January is National Train Your Dog month – a grand kick-off to another year with your best furry friend. If you haven’t heard, positive reinforcement training is one of the best ways to enhance your relationship with Rover.
Relationship: the way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
Some may think true relationships exist only between humans, but we do indeed have relationships with our dogs. Humans provide the things dogs need and want in life, and they depend on us to provide those things. Humans depend on dogs for all kinds of help: as flock guardians and herders on farms and ranches; as protectors of the home and family; as trackers and retrievers in the field; as our eyes, ears, and sometimes, our hands. We look to dogs for much of what we share with other humans – companionship, affection, friendship and a good laugh.
Positive training fosters relationships with dogs on a foundation of clear consistent communication, mutual respect and trust. Thankfully, that’s the kind of relationship I enjoy with my dog; I wouldn’t want it any other way.
When Vinnie first came into my life he was a sweet cuddly pup. Now, nearly 5 years later, he is sweeter, deeply bonded to me (and I to him) and even more affectionate. He trusts me completely. I see it in his eyes when he looks to me in new or uncertain situations. I know it when he leans his body into mine, when he passes by and licks my hand, when he nuzzles his face into my chest or shoulder and waits for me to pet him. Between us there’s a constant dialogue, mostly devoid of words but full of body language. I understand some of his body language, he understands a great deal more of mine, and we communicate very well most of the time. I’m still moved by all of this because his trust and our ability to communicate are things I earned in large part through positive training.
But aside from these warm fuzzies, why train/keep training your dog?
- Because they get rusty, just like we do.
- Because all dogs need mental stimulation every day, and training – practicing known stuff or learning new behaviors or tricks – is an easy way to provide mini mental workouts.
- Because it’s fun for you and your dog – if you’re using positive training that is!
- Because solid training spells more freedom in life for you and your dog, together.
- Because training prevents unwanted behavior and strengthens desirable behavior, which make for a happier more harmonious relationships between humans and dogs.
- Because too many dogs end up in shelters (or worse) every day for behaviors that could easily have been prevented or solved through positive training.
- Because positive training is the only way to fairly and effectively teach your dog how you’d like him to behave.
- Because, as expert trainer Ken Ramirez says, “Training is not a luxury, but a key component to good animal care….Training is about teaching a dog (or any animal) to live in our world safely.”
Need inspiration? Go to APDT’s National Train Your Dog Month website for training tips and links to free webinars and Facebook chats with dog training experts on a wide range of training and behavior issues, from how to teach kids to interact safely with dogs to housetraining issues to introducing dogs and cats safely. Check out the full schedule here and spread the word to anyone you know with a dog, or anyone thinking of adopting one.
Happy 2012 & Happy Training!