Courtesy of the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Association

“Stop jumping, barking, chewing, pulling!” Telling a dog what not to do can be exhausting. With time and training, you can put an end to unwanted behaviors, transform your pet into a well-behaved family member, and prevent serious problems. The following tips can make all the difference, and know that commands like come, sit, stay, leave it, and heel are essential.

Consistency. This is important for the dog and all household members. Behaviors are either always ok or never ok. For example, if you don’t want your dog on furniture, consider designating one piece of furniture that you can live with. While jumping to green you when you get home might be cute, jumping on guests is not, so say no to jumping altogether.

Keep training short. Expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes per training session ideally two or three times a day. Dogs have a limited attention span, so even five minutes is great.

Train them with treats. Dogs typically love treats, so this is great incentive, especially before a meal when they’re hungry. The love the positive connection between obedience and rewards. If playing with a toy or petting makes them happy, use those instead.

Patience. Dogs don’t like being punished for appearing stubborn, and sense when you are frustrated. They can sense it, and no one wins. Take a break and start again later.

Do’s. Use rewards to train behaviors (praise or food); use your pet’s name with a command; be nice to your pet whenever she comes to you; give a command only once but firmly; try ignoring unwanted behaviors, or replace them with a desired one; socialize your dog (especially puppies under 16 weeks) with people and other dogs; give your dog enough exercise — bored dogs find unwanted alternatives, such as a good pair of shoes to chew on.

Don’ts. Use punishment when training; yell or berate your dog when she comes to you, as she will associate the command come with something negative; repeat commands over and over because, like kids, they’ll start to ignore you; punish your dog long after bad behavior — for example, your dog won’t associate tearing up a torn pillow with being punished when you find it after returning home from being away; expect your dog to understand new commands without training – she isn’t a mind-reader; have unrealistic expectations — understand her limitations; don’t expect him to simply understand the word no, as context and voice tone is more important than what you say.

Remember, when done correctly, good training helps insure a lifetime of happiness, love, and safety for you and your pet. If you are having difficulty, consider professional help by seeking a trainer focused on positive reinforcement, or by consulting with your veterinarian.

The Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society is comprised of more than 75 small animal hospitals and more than 200 practitioners in Erie and Niagara Counties. It exists to advance public awareness and understanding of appropriate and compassionate pet health care, veterinary services and the veterinary profession.