Just like how parents send their kids to kindergarten to learn the ABCs (and manners), pet parents can reap the same rewards by sending their furry family members in for obedience training. Naturally, there are many benefits to obedience training, including instilling best behaviors, teaching them to be friendly towards others and socializing them around other dogs. But obedience training comes in all manner of shapes, sizes and costs, which is why it’s helpful to hone in and prioritize certain commands and at-home techniques, especially.
Much like teaching children the alphabet and how to count, there are certain essentials that should be taught early. According to Dr. Jamie Richardson, head of veterinary medicine at Small Door Veterinary, some of the most important commands include “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “come,” as well as teaching how to walk nicely on a leash. “The word for this last command may vary, but ‘heel’ is often used,” she says.
“‘Sit’ and ‘down’ are essential building blocks for basic obedience,” she notes. “You can also use these commands to help calm your dog and take back control during periods of over-excitement. For example, if someone comes to the door and your dog wants to jump up.”
Dr. Richardson explains that “stay” and “come” are also crucial for ensuring your dog’s safety. “It’s vital to know that your dog will stay still or come back to you whenever needed, particularly in an emergency situation.”
And in terms of “heeling,” she emphasizes that good on-leash behavior is also extremely important to ensure you both can enjoy your walks, and you needn’t worry about potential hazards, like negative interactions with other dogs or jumping into traffic.
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Just like school for kids, the cost for obedience training can add up — and vary wildly. Though there are lots of factors that affect costs, they typically fall within the $30-80 per hour range, or $200-500 per week. While Dr. Richardson notes that training costs vary significantly depending on geographic location, individual provider, and the type of training (e.g. group training vs. 1-on-1 sessions), an economical solution would be to employ some at-home training strategies and techniques.
“Repetition and consistency are key,” she stresses. “Training is best if done little and often, as dogs often have short attention spans.” She suggests trying to fit in lots of 5-minute sessions each day, and incorporate training into daily life. “For example, ask your pet to sit before giving them their food.” And when we say “Consistency is key,” this means all members of the household being on the same page with the rules (like if the dog is allowed on the couch or bed), and following them steadily to help them learn.
Positive reinforcement, she says, can be a huge help with at-home obedience training. “This is the most effective method of dog training. It essentially focuses on rewarding your pet for good behavior, rather than punishing bad behavior.”
For example, she suggests rewarding with praise, pets, treats or play sessions whenever your best friend is on their best behavior, and responds positively to commands. “By rewarding good behavior, you’re reinforcing the association between good behavior and good things.” However, Dr. Richardson points out the importance of not inadvertently rewarding unwanted behaviors, as tempting as it may be. “For example, if your dog barks at you to play or jumps up to say hello, don’t acknowledge it or give in, as this just reinforces the bad behavior. Instead, wait until they’re calmer before giving them attention.”
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