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Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all of the insights that Dr. Hohenhaus shared with our readers.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Training Your Puppy: Why and How?

I live in New York City and work at the Animal Medical Center. For NYC dog lovers, finding a dog-friendly apartment that meets the needs of the human members of the family is not easy. When a building accepts dogs, you can bet there will be lots of them, and in my building there are plenty. The newest canine resident is Cooper, a chocolate mini Labradoodle.

If I’m lucky, Cooper is heading out when I am. Then his owner and I can walk and talk about the puppy. The other day we talked about dog training. Cooper is now old enough to need obedience training, and he is enrolled in beginner classes at the neighborhood doggie day care center. 

Cooper

Cooper the mini Labradoodle.

Obedience training is key to making your dog a good community member, especially in a city as densely populated with dogs and people as New York. Barking dogs, poorly housebroken dogs and dogs with separation anxiety are not welcome members of apartment building communities. Dogs that are obedience trained are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety and are less likely to be relinquished to an animal shelter, possibly because they have fewer behavior problems. Obedience trained dogs may also be less likely to bite humans.

The first level of training for puppies, like Cooper, is a puppy socialization class, sometimes called puppy kindergarten. Here, puppies around six-17 weeks of age are exposed to a new smells, sights, sounds and walking surfaces, as well as interactions with unfamiliar dogs and humans. The goal of this type of class is to promote social skills in puppies at an age where they are readily accepting of social interaction.

Following puppy socialization, the next level of training involves teaching the puppy to respond to basic commands from the owner — the classic sit, stay, come. These behaviors are commonly promoted through positive reinforcement. Humane societies, SPCAs and other community groups offer classes in beginning obedience training.

The American Kennel Club’s STAR (socialization, training, activity, responsibility) program is one such program for puppies (<1 year of age) and their owners. Successful completion of STAR requires six owner behaviors, five puppy behaviors and successful completion of a nine task final examination. After passing the STAR final examination the puppy and owner may move up and participate in the Canine Good Citizen Program. (Check back for my next post regarding advanced training options for your dog.)

An obedience trained dog is a happy dog. Dogs, like children, need structure in their lives. They need to know what is expected of them. In an unfamiliar situation, an obedience trained dog can be told to sit, stay or lie down. He will be more comfortable in strange surroundings when he is performing a familiar task.

To read a heartwarming story about how obedience training helps dogs and humans, click here.

Photo: Courtesy of Cooper’s family

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 12:46 pm

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