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Your Happy Pet: Train your pets early

Original Publication Date: September 1, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

You have found the dog that matches your lifestyle perfectly. Whether he or she is a pup or a more mature dog, you need to make his or her introduction into your home a happy transition.

The two of you will form an enduring bond as you train your dog to learn basic behaviors like come, sit, stay, down and how to walk on a leash.

Puppy-proof the house so your new friend can sniff and explore areas that are acceptable to you when he or she arrives.

Early on, introduce your pet to his or her crate. Praise your dog and give him or her treats for entering. Leave your dog for 15-minute periods throughout the day and all night. Take your dog outside immediately upon opening the crate.

Animals generally will not relieve themselves where they sleep or eat, so this is the first step in house-breaking your dog.

Set up a training schedule and stick to it. Dogs, especially puppies, get bored easily, so three or four 10- to 15-minute sessions work well.

Training is a communication between the two of you. Reward the pup with a treat within half a second of completing a desired behavior.

Lots of verbal praise and pets should accompany the treat. Since treats are used as rewards for good behavior, try to schedule training sessions before meals.

Most dogs like small, soft treats like bits of string cheese. Tiny dog cookies are fine, but you need to allow time for your dog to chew and crunch. Pay attention and offer what your dog likes.

It really doesn't help to say no if he or she doesn't complete a task or performs an unacceptable behavior. For example, if your pup jumps up on your friends, telling your dog "no" doesn't give him or her enough information. Instead, tell your dog to sit as friends approach, and your dog knows what you expect. The jumping behavior will no longer occur.

Don't get angry if the pup struggles to understand a new behavior. Your anger will distress the dog and make him or her associate training sessions with unhappy times.

Ask your dog to perform a behavior he or she knows. Then reward and praise him or her to end the training session on a positive note, and your dog will be relaxed to begin the next training session.

Get your family members on the same page with you and the dog. Make a list of terms you use. If you tell the dog "off" when he or she jumps on the furniture and another family member says "down" while still another ignores the behavior and lets him or her lounge on the couch, your dog will never learn what you want. Be consistent.

The tools for a successful training program for your dog are simple. All you need is a positive attitude, plenty of treats and lots of patience and praise. You and your dog will experience the magical uniqueness of the human-canine bond that lasts a lifetime.

Sue Furman has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at