When we think of New Year’s Resolutions we often think of things we will do for ourselves, lose weight, exercise more, eat better, etc. This year why not make a New Year’s Resolution to train your dog, cat or other pets.
Training your pet provides great mental stimulation and it will improve your bond! When deciding to train your pet, there are many options.
We most commonly think of training dogs but all animals can be trained. Group classes are commonly provided for dogs, you could join a Good Manners class, Agility class, Trick class or Nose work class (depending on what is available in your area). Make sure you try to select something you think your dog will enjoy so both of you will have a good time.
If you have never tried to clicker train an animal, I challenge you to try it. Once your animal understands how it works, you can train them to do almost anything! People have trained all types of pets using a clicker: horses, fish, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and even hermit crabs have been trained using a clicker!
Here Are Some Tips to Start Training With a Clicker:
1. Get a clicker (or a laser pointer if you are going to train a fish) from a pet store and find some soft treats that your pet loves (I like treats that are pea sized and soft so my pet does not need to spend too much time chewing).
2. At first you may want to ask your pet to do something they already know (like sit for a dog) when they do the behavior click and treat. If you are working with a pet that you have not trained, then you can look for a behavior that they do often (and one you want them to repeat). When they do the behavior, click and treat. If you are consistent they will learn that the click means “I like that! Good Job!” and they will realize that a treat will follow.
3. You want to be sure you always give a treat after you click (even if you click by mistake).
4. If your pet makes a mistake, just ignore it and try again. Many times, the reasons our pets make mistakes is because we are not being clear about what we want.
Whether or not you use a clicker, consider adding training to your new year’s resolution. When you train your pet just 5-10 minutes a day, they will learn quickly. It not only will provide them with great mental stimulation, it will also strengthen your bond with them!
Remember when you are training to avoid punishing your pet. Most often pets make mistakes because they don’t know the behavior as well as you think they do or you are not being clear about what you want. Be patient with your pet, especially if he or she is new to learning. (Believe it or not your pet will need to learn how to learn before training gets easier).
Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as an handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West.
Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.
Shannon’s dog training philosophy revolves around force free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal.
Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes (Venturapetwellness.com). Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training (trulyforcefree.com).