Training our pets is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Not only will it teach your pet valuable skills and manners, but it will also help strengthen their bond with you.
Training should always be a positive experience. After all, it is the perfect chance for you and your pet to learn, grow and have fun together. Pets should be praised and rewarded for good behaviour – a technique known as positive reinforcement training. It is crucial that you never punish your pet for doing the wrong thing.
If you have just welcomed a new pet into your home, you should start basic training right away. This can help your pet settle into their new home and routine, and establish the house rules.
Basic training is something you can do at home. For information and advice specific to your pet, or if you need help with training, please consult your vet or a professional trainer.
Training your dog or puppy
Training your dog or puppy is a great way to interact with them and enhance the bond between you. Teaching and performing new things can be a great way to give your pooch confidence, make them happy and provide an outlet for some of their energy.
When teaching your dog something new, try to keep it simple and use a step-by-step process taught in a short, fun and focused session. Train in short sessions every day and once your pooch has fully mastered and polished what you want them to learn, you can move on to something new.
All dogs are different, so find what really motivates them to work. This could be their favourite toy or maybe a delicious treat.
Toilet training is one of the first things you will want to teach your dog when they first come home with you.
Toilet training takes time and initial toileting accidents are likely to happen in the house, so please be patient with your dog or puppy. Never get angry or scold if they make a mess in the house, as this may make them frightened to go to the toilet in front of you, leading to some hidden messes in the house.
Take your dog to the appropriate toileting area at the following times:
- After every meal or prolonged chewing on a toy
- After having a drink of water
- Immediately after waking up, even if it has just been a short nap
- If you notice them sniffing out spots in the house
- After play
When your dog or puppy goes to the toilet, give a specific command, such as ‘toilet’. This will help associate the action with a command, which you can then use to get them to do their business. If you catch them in the act of going to the toilet in the house, distract them and take them outside to complete it. If they have already made a mess in the house do not reprimand them for it, but quietly and calmly take them to another area of the house and clean up the mess.
There are commercially available products that can help remove odours from the area and prevent your pooch from returning to the same place to toilet again. Do not use ammonia-based cleaning product, as this will encourage them to use the area.
If, despite training, your dog or puppy continues to have toileting accidents in the house, it is a good idea to speak with your vet in case there are any underlying medical issues.
Mat training teaches your dog or puppy to stay on their mat or bed for some quiet time.
When your dog or puppy’s attention is on you, start by luring them over to their bed with the command “On your mat,” asking them for a drop when they are on the bed and then praising and rewarding the behaviour.
As your dog starts to get the idea that the command means go to your bed, you can gradually add some distance between you and the mat. Send your dog to their mat from a distance and then either throw the treat to them, or walk over and reward them.
Some dogs or puppies don’t enjoy being left alone. If you suspect your pet has separation anxiety, please consult your vet for advice.
An important thing to remember is not to make a fuss whenever you leave or arrive home, as this may make your pet feel anxious. Before you leave the house, put your dog outside for 15 minutes so they can settle while you are still at home. Just before you leave, give them something nice or fun to keep them busy while you are away.
Likewise, when you come home, go about your business for a moment before you greet your pet. For example, pack away the shopping or sit down for a cup of tea, and when you are finished, say hello to your pet.
Training your cat or kitten
When it comes to training pets, we often automatically think of dogs, but cats can be trained too. Using positive, reward based training your feline may surprise you with what they can do!
To train your cat, you will first need to find something that will really motivate them. It could be their favourite treat or a game with their favourite toy. Generally speaking, cats can be independent and much prefer to do things in their own time, so time and persistence on your behalf is crucial in order to see results. Remember, some cats will be more interested in training than others, as each have their own personality.
Start off with the basics and only teach one thing at a time, that way your cat will not get confused by learning different things at once.
Litter training is one of the first things you will want to teach your cat or kitten when they first come home with you. There are simple things you can do to encourage your pet to use a litter tray.
Our top tips for litter training are:
- Provide separate litter boxes for each cat in the household, plus one extra
- Litter boxes should be easily accessible and not noisy (not in laundries or basements, but instead hallways and closets)
- Use large, over sized boxes – bigger than the standard size
- Scoop the box at least once daily
- Clean the box with warm water only
- Do not punish or frighten your cat when they are near their litter box
- Avoid citrus and pine scents, which are aversive to cats. Cats are attracted to fish, cedar and bleach scents.
- Provide your cats with a finely granular sand-like material in their litter box
- Use enzyme acting stain and odour removers for the cleaning of house soiled areas
If your cat continues to avoid their litter tray and goes to the toilet elsewhere in the house, please consult your vet for advice in case there are any underlying medical issues.
Come when called
You may be accustomed to your cat approaching you only to demand food or company, but what about if you can get your cat to come to you with a command?
When your cat is hungry and demanding food, or just before they start, call them to you using their name and a command. For example, “Milly, come!” Open a tin of food, or shake their box of dry biscuits to help get their attention.
Gradually start extending the recall to other situations and before long, and after consistent rewards for coming to you, your cat will begin to come every time you call.