My husband and I recently welcomed Sadie, a springer spaniel, into our home. We adopted her through English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America's Rocky Mountain chapter, who had pulled Sadie from a shelter in Utah. At eight years of age, a person would think her training days are over. But, not so!
Sadie came to us knowing a few basic commands: sit, shake, and (not as much) come. Her “come” command is much better as is her “down” command. According to dog rescuer, trainer, and TV show host Brandon McMillan, a dog should know seven basic commands: sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no.
We are working on all of those. Heel, off, and no are the most difficult for her. Her springer instincts drive her to explore, whether every blade of grass or tree trunk on a walk or the food on the table or kitchen counter. However, she is responding more positively to those instructions each day.
Because she is food motivated, receiving a treat reward for her positive responses to the commands given works with Sadie. In fact, according to a recent study, dogs do respond better to food rewards in training than any other type of motivator, including praise and pets. McMillan uses treats when training the dogs on his show or in private. “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan also touts the benefits of using food during training exercises, and the American Kennel Club stresses the use of small, easy-to-eat tidbits for training.
What About Cats?
Cats can also be trained using treats. You should also use a clicker, a small device that makes a clicking sound. Command, click, treat; command, click, treat. Cats can be taught to walk on a leash, to shake hands, and to come. A woman in Nebraska even taught her cats agility in order to increase their activity level and stimulate them mentally using a clicker and treats.
Celebrity cat behaviorist and trainer Jackson Galaxy encourages cat owners to use protein treats to train their cat(s). He notes you may have to try a variety of types to find one your cat likes.
Training your dog or cat whether that’s basic obedience or fun tricks to provide them with physical activity or mental stimulation is best accomplished through positive reinforcement. Punishment or other negative techniques are not only harmful physically and mentally, but also can damage the bond between you and your pet.
Watch and listen to Brandon McMillan on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgZro-RvMrE
Watch and listen to Jackson Galaxy discuss some tips on training a cat here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJcWoksdlOM
There are many “pet holidays” and “special days” throughout the year; January is no exception. As noted last week, this is Walk Your Dog Month. January is also Train Your Dog Month.
Training our dogs even the basic commands, like sit, stay, come, and heel, is a great idea for several reasons. First and foremost, emphasizing these obedience words helps keep them safe. Daily, dogs in yards and visiting parks run into the street and are hit by cars. Having your dog respond to your voice command to “come” or “stay” helps prevent such tragedy should your beloved furry friend leave your side.
Training doesn’t have to be all about commands, however. Training can also include fun activities, such as agility, field work, and even games of fetch. Training can involve both voice commands and hand signals, and such activity is not only good for your dog’s physical health, but also its mental health as learning engages your dog’s brain.
Dogs aren’t the only animals that can be trained. Believe it or not, cats can also respond to words. “No” and “off” are good to use with cats as well as dogs; some felines are notorious for getting on tables and kitchen counters. I know a woman who uses clicker training with cats, rewarding them with treats for their good responses to her words.
Pet people want to bond with their beloved animals; training helps do that. For our pets, especially dogs, training is like playing games, and engaging your furry friend in games is fun for them. Therefore, they view it as time spent with you, which dogs especially enjoy since they are pack animals.
Take time this month to stimulate your pet mentally and physically with training. You’ll discover not only enjoyment in spending more time with your pet, but you’ll also reap the benefits of knowing your pet is safer by positively responding to commands as well as experience a stronger bond with your special friend.
Learn more about training dogs here:
Learn more about training cats here:
Most of us know that warm, fuzzy feeling of seeing a puppy or kitten at play. Pet lovers all recognize that tug at our heartstrings when we visit a Humane Society or animal shelter and see the many animals looking at us sadly through the cages. We also know the quiver of our lip when we look on the Internet, view the photos, and read the stories of the numerous pets needing new homes, looking to be placed by the hundreds of pet rescue organizations. Many of us, in turn, respond by adopting a pet or two.
There is little else that lifts one’s spirits than to come home from a tough day at work or school and be happily greeted by a four-footed friend. If you are thinking of adding a pet to your home, seriously consider adoption – more than four million animals every year go into shelters and rescues.
October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, a great time to add a furry friend to your household. Here are six tips to help insure you and your new pet will spend many wonderful years together: