New Year’s resolutions are easy to make but (as some of us know all too well) they’re much harder to keep.
Add your dog into that equation, and the promises you made yourself as the ball dropped at midnight suddenly seem a lot more daunting when you roll out of bed on January 1st.
But making real changes in your relationship with your pet doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right guidance, any dog owner can accomplish their New Year’s resolutions.
That’s where we come in. We’ve picked three attainable resolutions for you and your dog and laid out how you guarantee you’re going to check them off your list.
Let’s dive in.
Resolution 1: Get training for your dog.
Call us biased, but we love this resolution for you.
The first step in building the relationship you want with your dog is the decision to start training. The next step—finding the right trainer—can make or break your resolution.
We know that sorting through thousands of dog trainers online can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what to look for. That’s why we’re here to help you make this resolution stick.
Start by thinking about your goals for dog training. Whether it’s basic obedience, addressing trouble behaviors or both, laying out your goals will help determine what type of training your dog would benefit from the most.
For example, if your goal is basic obedience and manners, a program like our In-Home Training teaches you how to train, understand and communicate with your dog in the comfort of your own home.
On the flip side, a board and train program is likely the best option if your dog has severe behavior issues or if you’re too busy to fully commit to training.
Once you’ve settled on your goals, it’s time to set out on your search for a trainer. But where should you start?
Here are four tips to help you choose the right dog trainer:
- Start with Word of Mouth — Talk to other dog owners or professionals in the dog care field to find out if they have used a trainer in the past or have any recommendations. The opinion of someone you trust can be invaluable in finding the right trainer.
- Search for Transparency — The Internet and social media are where most people turn to find a dog trainer, and both can be helpful resources. Make sure a trainer is clear online about their methods, articulates details about programs (including how you’re involved) and is upfront about the cost. Look for real-world examples of their work, like success stories and YouTube videos, and take reviews with a grain of salt.
- Make Conversation — Nothing is more important than being comfortable with your trainer, so call them, have a conversation and ask questions. Can they explain their methods? Are they insured? Are there safety protocols in place? Where does the training happen? They need to be able to answer your questions clearly and concisely. Trust your gut if anything feels off.
- If It Seems Too Good to be True, It Probably Is — Dogs learn from consistency and repetition. That means training takes time and the results will be different for every dog. If a trainer promises a quick fix for your dog or offers 100% guarantees, proceed with caution. Those kinds of commitments aren’t realistic.
Resolution 2: Take care of your new dog the right way.
We can relate to this resolution. Every new dog owner wants to get their pet off on the right paw.
Here’s the reality: whether you’ve just brought home a puppy or adopted a rescue, dog training is the best way to set your furry friend up for lifelong success.
As a new owner, you probably have questions about dog training. We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked:
How do you know if your new dog needs training?
The answer to this one is simple: all dogs need training.
Dogs are always learning from you, whether you’re intentionally teaching them or not. They’re watching you constantly to find out what they’re expected to be doing. It’s your job to make sure those expectations are laid out clearly and consistently.
For new dogs, like a puppy or a rescue, early training is vital. Your dog has just been introduced to an unfamiliar environment with a new set of rules and is surrounded by people they don’t know yet.
Without establishing structure in their lives, your new dog can develop anxieties that could lead to unwanted behaviors. Training nips that in the bud by putting necessary structures in place.
When is the best time to start training a puppy?
As soon as possible.
Puppies are a lot of work. If you don’t start training from the moment they come home, things can quickly spiral out of control.
You need to establish clear communication and boundaries right away with crate or pen training and begin laying the foundation of structure and obedience through positive reinforcement.
Where’s the best place to start? Programs like our Puppy Training, for dogs under the age of 16 weeks, are designed to set you and your new pup up for success.
How soon should training start for a rescue dog?
You should approach training a rescue or shelter dog like you would training a puppy: start as soon as you bring them home.
Clear boundaries and communication need to be set immediately so that your new dog is always focused on you rather than the distractions of a strange environment.
Can an older dog still be trained?
Absolutely. In a lot of cases, dogs have gone their whole lives without having a clear definition of what’s expected of them.
Dogs crave structure. They want to know who’s in charge and what they should be doing at any given moment. When your dog has that structure, they’ll be calm. When they don’t, anxiety and problem behaviors can develop.
No matter how old your dog is, a trainer can step in and affect real change in their behavior through clear communication, boundaries and structure. Then your dog can start living their best life.
Can you train your dog by yourself?
Do-it-yourself projects are great for home renovations and Halloween costumes, but we don’t recommend DIY dog training.
Every dog is different and will go through behavioral changes as they grow older based on their breed, drives and other factors. That means your cute puppy may not be the same dog when they’re three years old and have matured. It’s perfectly normal but there is no catch-all formula.
Training never ends. It’s a continual, non-stop process where you reinforce learned behaviors in a way that’s stimulating for your dog. A professional dog trainer will work with you to determine what your dog needs from training and help you handle the changes your dog will inevitably go through as they grow.
Resolution 3: Help your dog behave better at home.
This is a new year’s resolution every dog trainer can get behind. If there’s one thing we all want, it’s for owners to take a leading role in their dog’s training.
You play the most important role in your dog’s success. Training doesn’t end after spending a few weeks working with a professional—it’s a lifelong commitment for your dog. That means you have to weave training into your daily lives so your dog can always be at their best.
Sticking with this resolution means you’ll live harmoniously with your dog while they benefit from keeping up their training at home. It’s a win-win.
How can you help your dog train at home? We’ve put together three suggestions:
1) Enforce a “No Free Lunch” policy
We have a “no free lunch” policy for all our clients’ dogs at Koru K9. Simply put, your dog needs to do something for you to get something positive. Whether it’s food, play or comfort, your dog should always be working for that reward.
2) Build obedience into exercise
Whenever you’re exercising or playing with your dog, you should overlay obedience into the activity you’re doing so that playtime is structured. Sometimes it’s as simple as commanding your dog to sit before you throw the ball.
3) Explore protection or sport work
For certain breeds of working dogs, such as Belgian Malinois or German Shepherds, protection sports like Schutzhund will challenge them both physically and mentally in a way that satisfies their natural instincts. It’s also a great bonding activity for dogs and owners.