Getting a new dog is usually an exciting and fun-filled activity. You meet the dog, fall in love and run off together to be best friends forever. But that love-at-first-sight feeling can wear off quickly if Toby starts misbehaving. Dogs, like kids, need rules and structure in order to develop into well-behaved members of the family. Too often dog parents let the dogs run amuck and you end up with behavior problems and an unhappy family.Our goal today is to provide some quick tips for new dog owners to get them started on the path to a well-behaved pet. You don’t need a specialized dog trainer to do this, but don’t hesitate to use one if things get out of control.
- Dogs are naturally curious and like to explore their environment. This means they will cover every inch of your house and yard to see what they see and smell what they smell. If there’s an area of your house or yard you don’t want them to go into, you need to block it off. Don’t expect the dog to know they aren’t allowed in the garden, block it off so they can’t get in there.
- Most dogs love to eat, so they will put most anything they can into their mouths and eat it if possible. Don’t leave food lying around or anything that they shouldn’t get ahold of including candy, pens, pencils, small toys like legos that can be swallowed, etc.
- Puppies love to chew. They’re teething just like babies and chewing is their way to relieve some of the discomfort. Table legs, corners of cupboards, shoes, books, anything that provides something they can gnaw on is fair game in their eyes. Be ready with an acceptable teething toy to distract them with as soon as they start gnawing on something you don’t want destroyed.
- Dogs love to play and can make a toy out of anything. If they don’t get enough exercise or stimulation, they will turn your living room into a playground. It’s up to you as the parent to make sure they get exercise through walks or hikes and have some stimulating challenges in the form of toys or games.
- Dogs don’t know their own size or strength. They don’t realize they can knock someone over by jumping on them, they’re just excited and want to show you how much they love you. They don’t realize they can knock a child over with their tail if they are too exuberant. It’s up to you to teach them respect and proper boundaries. Babies and children are to be treated gently and carefully. Rough housing should be limited to older children and adults.
- Dogs don’t own the toys or food you give them. This is especially important for dogs to learn to prevent resource guarding. You teach them early by gently taking things away from them and giving it right back, so they know that they have to share.
- Dogs need to be taught English (or whatever your primary language is). They don’t intuitively know what sit or stay, or rollover mean. You must demonstrate the behavior and reward them when they are successful, so they begin to associate the words with the action. It’s important to be clear and concise in your commands so they can learn the words. Too often you see someone trying to teach their dog to sit have this exchange: “Sit Toby, Sit, please sit down Toby. Oh you bad boy why won’t you sit. No, I said Sit, Sit, Sit. No, sit, SIT!! I give up”. How is poor Toby supposed to know what to do with that string of commands.
- Dogs love to be near you but if you don’t want them on the furniture, you need to give them a soft cozy bed near you so they can feel part of the family.Most of this is common sense if you stop and think about it. Training your dog just takes patience, endurance and love. But if that fails, call a certified trainer and get some help! Most pet stores have inexpensive dog training classes.