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Reinforcing Dog Training at Holiday Time

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It’s the Pawliday Season! The perfect time to pawsitevly reinforce your inquisitive canine’s good manners. Frequent visitors ringing your doorbell and surprise plates of treats beautifully displayed at a dog’s eye level are just a couple of examples of why it’s important that your canine companion has been taught to make the best behavior choice – or to at least listen to you when you ask him or her to do something.

Let’s face it, just like our own behavior choices, training and working with Rico the Wonder Dogour dogs is a constant, ongoing process. In order for an animal to become conditioned to behave in a manner you like, you must teach and practice with him or her in a variety of environments under a variety of circumstances. Similar to us learning math or a foreign language so we can use these skills outside of the classroom, our dogs need to do the same.

As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, I thought I’d share a few popular behaviors from my dog training classes to set up a successful Pawliday Season for you and your dog.

  • Greeting Nicely in and Out of the Home: Teach your dog to target a mat near the front door. This way when you open to let guests in or out, your dog is welcoming everyone politely, as opposed, say, to jumping up on them. It also helps prevent door-dashing! For additional tips on teaching dogs to not jump up on people, check out this Dear Inquisitive Canine column about a dog named Reggie who seems to be quite the welcome wagon.
  • Loose Leash Walking: If you’re having company, why not take advantage and why not share the honor of walking your dog? Or, it’s a great way to visit with guests while at the same time getting your walk in. If you and your dog are visiting someone else, it’s a nice way to explore the new neighborhood’s holiday decorations.
  • Sit/Down – Stay: Whether you’re sitting at the dinner table or around the fireplace having your dog sit or lay down for longer than a few seconds is always nice for all involved.
  • Coming when called: Calling your dog from another room, a new park, or if he or she has made a dash out the front door, the sound of your voice should be music to your dogs ears – this one is especially important to practice until he or she responds without thinking (this is the conditioned part).
  • “Leave it!” For those times when the roast turkey is too close to the edge of the counter or a box of chocolates is left under the tree.
  • Enrichment: This is where baby gates (or confinement that is safe and fun), food stuffed toys, bones and chewies all come in handy!

Asking your dog to do a wanted behavior is a win-win for everyone! So remember, even if  you’ve taken your dog to a multi-session class, maintaining the behaviors is a life-long process. If you practice a little each day (which is what my Out of the Box Dog Training Game is all about), your dog is surely going to be the best behaved at any holiday party!

And, as a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant I definitely want to address giving a dog as a gift. I’ve written an entire post on it, read it here, but in a nutshell:

Pets are an absolute joy to have as part of any family. Unfortunately, they are still considered property. With that, folks sometimes treat them like inanimate objects, and not like the living, breathing, individual beings that they are. If they don’t want it, they can’t just stick it in the back closet and ignore it. A puppy or adult dog is also very difficult to return. Giving someone a pet as a gift is similar to giving someone a baby. It needs constant care and attention, and not just for a year or two. Adopting a puppy means having a dog for around ten years or more – plus, they don’t move out. Parents buying a puppy for their pre-teen kids means the parents will still be taking care of the dog once their child heads off to college…unless the child continues to live at home. There is also a financial responsibility. I’d say before buying someone a pet as a gift, make sure the recipient really wants it, and knows the responsibilities that go with it.

So, is a pet a good gift? Yes, but only if the recipient not only wants it, but is responsible enough to take care of it, for the lifetime of the pet.

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