Training your dog is an important step to becoming a responsible pet owner and if done correctly, should make life better for you, your dog and the wider community.
When to start training
If a puppy, enrol in puppy school classes, which not only teach basic commands, but are essential to the socialisation of the puppy. Puppies have a 'critical socialisation period' from about 3-17 weeks of age, during which time the puppy should be exposed to, but not over flooded with, everyday situations.
If you rehome an adult dog, training can commence as soon as you have established a bond with that dog and it trusts and recognises you as the owner. If problem behaviours are exhibited, have the dog checked by a vet to rule out any underlying medical problem before commencing training.
Finding a trainer
In Australia, there are currently no requirements or standards that people must meet in order to advertise themselves as dog trainers, so be vigilant when selecting a trainer.
Some dog training establishments are also approved training organisations, under the Domestic Animals Regulations 2015. Dogs who achieve an obedience training certificate from an Approved Training Organisation are eligible for a reduced council registration fee. Currently, the organisations whose dog obedience assessment programs are approved under the Domestic Animals Regulations 2015 are:
- DOGS Victoria
- Australian Association of Professional Dog Trainers Inc
- The Gentle Dog Trainers Association
- Four Paws K9 Training
- Training is more effective if carried out in short bursts and not on a daily basis as this can be too much for the dog to absorb.
- Remember training in itself (even using positive reinforcement) can be stressful and that stress can impede learning. Stress isn’t always a bad thing and dogs like humans need a certain level of stress in order to learn at all; but don’t overstress your dog.
- Don’t try to train your dog if it is in a highly aroused or hyperactive state as he will be unable to focus.
- A dog may associate a command with a particular location where he was trained, so if the dog was trained at home, he may not obey in a different location. It is therefore important to vary the location when training.
- Use visual as well as vocal commands, using a calm voice.
- Consider what your dog is most motivated by - a special treat, toy etc.
- Trainers advise not to use the training reward at other times, for example: do not give dogs treats just as a routine practice otherwise the reward loses its value.
Socialising your dog
To prevent your dog from becoming a danger to others, or nuisance barking, keep your dog stimulated, exercise your dog daily, socialise to other people and dogs and provide regular training and plenty of interaction. If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, use a muzzle or walk on a leash.
You can walk your dog in off-leash areas in Geelong under ‘effective control’.
Tips on training for effective control
- Focus on the 3 Ds : distance, duration, distraction. Do not try and increase all the same time. Focus on one at a time: increasing the distance at which your dog will successfully recall to you, focus on the duration it takes for your dog to respond when recalling, and add distractions gradually.
- It may be beneficial to start training in a relatively distraction-free environment and slowly add distractions.