Don’t worry if you mess up; none of us are perfect. Even the best pet parents failed in the beginning; I know I certainly did. I adopted my dog, Nyx, from the shelter when he was just 11 weeks old. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me to make him the well-trained, well adjusted dog I wanted him to become. I, in fact, had the opposite problem from many pet parents I’ve worked with – I was too hard on Nyx. Looking back, I was too easily frustrated with his failures. I wanted him to adapt to my lifestyle instead of adapting my lifestyle to him. I needed to recognize that he was a puppy, and that he was going to make mistakes, and it was my job to turn those mistakes into teaching moments. The important thing to remember is to continually and consistently work with your dog to establish a lifestyle that will fit your needs and your dog’s needs.
In my years of working with animals, one statement has always puzzled me: “It’s too early to start training my dog. (S)he’s too young.” In all honestly, I’ve never been sure what pet parents mean by this statement. When asked the best time to start training, my answer is always the same – right away, and anytime an opportunity arises. Like people, dogs can learn from their mistakes. From the moment they enter our lives, we should be teaching our dogs how to succeed in the environment we’ve created for them. Dogs don’t understand exceptions to rules. Before bringing our dog home, we should have a consistent rulebook in place for them. For example, if you don’t want the dog to jump on the couch, make sure (s)he is never allowed on the couch–not even one time. Otherwise (s)he might be confused.
For household dogs, learning to socialize with humans and other dogs from a very young age is important for the types of lives they lead. Not only should we continually be showing them right from wrong, we should be engaging them socially. Without even realizing it, we are teaching and learning from our dogs every time we interact with them. For dogs, play is the most important form of learning. Of course we can’t spend every minute of our day playing with our pups, but we can make sure they have fun and enriching environments to learn from at all times. Put simply, stimulating environments enable healthy mental and physical development in dogs.
Written by Rebecca Malpass
Pet Sitter at Sarah’s Pet Care Revolution