Awesome ‘Paw’some Pet Training

Truly said that a pet is a bundle of joy! When we bring them into our homes, we want them to be a part of our life and socialise with our friends and family. Dogs are good learners, but they need time and attention to get adapted to their new life and this is where training helps. –by Unnati Hunjan

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If your pet is well trained based on the house rules, it is bliss and bounty at every step. Thus, it is important to start training as soon as you bring your pet home. But for new pet parents, the question arises, where do we start? What is the right way to train my pet? How will they learn?

Two most common ways of training are: either training him on your own or by hiring a professional pet trainer. By implementing the following tips appropriately, you can work on creating a special bond with you and your furry friend. You can also communicate with them in a language you both understand. Furthermore, it will lead to a behaviour that will align with your lifestyle and the outcome would be unlimited happiness for you both.

Here are five important dog training tips.

1. Reinforcement over punishment always!
Reinforcement based training ensures the use of positive or negative reinforcement to improve your pet’s understanding. Punishment is often used by pet parents to reduce undesirable behaviour, but it has many drawbacks. Punishments don’t teach your pet what is expected from them. It only tells them what is not allowed but does not guide them on what to do instead. It further impacts the trust and bond between you and your pet. However, reinforcement-based training informs your pet about which behaviour is desirable and encourages them to perform more of it. This in turn improves the strength of their bond with you. Studies have shown that dogs value their pet parent’s praise a lot, for most dogs they prefer it more than food as rewards too! So, remember to always praise and reward the correct behaviour! A simple ‘good boy’ goes a long distance.

2. Consistency & patience are keys to the training lock
Training is not magic and any expectations of it showing immediate results can lead to undue pressure on you and your pet, further leading to disappointment. With the right techniques and guidance, training requires time, effort, patience and consistency. Regular practice is of prime importance. This should be done consistently over days while shaping the desired behaviours. Mistakes are bound to happen, by you and your pet. It is important to not lose hope, not shout at or punish your pet and keep practicing what works best to become the best!

3. Goof proof behaviour
Proofing includes solid learning of the behaviour wherein your pet is able to perform those behaviours even in the most distracting environments and varied situations. Many pet parents mention that their pets listen to them at home but not when they are outside. That is where proofing comes handy, for the pet to listen to the pet parent no matter the distance, duration, or distractions present. Remember to start small, in a non-distracting environment like a safe quiet room. Slowly move the practice of these behaviours to the lobby or places with slightly more noise and movement. Slowly increase the distractions and proceed to the next step only when your pet performs the desired behaviour in the current situation multiple times. Go on doing this till you are able to get similar results even in heavily distracting environments.

4. Be the artist to the art of clear communication
When teaching your pet, the house rules or any new command, make sure to have very clear communication. Did you know, dogs can read even 1/8th of a change in your facial expression?
Dogs pick up on your tone of voice, gestures, verbal cues, non-verbal cues, as well as facial expressions. In fact, they can even notice changes in your mood and demeanour more accurately than your partner or family member. Make sure to have crisp and clear communication regarding your expectations from him. This ensures the elimination of confusion of any kind and makes it easier for him to learn.

5. Holistic care is a must
Just like humans, dogs have their needs and requirements too. The very basic ones that most people are aware of include healthcare, food, nutrition, grooming and exercise. However, their basic needs extend beyond that and can often get overlooked. Dogs have emotional, social, and cognitive needs as well. It is crucial to keep them in mind and plan out engaging activities with them beyond the regular daily walks. Walk time, meal time, training time, all can be made fun, enriching and engaging for them. Try different mental stimulation DIY games and activities or you can purchase some puzzles and interactive toys too.

There are many force-free training approaches practiced by people to train their pets, especially dogs. Furthermore, online pet consultations are available remotely for pet parents to learn more about dog training methods. This ensures that it is you, who is learning about the right ways to communicate with your pet, be a role model for them, and build a solid bond. Who doesn’t want to share an extraordinary bond with their dog? Training will bring you closer to that goal and ensure your pet’s well-being too.

(Unnati Hunjan is in Founding Team—Training Lead and Chief Pet Behaviourist at Supertails, Bengaluru)