There’s nothing quite like a confident, well-behaved, and happy dog. Their enthusiastic tail-wagging can bring a smile to every dog lover. But dogs do not just innately know how to behave, how to play well with others, and how to be a good canine citizen in a very big world. All dogs need training and socialization to set them off on the right paw.

Training is more than just a few basic commands (although these are essential); it is your pet’s form of lifelong education, instilling the confidence and understanding needed to have a healthy life. Learn more about why we at Arlington Animal Hospital encourage all dog owners to put importance on training and socialization – the keys to your pet’s lifetime well-being!

Positive Reinforcement Training

While the old model of training may have relied on punishing bad behavior, we have come to embrace a new paradigm in ethical dog training that relies on reward. Reward based training not only teaches your dog all of the behaviors you want to see in a good pup, but it also does so in a way that works on your dog’s natural desire to please.

There are a number of different types of reward-based training methods, but most start out by relying on the use of small treats. Consistency is the basis of training, so reinforcing “behavior = reward” is essential while your dog is learning your expectations and how to meet them.

Typically training should begin around 7-8 weeks of age, but we encourage pet owners to begin socializing their pets within their own families from the day they are old enough to be handled. Gentle handling and interaction from an early age is a good way to begin socializing your dog before he or she is ready to be introduced to other pets and people (after vaccinations have been completed).

The Benefits of Training and Socialization

Along with helping your pet navigate housetraining/”potty training”, training and socialization offers many more benefits than you might imagine…

Essential commands – What if your dog got away from you and attempted to run across a busy street… you call him back, but he doesn’t understand your command. Teaching dogs important commands like “Come”, “Stay”, “Drop it”, and “Sit” are not only for our benefit but also for their safety. Commands can help to strengthen the bond between you and your pet and establish your role as pack leader.

Handling and social skills – When your dog is properly socialized, he becomes comfortable with the world around him and understands what you expect of his behavior. Exposing your pet (safely) to other animals, children, and new people is critical in raising a well-adjusted pet who will be less likely to have issues with aggression or fear. Young puppies who are gently handled at an early age learn not to fear being touched, which is important for interaction with others.

Confidence – Dogs who receive training and socialization are less susceptible to issues related to separation anxiety – a major problem for dogs who have intense fears about being left alone. They are better equipped to deal with changes in the home as well as being in new environments.

Health, happiness, and well-being – Training your dog allows him to truly thrive and participate in exercise and playtime that involves dog parks, daycare, and even exciting trips with “Mom” or “Dad”. Having these skills increases the likelihood that your dog will be healthier and much happier – and with a better quality of life than dogs who struggle with behavior problems.

At Arlington Animal Hospital, we recommend enrolling your puppy (or adult dog) in professional group-based training classes. These classes offer a safe, supervised way for dogs to learn the basics while being surrounded by their peers. And it is fun! For more recommendations on training and socialization, please call us!