Before deciding when and how to train your dog you’ll achieve better results knowing as much about the options available as possible. Here is a general overview of the stages of dog training offered by private dog trainers, dog clubs and organizations such as the American Kennel Association:
Once you’ve brought your new dog home, you should consider Puppy Preschool. Dog training can begin almost immediately, as early as 6 weeks. Most puppy training are 6 to 8 weeks in duration. In this formative training, your puppy will taught how to socialize with people and with other puppies. Basics covered will include learning simple commands such as “sit”, “lay down”, “stay”, and to respond to you when called.
Starting at 5 months old you can move on to more advanced training. Basic dog training typically covers the same ground but adds walking on leash (staying at your heel and not pulling on the leash). At this level of training the goal is to reinforce the sit, stay, come, and other obedience commands taught earlier. You can expect this phase of training to run from 8 to 10 weeks.
The next level of dog training course is known as intermediate dog training. At this point it is valuable to further reinforce the basics but with a greater attention to form and with higher levels of expectation in the dog’s performance. As your dog has matured, he has become intellectually capable of more complex reasoning skills and should have a better understanding of his relationship to you, the alpha dog and pack leader. With your help, the trainer will instruct the dog to stay for a longer span of time, respond more reliably and quickly to commands and to follow orders given by other people.
This more advanced training will last from 8 to 10 weeks. To maximize the benefits of intermediate training, it’s required that your dog have completed a basic dog training course or at least be accustomed to the basic commands that you have taught him yourself.
Following the completion of intermediate training you may want to take a break and monitor your dog’s level of obedience and comprehension. When going for walks, does he behave well consistently? Can you attempt off-leash walks and play in parks and locations with other dogs, people and distractions? At home can you leave food or treats within reach and depend on him to not fall prey to temptations? If you can determine that his interactions with you, family members, strangers and unfamiliar experiences are above reproach, you may decide to make training a continuing process of reinforcement between you and your pet. Afterall, training can be costly and a waste of money and effort if further work isn’t needed. If you do enroll in intermediate dog training, you can expect the program to further refine your dog’s skills and tackle challenging tasks such as sitting, staying, and obeying commands with you nowhere in sight, walking you without a leash, and other more demanding commands.
Many in the canine world consider the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program to be the standard for instilling good behavior of dogs. Since launching the program in 1989, roughly one million dogs, both purebred and mixed breed, have been enrolled. Dog enthusiasts who have competed the course say it delivers a variety of benefits, from enhancing the bond between owner and dog, to enriching their daily lives, and making encounters with people and dogs in the community more rewarding. There are also practical considerations for taking the course in that it’s a prerequisite for some therapy dog programs and many insurance companies recommend it and offer lower premium for graduates. The credo of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizenship Training says it all: Responsible Owners, Well-Mannered Dogs.
Agility training has grown greatly in popularity over the past decade, providing a wide range of programs, activities, and competitions for dog owners. Designed to challenge the dog’s agility, obedience and reasoning abilities, dog agility training provides a course with series of obstacles for your dog to navigate. Working as a team, your dog will be required to follow your directions through the correct order of obstacles which consist of weave poles, a dog walk, standard jumps, a pause table, tunnels, tire jumps and a teeter board. Several national canine organizations such as the USDAA, the NADAC, and the AKCA provide accreditation and oversight of the sport. Although seeing a course filled with dogs competing at a high level may seem intimidating at first, giving it a try at the entry level may open up a whole new world of recreations and enjoyment for you both.
Dog lovers understand intuitively that raising a dog has parallels with rearing a child – both thrive in environments rich with structure, positive reinforcement, and learn to grow from experiencing the satisfaction of meeting new challenges. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the lifelong benefits training delivers when done consistently and with the guidance of a professional. With each passing day you’ll see the tangible results you’ve achieved by ensuring your dog has realized its fullest potential.