Sometimes, with differing levels of frequency, we find our dogs behaving in undesirable ways ranging from annoying to flat-out unacceptable. There are other times when dog obedience is not only desired, but absolutely crucial for preserving the health and safety of you and your pet. And there comes a time when we can no longer complain and need to do something about it. You’re familiar with the adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Fortunately, it’s only somewhat true. While adult dogs are certainly more cemented in their ways than puppies are--and there are some things you will never be able to change--here are some tips for what you can do.
1. Take good care of your dog’s health
Poor dog health can cause behavior problems. For example, imagine an energetic dog destroying the house because of built up energy and not having enough exercise. Similarly, a dog that is stressed out and anxious can also display non-ideal behavior such as excessive barking. Some of the behaviors you may be trying to eliminate with training could in fact be eliminated with proper dog care and wellness.
For training behaviors such as tricks and the like, you’ll have the best shot at success when your dog is at their best. Since training requires undivided attention and focused energy, dogs perform better when calm, relaxed and relieved of excess energy. Before training, ensure your dog is operating optimally with proper sleep, nutrition and exercise.
Moreover, a highly energetic dog will greatly benefit from calming training treats.
2. Use positive reinforcement
It is most effective to reward positive behavior quickly, as the behavior happens. Do this with praise and treats. The quicker and more positive your reinforcement, the better. Praise by acting exuberantly pleased, using a high-pitched happy tone of voice, pats, rubs and love. And rewarding them with a high-value treat will yield better results--dogs are more likely to work for a delicious, nutrient-dense treat over a cardboard-like Milk Bone.
Begin by always praising your dog whenever they come to you, whether you commanded them to or not. Never scold or reprimand your dog after they have come to you--you want them to always feel comfortable and happy coming to you.
3. Be consistent
Focus on one behavior at a time so you can work it into your daily routine and make it habit. Set aside time each day to practice. Really, the more time and energy you devote to training, the better it will be. During your allotted time in training, focus on commanding and rewarding good behavior. The more consistent you are, the better.
4. Break bad habits ASAP
The longer a bad behavior is practiced, it becomes more ingrained and harder to break. Catching your dog immediately in the act and doing something about it right then is the most effective training. While it requires extra diligence on your part, remember that your efforts to alter their bad behavior will pay off.
Focus on your dog and frequently give them some undivided attention so you can catch and address behaviors when and as they happen.
5. Have realistic expectations
You cannot expect a dog not to bark because, well, that’s what dogs do! Training your dog requires patience and realistic expectations of what is possible. Dogs have differing temperaments and personalities, making each dog training case unique.
Be patient with yourself and with your dog. Training will not be linear and some days will be better than others. Just try your best and try to maintain a positive and loving attitude throughout.
Let go of your desired outcome and enjoy the process. Training your dog is as much about relationship building and solidifying your dog/owner connection as it is about shaping behavior.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information contained or made available through the ColoradoDog website is not intended to constitute or substitute for legal advice or veterinary advice.