It's Train Your Dog Month!

Secrets to modern dog training.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
January 13, 2012

I've met more than one person who flinched at the thought of training their dog -- not because they wanted a rude, unruly companion, but because they thought of "training" as a matter of repetitive drills, punctuated by yanks on the dog's neck. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers sponsors "Train Your Dog Month" every January to celebrate and encourage modern dog training, because "we want dog owners to see how simple and fun training can be."

How simple? Here's the Big Secret of modern training:

  • Know what your dog likes: food, scratches, walks, fire-hydrant sniffing ...
  • Manage situations so your dog is set up to do things you like
  • ... and so that unruly behavior doesn't get her what she wants.
  • Generously, generously, generously thank your dog for doing what you like, by giving her access to things she likes.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat, until that good behavior is deeply ingrained habit. 

You might have noticed that all those bullet points add up to a circle of reciprocity and reward. Like many clicker trainers and other reward-based trainers, I've found that dogs I work with are often disappointed when training sessions end.

I admit, it's more sheerly entertaining to teach Dogalini to jump through a hoop on cue than it is to practice a down-stay. But you can make your down-stay training as lighthearted as any trick, and your dog will be just as glad to do one as the other.

So teach your dog a trick, please (yes, it can be a down-stay!), and then enter The Dog Trainer Photo Sweepstakes to show her off and get a chance to win one of two extremely rewarding prizes. Also check out the special free APDT webinars and Facebook chats -- they cover everything from picking a shelter dog to teaching kids safe behavior around dogs. Happy Train Your Dog Month!