Why Training Your Dog Is So Important
Okay, so you’ve done your research, identified the right breed for your lifestyle, found a reliable breeder or shelter to work with, and have finally arrived home with your NEW best friend. Congratulations on taking these first important steps. But your work isn’t done yet. Unless you’ve shelled out for a professional trainer prior to getting your pet, you have a lot of work to do to make sure your furry friend has all the skills to live a happy life with you and your family.
Training a service dog isn’t just about teaching it to sit, roll over, and shake hands. In fact, although these tricks are fun, they can miss the point. The most important thing you’re doing when you train a dog is ensuring that it can live safely and reliably in a busy world full of people (and other dogs). It’s tempting to let your dog “run free” in the yard and live a life free of human bondage. But in reality, this is actually a cruel thing to do to a dog. These animals were bred to live with and amongst humans, and by failing to give them the skills to do so, we’re making their lives, and ours, less enriching.
Training your dog can seem like a lot of work. While it certainly requires your time, devotion, and patience, the process is easier than most people realize. The most important thing is to start as soon as possible. Usually, you have to wait until your little friend has had all of his shots and has been cleared to go out into the world and be around other dogs. Don’t stress too much in those first few weeks while you’re waiting for the vet to give you the green light. Take that time to prepare, choose a strategy and training location/program. Then, when your dog is ready to go out in the world, you can get started right away. Don't forget to take your dog to the vet.
You have a lot of options when it comes to training. Many local pet stores and shelters offer group training classes for a reasonable fee. If you don’t mind spending a bit more money you can hire a personal trainer. If you don’t mind spending even more money there are many reputable dog boarding programs as well. Finally, you can always do it yourself! It requires a bit more studying on your part and you’ll have to buy some of the supplies but it’s still the cheapest way to go about it. None of these options are better than the others. Like with most aspects of choosing a dog, it all comes down to what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Whichever direction you end up going in, the most important thing is that you do it quickly and do it the right way. One thing we want to stress is the value of positive reinforcement, for both dog and trainer. Like people, dogs have feelings and are closely connected to humans. They respond best to firm but positive reinforcement that helps them understand they are loved and cared for.