Good Dog: Beat boredom, save a couch

By Johanna Teresi

Raising a good puppy citizen.
by Johanna Teresi.
Just like people, dogs need mental stimulation. Training prevents boredom. Puppies trained at a young age are better behaved as adults. You should start training your puppy at around nine weeks of age. As the puppy gets older, habits form, making learning a little slower. Wouldn’t it be great to teach your puppy to sit instead of jump before she’s big enough to knock you down, and to walk nicely on the leash before he is strong enough to pull you over?

Contrary to popular belief, young puppy training is a great idea. Once your puppy has had his first set of vaccinations, register him in a group puppy class. The danger of developing behavioaral problems as he gets older is much higher than that of contracting diseases from a group puppy class. Group classes should be held in a clean indoor facility and include play between puppies. The play sessions teach the puppy bite inhibition and appropriate play behavior. The classes should teach basic commands. In addition, a puppy should be introduced to many different, safe stimuli with positive associations before he reaches 12 weeks of age.

A private trainer for your puppy can work well only if you are able to provide intense socialization with numerous types of friendly people and are able to provide play sessions with other puppies or well mannered adult dogs. Playtime should be held in your yard or your friend’s yard rather than dog parks where disease is more prevalent. If you are not able to meet these requirements, then a group class is the better choice.

Dogs six months or older will also benefit from training. Dogs at this age who have not been taught self-control or boundaries are more likely to develop problems such as aggression, excessive barking, house-soiling, jumping, begging, chewing on forbidden objects, excessive whining, separation anxiety and more. Although training at a later stage may help correct some of these problem cases, early preventive training is much more effective.

How does lack of training cause later behaviorial problems? Dogs that have not been trained are more likely to feel insecure. Well-disciplined dogs trust their owners to help them through uncomfortable situations. But undisciplined dogs, lacking this trust, will be more likely to problem solve on their own when put in uncomfortable situations, and are more likely to develop more undesirable behaviors.

To prevent this, you want to incorporate the NILF (“nothing in life is free”) policy. Your dog must perform a command or exhibit good behavior before he receives something that he wants. For example, require your dog to “sit,” “down,” “stay,” or “watch,” before he may enter the car, walk through the door, eat his meal or chase her ball. Through this, the dog learns to ask for permission to receive a want. As a result, your dog will feel more secure and emotionally balanced.
So what are you waiting for? Build a fun and trusting relationship with your dog through some simple training.  u
Johanna Teresi is a professional dog trainer and owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC.

This article was originally published on December 3, 2007.