Do not use “sit down” one minute and then say “Max, sit down” the next. Using a variety of combinations for one command will confuse your pet and most probably make it harder for him to understand what you want to be done. As soon as your dog sits (either by waiting for him to sit on his own or by gently pushing his bottom down), give him a treat, show some sign of affection, or praise him.

Always train your dog in an environment that you both feel comfortable in and will not provide potential sources of distraction. Also, remember to use a calm but firm voice when giving commands.

You can also teach your dog to sit-stay, “leave it”, heel, “play dead” and a variety of other tricks and commands. Just don’t expect your pet to learn a lot of them all at once. But once he does, ask him to do the commands regularly so he doesn’t forget.

In the beginning, keep your trainings brief, as short as a few minutes at a time. This is especially true for puppies. Gradually, you can increase sessions as your dog becomes more mature and if you see that he is having fun doing it.