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Whether you have a puppy or an older dog in need of some new manners, obedience training will not only help your pup fit in better with you and your family but also teach him skills that might be crucial to his safety. Here are all the answers to your question, "What can I expect when training my dog?"
Standard Obedience School Curriculum
Usually, obedience courses take place one hour a week over a six-week period. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), classes are typically divided between puppy classes, for dogs under five months of age, and adult or advanced classes, for dogs five months and older. Puppy classes may focus on skills like socialization with people and other dogs, potty training, the proper way to greet people without jumping on them, and learning how to walk on a leash, in addition to basic commands like sit, come, and leave it.
For older dogs, obedience classes may focus more on good manners and learning the household rules. In addition to learning the commands sit, come, and leave it, more advanced commands include stay, lie down, and heel while walking on a leash.
Benefits of Training My Dog
Obedience training offers a number of benefits for you and your pooch. For one thing, your pup will learn to behave in a manner that's pleasing to you and other family members. Obedience training from a young age can help prevent him from picking up annoying habits, such as jumping on people or inappropriate barking or chewing. Learning good manners can help to curb similar habits in older dogs, says the AKC. More importantly, learning to come when called and to stay or drop an object on command are skills that could help prevent harm or injury to your dog.
Of course, your dog isn't alone in his training. As you work with him to teach him these skills, if done properly, you'll strengthen and reinforce the bond of trust and companionship. Not only that but attending obedience classes is a great way to meet other dog parents, providing you with opportunities to swap crazy dog parenting stories and make new human friends.
Does Obedience Training Work?
The effectiveness of obedience training depends on a number of factors. Your pet's breed and temperament play a part in how well he'll take to the training, and how quickly. For example, a strong-willed or a hyperactive dog will require more time, effort and patience than one that's more laid back and eager to please. Age might also play a role. If your puppy is too easily distracted, for example, it might be necessary to try again when he's older and calmer.
The number one factor in how effective obedience training will be, however, is you. For obedience classes to work, you need to go beyond the one-hour-a-week class and practice regularly with your dog at home. It's also important that the entire family is on board and everyone is consistent with the rules. If Mom says the couch is off limits, for example, it needs to be off limits at all times. If Dad or one of the kids invites your pup onto the couch, even as a one-time treat, this will only confuse your dog and undermine his training. Also, be careful to not reinforce problem behaviors, points out Petfinder. You may be encouraging him without even realizing it. One example is by comforting your dog when he whines or giving him attention when he barks inappropriately. Applying proper training techniques consistently outside of the classroom is the only way to properly reinforce his training and make sure it sticks.
Training My Dog: Can I Do It Myself?
Formal obedience classes aren't the only training option for teaching your dog how to behave. You can always take the do-it-yourself approach to teaching the same skills he would learn in obedience school. Countless books, websites and videos are available to help you train your pup at home. One advantage of this is that you can develop your own course by mixing and matching training approaches and styles to see what works best. DIY training might be the best approach if either your schedule or location doesn't make it easy to attend a regularly scheduled class, or if your dog needs a more customized approach.
If you find that obedience school doesn't fit your lifestyle but you still need help from a pro, many professional dog trainers will come to your home and work with you and your dog one-on-one. Some training programs offered by major pet store chains also offer private training classes that fit more easily into your schedule.
Is My Dog Too Old for Obedience School?
Contrary to the popular saying about old dogs and new tricks, dogs are never too old to learn new commands and new skills. Unruly senior dogs can benefit from obedience classes as much as younger pups. It's best to talk to your veterinarian about what your elderly dog is able to handle.
Another challenge when it comes to training senior dogs is that undesirable behaviors have had years, if not a decade or more, of reinforcement. This doesn't mean training can't be done, but it might require a lot of time and patience to accomplish. The important thing to remember about training senior dogs is that you may need to adjust your expectations to match their capabilities.
Whatever your dog's age, breed or temperament, if he doesn't have good manners or if his safety might be compromised by his disobedience, it's a good time to think about enrolling him in obedience school. This training will also make life easier on you as he will better respond to you. Dogs find training fun as it is a bonding moment with you. So, the more you train, the more well-behaved he can be as well as strengthen your bond.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger, and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of fur babies.