Back To (Puppy) School – Signs Your Pet May Need More Training

30 Sep 2019 | Written by Tori Holmes
The school year is back in full swing for our two-legged family members, but what about the four-legged ones? Our Resident Freshpet Vet, Dr. Katy Nelson, shares everything you need to know about training your dog.

What behavioral signs are red flags that indicate I should look into additional training for my dog?

Any behavior in which a pet may harm others or themselves is an immediate red flag. Sudden aggressive behavior requires the assistance of a veterinarian and/or trainer, as it could be due to pain, illness, stress, or anxiety. Behavior in which a pet may cause harm to themselves should also be immediately evaluated. If your pet fits into either of these categories, have them seen by a veterinarian. If no physical problems are found, seek out a trainer that specializes in aggression or separation anxiety – depending on symptoms – immediately.

Can I use my pet’s food as a training treat?

Training treats should be high-value rewards, not their regular everyday food. I recommend using small pieces of real meats or treats like turkey bacon or slow-grilled chicken from Freshpet. These high-value treats encourage your pet to “work hard to receive” while not adding unhealthy amounts of calories.

My dog passed their training classes as a puppy, but now a year or so has passed – what should I do to reinforce the best practices they learned in class?

Practice makes perfect! Just think – if you were taught how to speak a foreign language and then go to the country years later, you can’t expect to be able to speak fluently unless you’ve been regularly practicing. This also goes for playing an instrument, a sport, or anything else that requires mastery. The same thing applies to our pets. We can train them to the point of perfection, but unless we’re continuing that training going forward, they will regress quickly. To avoid this, work with them daily to continue to build upon their successes and reinforce the skills that they have learned.

My dog doesn’t seem to socialize well with others – what should I do?

The most important thing you can do is to recognize your dog’s limitations, and don’t force it. Some pets simply do better at home with their people and that’s okay. It’s possible for some pets to learn social behavior over time, but this process must be done safely. In these instances, the best thing you can do is to get a professional trainer to work with you as you slowly engage your pup with others.

I recently rescued an older dog that could benefit from training. Is it worth signing them up for training classes even though they’re past the puppy stage of their life?

For adult pets, I recommend individual training to address specific needs rather than general training classes. When researching trainers, look for one that values positive reinforcement and works to teach you how to decompress your pet safely and look for triggers that lead to bad behavior in your pup.

I thought I had successfully house-trained my pet, but they’re still having accidents in the house from time to time. What should I do?

The first thing you should do is have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to ensure they don’t have an underlying health issue leading to increased urination or incontinence. If your pet is deemed healthy, talk with your veterinarian or a trainer about ways to help with decreasing stress for your pet. You can also consider crate training or using belly bands. If your pet’s behavior is caused by separation anxiety, you can look into behavior modification techniques or therapeutic herbs and pharmaceuticals.

Any other tips or best practices related to training I should know?

Behavioral issues are the number one reason why pets are surrendered to animal shelters around the country. When behavioral issues are first recognized, seek help before the issue begins to impact the bond between you and your pet. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers website is a great resource for finding a positive reinforcement trainer in your area. Whether you have a puppy being trained for the first time or an older dog who needs a refresher, we hope Dr. Katy had some tips you can use.

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