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Behavior is the number one reason that dogs are returned to shelters. Candace Nolte offers tips to build a positive relationship with your 4-legged friend.

Are you having dog behavioral issues? Or did you just adopt a dog and want to make them a well-mannered family member?

Candace Nolte has 15 years of experience as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer here in Central Texas. Her company, Inudo Dog Training, visits families in their homes to help dogs learn basic commands and overcome more complex behavioral issues.

Candace shared her top tips to begin effective dog training with your new puppy or older dog.

Routines help dogs feel safe, making training possible.

1. Before you teach “sit” or “stay,” establish a predictable routine so your pet feels safe.

Candace explains that a dog is in transition when it enters your home for the first time. Depending on their temperament, dogs (both puppies and adults) will take 30 to 90 days to adjust to their new surroundings.

Before you launch into training, ensure your new family member is comfortable. This is the basis for training and will increase the likelihood of good pet behavior in the long run.

Establish a predictable routine. Patterns help pets feel safe and, therefore behave better. Create regimens around:

  • Where they sleep
  • Where and when they eat
  • Where it’s OK to go potty
  • When they exercise
  • When they rest

2. Then begin to teach your dog fundamental safety commands, including “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “leave it,” and “drop it.”

These skills can help in many situations, from daily routines to emergencies.

A benefit of this early exercise is relationship-building with your companion animal. You and your dog will become better buddies when you work together to teach and learn commands. It also lays the foundation for more training down the road.

Remember that training is an ongoing process. Reinforcement and practice are essential for maintaining desired learned behaviors.

Successful training requires consistency and patience. Short, frequent training sessions are often more effective than long, infrequent ones.

If your dog is struggling to learn a particular command, it may be helpful to revisit your training method, break the command into smaller steps, or seek guidance from a professional trainer.

3. Other important items to teach:

  • Socialization: Expose your dog to various people, environments, items, sounds, textures, and other animals to help them become well-adjusted and comfortable in different situations.
  • Handling and Grooming: Get your dog used to being touched, groomed, and examined. This helps with veterinary visits and daily care routines.
  • Leash Training: Train your dog to walk on a leash without pulling. This is not only for your convenience, but also for your dog’s safety and that of other pets/pet owners.

How long should pet owners give their pets to learn commands? It depends!

Learning obedience commands can vary based on the dog’s temperament, breed, age, the consistency of your training sessions, and distraction levels.

In most cases a dog or puppy can be introduced to a new command by practicing it daily for a few weeks.

Have patience. Puppies need time to develop. They are still trying to understand how the world works. And learning how to learn!

  • Before 6 months, be patient because they are scatterbrained. There is so much to see, smell, and do! Practice commands knowing their responses may be inconsistent.
  • Hang in there! Dogs can focus and become consistent around 6 to 8 months.

Consider distraction levels when you’re training your pup. A dog might listen to “sit” and “stay” in your quiet home.

Yet, take that dog to Zilker Park – with other dogs and people – and the pet won’t listen.

Why? The noise, smells, movement are distracting! Candace recommends practicing at home and then in public spaces with a leash to master commands.

“It’s not just teaching the command itself. It’s also working with your pup to a point of being able to follow through with the command in environments that have different distraction levels, too.”

What should owners know about getting a new dog before they adopt?

“I love this question,” says Candace. “Often, when I am called in to assist a family, it’s because there is a disconnect between the expectation and reality of owning a dog.”

Adopting a new dog is a significant commitment. Potential dog owners should consider various aspects of their lifestyle before bringing a furry family member into their home. Here are some important factors to consider and research before you adopt a puppy—”research, research, research,” says Candace.

Older Dogs:

  • Existing Pets/Family Members: How will a new dog get along with existing pets and family members, especially children? It’s important to introduce them properly and be mindful of their compatibility.
  • Energy Level and Exercise Needs: Dog breeds have varying energy levels and exercise requirements. “Thoroughly research the breed,” says Candace, “even for mixed breeds.” Ensure the dog’s energy matches your daily physical and mental exercise lifestyle. Many dog trainers can help provide guidance.
  • Time Commitment: Ensure you have the time and attention for daily activities like feeding, grooming, exercise/play, socialization, and training.
  • Living Situation/Space: Ensure your home environment is suitable for the size and activity level of the dog you are considering. Some breeds are better suited to apartment living, while others may require a yard. Is the breed of dog you are adopting known to bark a lot? If so, you may not be very popular with your neighbors/landlord, causing stress and conflict.
  • Financial Commitment: Dogs come with financial responsibilities, including food; expected and unexpected veterinary care, grooming; boarding, and all kinds of training, including reactivity, separation, anxiety/resource guarding, aggression training, and supplies.
  • Long-Term Commitment: Most dogs live for a decade or longer if we are lucky. Consider how your life may change over the coming years and whether you can commit to caring for a pet throughout its lifespan. That may include health or behavioral challenges.

You are taking the time to evaluate these aspects of your lifestyle. It’ll ensure a successful and more fulfilling relationship with your new dog.

Pro tip: Before adopting a pet, confirm your rental agreement or homeowners’ association rules allow for pets and your preferred breed.

If you are training your dog, local experts like Candace are here to help. Your Firehouse team of veterinarians are also here to answer your questions. Call us any time!

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