Obedience and Training
After you bring your pet home, it is important to implement the rules of the house right away. Introducing your pet to obedience training can strengthen the bond between owner and pet and provides a level of expectation for your pet. One of the most important training regimens to begin is “potty-training”, so pets have an understanding of where they should relieve themselves. Both male and female animals urinate to mark their territory, so bathroom training is essential. Remember that when training, you have to be consistent with training regimens, and communicate in a way that your pet understands.
What pets can be trained?
Nearly any pet can be trained when given enough attention, patience, and time. Some trainable pets include:
Set up house rules early on
Do you want pets to remain off furniture, or are they allowed free range? Or perhaps, you will allow them on your bed but not on couches. Whatever your preferences are, start enforcing these rules immediately. Again, the earlier you start conditioning your pet, the easier it will be for them to pick up good habits. When you have an area where pets cannot be on furniture, keep a comfortable bed or blankets for them to relax on; having their own cozy area will deter them from wanting yours. The same rules apply for outdoor pets. For example, if you do not want your pet climbing on your embankment, implement the rule immediately and provide them an area in which they are allowed.
Litter box training
Litter box training a cat is one of the simplest things to teach a pet. Once you show your cat where the box is, gently scrape its paw in the litter, informing the cat that they are allowed to dig; this will peak their interest, as they prefer to bury their waste. Start by limiting your cat to the litter box area, closing off other rooms of the home. After your cat begins to use it faithfully, gradually give the cat more space away from the litter box. If your cat has an accident outside of the box, check to make sure the box is clean. Cats are very meticulous and prefer clean spaces; if the litter box is too dirty, your cat may start relieving themselves just outside of it.
If any pet has an accident inside, be sure to use an enzyme-based cleaner not a cleaner that contains ammonia. In time, the ammonia will mimic the smell of urine which will encourage your pet to continue eliminating in that same spot.
Crate training is the easiest way to train a dog to eliminate outside, because it doesn’t allow them room to go inside. A proper-sized crate is just big enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lay down. With little extra room, the dog will be discouraged to eliminate within. Immediately after letting the pet out of their crate, take them outside to use the restroom, offering praise after they go. With persistent, continual training, the dog will eventually only go outside.
Professional obedience training
If your pet is stubborn or difficult to train, or you want them to learn impressive tricks, a professional obedience trainer may be a good idea. Puppies can start as young as 8 weeks old, whereas horses wait until they are at least 2 years old.
Most professional trainers use a system of operant conditioning with positive and negative reinforcers. Because animals respond well to this sort of consistent training, they are capable of understanding what is expected of them, what is deemed “good” behavior, and which behaviors are unacceptable. Reinforcers (positive or negative) are gestures following a behavior with the intention of encouraging the behavior.
Positive reinforcers: positive gestures, such as being given a treat, or loud verbal praise; it is a reward given when the correct behavior is performed with the intent of strengthening the good behavior.
Negative reinforcers: the removal of an unpleasant gesture after a display of good behavior. By removing an unpleasant act when the correct behavior is performed, pets learn that bad behavior gets an unlikeable stimulus which will be removed only when they behave well.
Some professional pet trainers believe in only using positive reinforcers, others use different methods entirely. Be sure to search for a trainer that meets your needs, standards, and anticipated level of expertise.