Why Your Dog May Need to Go Back to School

This week is seeing children from all over the country in freshly pressed uniforms or carefully selected outfits posing for Facebook pictures while clutching lunchboxes and waiting for that big yellow bus. Yes, back to school time is finally here. But it’s possible your four-legged family members may also need a bit of an educational refresher.

If the lazy days of summer have allowed your dog’s good behavior to fall by the wayside, here are tips from AKC Family Dog Training & Behavior columnist Kathy Santo on how to help him start earning As again.

“Often, a break in training is due to the fact that the training has been breaking down an inch at a time for a while and you hadn’t seen it or done anything about it,” Santo says. “Do you notice when a picture hanging on your wall is a tiny bit crooked, or do you not notice it until it’s hanging off the nail? Dog training is like that.”

So what to do?

Review the Basics

Practice old commands that your dog is familiar with—the basics, like "sit" and "down." Remember to offer praise and treats so that your dog remembers, “Hey, that’s right! Learning is fun!” Once your dog has shown he can master his A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s, it’s time to start getting back to a regular routine.

Make it Fun

Kids complain when their teacher’s lesson plans are repetitive and boring, and dogs likewise don’t appreciate a snoozy training session. Santo recommends writing commands that your dog is less likely to remember or doesn't know yet on index cards and picking a few cards each day to go over with him. If he gets the command right, the card can go in a “discard” pile for next year’s "back to school" time. If he still needs to work on that command, reshuffle the card into the stack.

When all cards have been discarded, that means school’s out for summer! Just remember to give your dog a few homework assignments to keep his skills as sharp as a No. 2 pencil.

Happy learning!

Tip: If your dog already knows all the standard commands, consider training him in a new sport, like agility. Hey, what's one more sporting event to add to the weekly schedule? And your dog will love the extra attention and exercise.

 

The Five Commands Every Dog Should Know

Do you want a well behaved dog but don’t know where to begin? The Basic five commands e-book is a great place to start and will give your dog a strong foundation for future training.