Behavior and Training

Behavior and Training

There are many reasons why dogs end up in a shelter or on the street – but none of those reasons are their fault. Behavioral issues are usually the result of our inability to understand the inner workings of a dog’s mind and failure to provide the attention and guidance he or she needs to learn and succeed in his or her environment. That is why it’s so important to think about behavior and training when you first bring a dog home.

The first few days, even weeks or months, after you bring your rescue dog home will be an adjustment for you and your adopted dog. She will need time to get used to a new place, new smells, new sounds, new expectations, a new routine and family. Don’t be surprised if accidents happen, even if your dog is house-trained. And be prepared to devote time and make changes to your daily routine for the first few weeks to ensure that your dog begins to feel welcome and safe in his new surroundings. Only when dogs feel safe in their environment can they begin to process the information we expect them to learn. They look for human guidance and protection to feel safe.

Mental & Physical Exercise

Destructive behavior is not as common as most of us think, but there is always the potential for such behavior when dogs are neglected or ignored, such as confining them to a room or crate for lengthy periods of time or keeping them in a yard by themselves. This creates boredom, which often leads to unwelcome behavior.

One way to decrease the potential for destructive behaviors is to ensure your dog receives adequate mental and physical stimulation. Your dog should spend between 30 minutes to two hours on an exercise activity every day, depending on his age, breed, size and overall health. Start slowly and work your way up to longer walking and playing routines. You should also incorporate mental stimulation, such as rotating your dog’s toys, taking new running paths, playing hide and seek, fetch, Frisbee and tug-of-war. Check with your veterinarian who can recommend an exercise plan that is appropriate for your dog’s age, breed and condition.

Positive Reinforcement Training

We strongly encourage the use of positive reinforcement training, which rewards and motivates your dog for good behavior rather than using fear and intimidation. Positive reinforcement does not mean you do not mark your dog’s misbehavior, just that the discipline (e.g., time outs, removal, vocal interrupters or ignoring the behavior) are far more effective.

According to the experts in dog training, there are five reasons you should train your dog:

  1. To Build a Positive Relationship. It’s important to understand how your dog learns. Dogs who are taught using positive reinforcement methods are more tolerant, self-controlled and behave much more predictably in different situations.
  2. To Teach Life Skills. Teaching your dog basic manners and providing her with enough mental enrichment and physical exercise will help prevent anxiety and other stress-related behaviors, such as destructive chewing, inappropriate barking and aggressive behavior.
  3. To Increase Sociability. Exposing your dog to different situations where he can observe and converse at a distance is just as important as teaching him to accept physical touch. However, not all dogs, like people, are social. Understanding how your dog copes will determine how far you can go.
  4. To Avoid Problem Behaviors. The more time you invest teaching your dog to live successfully in a human world, the more you will avoid problem behaviors that come from lack of understanding.
  5. For Loyalty and Companionship. Guiding your dog in making the right choices and understanding what she needs to be happy will help increase your bond.

Professional Obedience Classes

We also recommend that you sign up for a professional obedience class to help you establish a working relationship and bond with your dog, reinforce basic training, teach your dog to comply even if distractions are present and socialize your dog to other people and dogs. Group classes are typically less expensive than private classes. Make sure you ask about the dog training method that will be used (e.g., positive reinforcement versus alpha dog).  The Association of Professional Dog Trainers offers tips on choosing a trainer, as well as a directory.

Please view our Recommended Reading list for additional resources.

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