Considered man’s best friend, dogs are loyal, affectionate playful and have an undeniable zest for life that is simply admirable. Nevertheless, Labradors tend to have some troublesome behavior such as digging everywhere, chewing, and constant barking that can make living with them a little complicated. Proper training and socialization are some of your Labrador’s basic needs.
Training your Labrador will improve both your life and his thereby enhancing the bond you share. Statistics show that pet owners with trained dogs get more satisfaction and share a stronger bond with their pets. A well-trained dog is also safer to have around your family and friends and a lower risk to himself. He will also be easily manageable when left home alone or by himself.
Labradors are characterized by their eagerness to learn, and the key is great communication. For your dog to know how you want him to behave, here are some practical training tips:
Understand how your Labrador communicates
“My dog just won’t listen.” is one of the most frequent complaints by pet parents. To communicate effectively and frequently with your dog, you need to understand how he learns. Learn your dog’s body language. He may not be able to speak, but he can show you how he feels. Dogs use their facial expressions, posture, and other body languages to communicate how they feel. Most canine communication involves barking, growls, whining, and tail wagging. Sometimes, dog body language is hard to understand or is in direct contrast with what it means to humans. Learn tips on reading dog body language to better communicate with your canine buddy.
Socialize your dog
Socialization generally teaches your dog to accept new people, places, and animals. Exposing your dog to new things helps prevent him from developing fears and phobias. If you don’t introduce your dog to new sounds, smells, people, and sights, he will constantly be barking. It also curbs reactive behavior. Research also shows that socialized dogs are less prone to behavior problems.
Lack of socialization is one of the common causes of aggression due to fear and unfamiliarity. When a dog is comfortable with humans and other animals, he is less likely to be aggressive. Socializing your dog will make him happier and well behaved.
Stick to a schedule
Set time aside daily for training sessions. When teaching your dog something new, daily training sessions are necessary. As he grows older and you are mainly reinforcing previous lessons, then the sessions can become weekly or twice a week. A designated schedule that runs daily offers predictability and stability for your dog. Dogs like predictability, especially regarding their basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety. Inconsistency in a day-to-day schedule contributes to a pet’s anxiety. A routine or schedule reduces your dog’s stress and provides him a leeway to enjoy life. It also affects your dogs’ responsiveness to the training keeping it at a high level.
Make training sessions short and fun
Dogs, just like children, have a short concentration span. Ideally, training sessions should last for 15 minutes or less. You can train, rest or play then resume. During the session, keep things interesting by switching up different skills. Practice new skills and polish up on old ones. Use some chew toys and brightly colored items that will hook your dogs’ attention. Introducing the fun factor reduces the tension associated with the pressure to grasp a new concept and builds trust and a strong bond. Use games to train your dog since it is easier to learn when he is having fun.
Use positive reinforcement
Immediate consequences for your dog’s behavior is a great way to learn. Good behavior should result in something rewarding such as a treat, belly rub, or playtime with his friends. Consequently, your dog is likely to repeat that behavior more often. If an action causes an unpleasant consequence, such as losing toys or being ignored, he is less likely to indulge in that behavior. Discouraging lousy behavior doesn’t need to involve intimidation or pain. Intimidation and pain inadvertently may translate differently for your dog. He may result in being afraid of you or doing certain things, such as excitedly responding to visitors.
Start with small steps
Just like people, dogs learn faster when a task is broken down into smaller steps. When teaching your dog a new skill, start with an easy step first then gradually increase the difficulty level. For example, when training your dog to stay, ask him to stay for 3 seconds. After some practice, increase the time to about 6 seconds. When he can sit for 6 seconds, up the challenge to 12 minutes to make things more challenging. Systematically training and increasing difficulty helps your dog to gradually learning faster. Be patient and persistent, and your hard work will pay off.
One big mistake people make when training their dogs is to start teaching something new then abandon it suddenly. Dogs are quick on noticing inconsistences in training and taking advantage of them. Stay consistent with your training schedule, commands, and training methods. Even minor alterations in commands such as from “sit” to “sit down” can cause confusion when training. Repetition and familiarization are important when teaching a dog new behavior.
When training your dog, involve most of your family members so that everyone is on the same page. Remember, English isn’t your Labrador’s first language, so two different terms for the same thing could get confusing for him. For example, when your dog starts eating or pulling food off the table and you tell him “stop” but another member of the family says “bad”, he is likely never to learn what you want him to do or not do.
Ensure rewards and consequences are immediate
Dogs live in the present, unlike most of us. They cannot make a connection between events that happened over different durations of time. To help your dog create a connection between something he did with the consequences, they must be immediate. When you want to discourage certain behavior, you have to catch your dog in the act for the lesson to sink in. Likewise, rewards too should be immediate.
Immediately after a good show of behavior, the reward should come right after it. Be prepared with praises, treats, and petting every time your dog portrays a behavior you like.
When stumped, take a few steps back
If when training your dog to try a new skill and he or she stops making progress, opt to take a few steps back. You may have increased the difficulty level of the skill too quickly. Also, when practicing after a long while and your dog seems a little rusty on a skill, you just need to refresh his memory. How do you refresh his memory? Make the skill a little easier and do a few repetitions until he is conversant with it then increase the difficulty level again, but this time slowly.
Let your dog be a dog
There are things that a dog just needs to do. Chewing, roughhousing, and barking are normal behavioral impulses in dogs. Rather than prevent such behaviors, find an acceptable way for your Labrador to express his natural desires. Mental enrichment and physical activity are high supplements to training that provide an outlet for these impulses. Learn tips on how to enrich your dog’s life to complement your training and their natural instincts.
You get what you reinforce
Often than not, we are to blame for the pesky behaviors our dogs portray that we don’t like. Pet owners unintentionally reinforce undesirable behavior without realizing it. If you keep leaving food within the edge of the table, your dog will learn its worth his while to look. Another example is when your dog gets you a toy and barks to prompt you to throw it. You throw the toy. Well, your dog just learned that barking gets you to do his bidding. If he keeps barking when you refuse to throw the toy, and you eventually give in. He learns that persistence pays off. Sooner than later, he will be barking your ear off when he wants something. When faced with such a conundrum, choose to either ask him to do something for you or ignore him.
Proofing is practicing the newly acquired skill sets in situations with different levels of distraction. Without proofing, your dog may be well behaved in your living room but a mess having forgotten all his training when in the park or at a friends’ house. Dogs tend to learn very specifically and don’t necessarily apply their knowledge in every place and situation. The command “sit” in the kitchen may not apply for him in your friends’ living room if not practiced.
Join a support network
Joining a local support club for dog training will give you a better variety in your training. Most training clubs offer a range of training material free or at an affordable rate. You will be able to interact with other dog owners freely and learn from their experiences. Such clubs give room for open consultations, and you will be able to share your struggles and successes. Sharing ideas will open you up to others who share the same struggles as you in training your dog. You will also get to meet certified dog trainers who offer coaching services in dog training. Be sure to ask questions and open to learning from other owners’ experiences.
Never punish your Lab
Do not punish your dog in means that can cause pain or discomfort. It is also advisable not to discipline your dog for something you didn’t see him do. Higher chances are your dog doesn’t remember the incident whatsoever. Simply clean up the mess and forget about it. If you notice your dog doing something they shouldn’t be doing, you can scold them by saying something appropriate like “No.” or “Stop” firmly. Then gently redirect their attention to acceptable behavior.
Dogs do understand a change in your tone of voice and will respond to that better than to punishment. The best “punishment” for misbehaving should be lack of a reward.
If your dog does something correctly, they receive praise or a treat, and if they misbehave, they do not receive a treat nor praise. Remember, you can choose to ignore some behaviors. A dog may bark to get a treat, or go outside if you don’t want to give in, consistently ignore him. This will break the behavior pattern.
Always end training on a positive note
An extra worthwhile tip is to end training sessions on a positive note. It is all right to stop your session early if either you or your dog are frustrated. Just take time to end the lesson on something positive. Even if it’s an easy win, both you and your dog should finish the session feeling good. This way, you’ll both be excited and eager for your next training session.
Training is a continuous process; it will never be entirely over. It is crucial to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your Labrador. Always going through even the most basic commands will keep them fresh in your dog’s mind. For example, when humans learn a new language at a young age but stop speaking it, they tend to forget much of it. Likewise, your dog needs to keep hearing and doing the newly learned skills. It also just happens to be a great way to spend time with your dog.