Dogs are more than just pets, they're family. The most important thing you can do is develop a great relationship with your dog. This relationship is the foundation upon which any training you do with your dog must stand. In order to have a solid foundation to build on with your dog, it is essential you come from a place of trust and mutual respect. How does one do this? The answers are simple: structure, enrichment, kindness, and patience.
Implementing clear rules from day one will set you on the right path. Dogs are very black and white in their initial training. If Fido can jump up on you when you get home from work, that means he can jump up on people whenever he's excited. Figure out what you would like your dog to do, ask for that behavior consistently, and reinforce it any time it occurs with food, praise, play and affection.
After providing boundaries for your dog, you have to provide them with tools for success. Training, proper veterinary care, great nutrition and exercise are just a few ways to meet this need. An often neglected tool is environmental enrichment. Puzzle games, food dispensing toys, snuffle mats, and scent games are just a few ways to keep your dog occupied while you're busy and to help tire out their mind.
Positive reinforcement based training creates strong communication skills in both dog and owner. Using a marker, like a clicker, bridges the gap between the human and canine languages. By training your dog with these science based methods, you create positive associations that will last their whole lives. A good rule of thumb when training is if you wouldn't want it done to you, don't do it to your dog. When selecting a trainer make sure to ask these important questions: 1) What will happen to my dog if he gets it right? 2) What will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong?
Finally, dogs aren't robots and neither are we, the road to perfect is a long one. You may make a mistake following his potty schedule, and puppy has an accident on your rug. Fido may be really excited to meet new people, and can't help but jump up. These things happen to everyone. Building a strong and positive relationship with your dog will help you to overcome any obstacle thrown your way. Take a deep breath and start over, you have the rest of your dogs life to make it to perfect.
Emily Lewis is a professional dog trainer and veterinary technician. She lives in Vermont with her three rescue dogs, tuxedo cat, corn snake, crested geckos and Russian tortoise.