Unless you’re lucky enough to have a naturally well-behaved pet, you will need to provide some level of training. Teaching your furry friends manners and basic commands usually requires work and determination, but training pets doesn’t have to feel like a chore. In fact, teaching your pet good behavior can be enjoyable for you both—you will reap the benefits of owning a polite, confident pet, and you and your companion will no doubt revel in the bonding experience.

Whether you are planning to bring home a new kitten, or you’d like to correct your older dog’s bad habits, you probably need a little help. The following 10 tips from our Walnut Creek Vet Hospital team should get you and your pet off on the right paw. 

#1: Decide on the pet house rules

Before diving in, take some time to consider what you’d like your pet to learn. Is the couch off-limits? Do you want to discourage jumping up on your guests? Is begging at the table a big no-no? Make a list of rules that will constantly remind you to stick to your plan. 

#2: Prepare your home for your pet

Pet-proofing is especially important when bringing home your first new pet, but seasoned owners also can use a refresher. Set your pet up for success by removing temptations, such as shoes, drapes, and other chew- or scratch-worthy items. For safety purposes, stow all medications, magnets, string, glues, and other potentially hazardous products out of paws’ reach. Create a safe retreat, such as a welcoming crate with bedding and toys, so your pet has a space to call their own when they need a break. 

#3: Obtain the necessities for your pet

While determination and consistency are the two most important aspects of pet training, a few essential items may come in handy. For dogs, a light-weight training leash with a slip lead works beautifully, or a clicker or other signaling device can help with the training process. For housetraining, consider disposable elimination pads, tinkle turfs, pet doors, and litter boxes. 

#4: Don’t use retractable leashes on pets

They may seem convenient, but we do not recommend training with a retractable leash. Their bulky handles and thin leads are cumbersome when trying to train a rowdy dog. Once your pooch is fully trained, a retractable leash is fine under certain circumstances, but they are not appropriate for pets who are still learning.  

#5: Stock up on pet rewards

Certain pets are eager to please, while others require a little motivation. Most dogs, as well as some cats, are easier to train when treats are involved. Choose a product with tiny, bite-sized pieces, or simply use pieces of your pet’s dry kibble as rewards. If toys are more your pet’s fancy, choose a few new playthings, and introduce them slowly throughout the training process, giving your furry friend something fun to look forward to. 

#6: Choose a training style for your pet

You can train your pet with hundreds of products, and hundreds of methods. From positive reinforcement, to electronic training, to clicker training, you will have to decide which style best fits your beliefs and lifestyle. For more information on training methods, click here.

#7: Master the basics

No matter which training style you prefer, all dogs should master some basic commands, including “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” Purina provides a simple step-by-step guide for these potentially life-saving skills, along with others such as “leave it,” and “get off.”

#8: Exercise your pet for optimal performance 

A happy, calm pet starts with adequate exercise and stimulation. If your pet hasn’t gotten out their wiggles, they may be less willing to listen or obey. Ensuring that your pet has had the opportunity to play or run off-leash for a period of time each day will set you both up for success. 

#9: Build up your patience for pet training

The road to a well-behaved pet can be long and winding. Some pet breeds are inherently more trainable, including the poodle, Shetland sheepdog, or Siamese cat. Other breeds, such as the beagle or husky, can be more aloof and difficult to train. No matter your pet’s personality, training will take time and effort. Expect hiccups, but keep your eye on the prize—it will be worth it!

#10: Don’t hesitate to call in a veterinary professional

You bought all of the right products, you gathered your patience, and you kept things consistent with your pet, but they still don’t get it. Training your pet won’t always go as planned, and that’s OK—animal trainers wouldn’t exist if that weren’t the case. If you are having difficulty with your pet’s behavior, contact our veterinary team for advice. We can point you to reputable trainers, classes, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, if necessary. 

At Walnut Creek Vet Hospital, we are here for all your pet’s behavior needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information and resources. We look forward to watching your companion’s progress.