This month is the eighth annual National Train Your Dog Month! Whether you’re looking to teach your dog simple commands like sit or some new tricks, Creston Veterinary Hospital recommends positive reinforcement for effective training. Here are our tips for using positive reinforcement to train your dog:

#1: Reward your pet heavily with her favourite treat

Although most pets respond well to tasty treats, such as freeze-dried liver, tuna flakes, string cheese, or hot dogs, some are simply not food-motivated. Find what encourages your pet to perform, whether it’s an ear scratch, a quick game of fetch, or a chance to bat around a catnip mouse. What works for your dog will likely not work well for your cat, and same-species pets may also have different reward preferences.

#2: Never punish your pet

No pet responds well to punishment. Yelling, scolding, or swatting will only destroy your bond and trust, leading to a furry companion who cowers or flees. Instead of punishing your pet when she behaves incorrectly, show her what is appropriate. For example, if your puppy is chewing on your shoe, swap out the shoe for a dog toy, to show her what is acceptable.

#3: Stay consistent to avoid confusing your pet

Pets thrive on consistency and can struggle to learn expectations if situations lack a clear focus. Dogs jumping on people is one example of inconsistent training. You may be teaching your pup not to jump on guests as they arrive, but inadvertently rewarding this same behavior when you come home from work. As your pooch leaps up for a hello kiss, you give her a snuggle, which rewards her jumping with a highly desired “treat”—your attention. Remain consistent in every training situation to avoid confusing your furry friend.

Additionally, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers is offering free webinars to dog owners to help teach the basics, so keep an eye out on trainyourdogmonth.com and their Facebook page for updates throughout January.

Questions? Need to check to see if your dog’s vaccinations are up to date before enrolling in training classes? We’re here to help! Contact us.