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It’s a new year — a time when so many of us make resolutions only to modify or forget them completely within a day or two. This year, I would like to ask you to make a resolution that you will stay true to and fulfill not just for the next 12 months, but always: Train your dog!

This does not mean taking one obedience class and displaying the diploma, nor does it mean imposing your will on your dog and breaking him/her into habit. Rather, effective training involves using positive motivation and reinforcement to take your relationship to the next level. Remember, if you do not train them, you cannot blame them!

It is simple to make training part of your daily life and the results can make an amazing difference.

To get started, just follow these guidelines:

Exercise your dog. Dogs need to be walked daily. After all, a tired dog equals a happy dog and a happy owner!  This is not optional for young dogs. Also, remember that this is the dog’s walk, not yours. Stay tuned into them, not your earbuds. Most breeds need a minimum of a one-hour walk per day. If you are unable to do this yourself, it is worth hiring a professional to get the “zoomies” out of your furry friend.

Be consistent. Dogs will follow the rules if you reward them for the right behaviors and redirect the bad behaviors. If you do not like a behavior, do not simply try to extinguish it; instead, give the dog an alternate preferred behavior to practice in its place. Rather than shouting at your dog for using the table leg to chew out his/her frustration, for example, give your dog an appropriate chew item, such as a frozen Kong or Nylabone, and praise him/her for chewing it quietly.

Give direction clearly. Your dog does not always understand you but is trying desperately to learn your foreign language. He/she needs some examples of what you want as well as acknowledgment for pleasing you. Often, we are quick to correct and forget to tell the dog when he/she is doing well. I notice this most when people are walking their dogs. The dog will look up to the human when he/she sees something concerning, but the human is not paying attention. Remember to watch for your dog to look up at you when walking and thank him/her for checking in.

Learn together. Take a class with your dog and learn something new! Just like humans, your dog can learn new behaviors and skills throughout his/her life. As training changes, it is becoming more about relationship and teamwork than control and domination. For puppies, I suggest starting classes at eight or nine weeks old in order to take advantage of the socialization window that takes place between eight and 16 weeks of age. As your dog enters his/her teenage years, it will be time to join a more advanced obedience class so he/she can learn self-control and manners as well as basic commands.

Remember your dog daily this year and make them a conscious part of your life. You will be blessed by your dog in return!

Written By Cathy Mayer, CPDT-KA

Cathy Mayer is a certified professional dog trainer and owner of Take The Lead Canine Training in Encinitas. Learn more at