New Year, new puppy: January is training month

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Each year, I write about the holidays being the time of year in which many families purchase or adopt dogs. It is a difficult time to establish routine, since these new family members have been added during the holiday break.

Families can generally spend plenty of time with the new dog, but the routine during this season is not the normal one and the return to a regular routine can be difficult.

As a private dog trainer and behavioral consultant, January is often my busiest time.

The coming quieter times gives owners a chance to embark on training necessary to teach the dog how to become an acceptable pet and acclimate to an everyday routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and do not like change.

For those with new puppies, the most important things to do within their first months are potty training, eliminating nipping and biting, redirecting chewing to positive items, good manners (including not jumping), introduction to their world, proper greetings with children and adults, and socialization with dogs.

A pup trains easily with treats, toys, play, praise and touch rewards. Leadership skills demonstrated by the owner are critical so the puppy learns to respect as well as love you.

For the human, knowing what to do and what NOT do, so that mixed signals are not sent to your dog, might make the difference between a healthy relationship and one that is fraught with difficulties. Most owners have had dogs before, but somehow memories of puppyhood are very short, and we don't remember doing all this work.

Basic obedience should begin early and include Sit, Stay, Come (the most important safety command), Down, Leave it, leash walking and more. These, and solving behavioral issues, need to be incorporated into your earliest training plan with puppies and older dogs.

Adopted dogs, whether adolescent or older, might need dedicated attention since you might not know their history.

Making a plan on how to introduce the dog to his new life will help not only the dog adjust but your family as well. Don't be surprised if your new older dog is not quite what you expected. Be patient!

Lifestyle and family type play an important role. Are you home during the day? Do you have young children? How much time can you devote to the dog? How long will the dog be alone?

Do you have other pets? Are you expecting a baby? Will your dog be exposed to men, women and children? If the dog is a rescue, are you aware of any history? Are you prepared to be patient with any behavioral issues?

Personally, I look forward to January. Meeting new people and dogs that will become part of my life, as I become part of theirs, is extremely rewarding as it is challenging. Giving a family confidence that their new dog will indeed become the dog they want, with work and patience, is the best reward.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. alphadogtrainingacademy@gmail.com

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