If your family is among those who grew by four paws during the pandemic, you might be on the hunt for information about training your new pet. There is a lot of information out there, but not all of it is good. Your team at Animal Family Care Veterinary Center is glad to help you sort through what’s out there and even bring you some of our own expert tips!

Fundamentals of Training Your New Pet

When it comes to training your new pet, there are some basic concepts that are essential for success. 

Our favorite buzz words include:

Positive reinforcement – Positive reinforcement is the foundation of training. It involves rewarding a pet for wanted behaviors. Its opposite is positive punishment, where animals are punished with something like a verbal correction or physical deterrent for something unwanted. Positive reinforcement is known to develop much stronger and reliable responses over time. 

Counterconditioning – This is the process of changing a response over time. Is your dog scared of getting into the bathtub? Using positive reinforcement to create new, good associations is an example of counterconditioning. 

Shaping – This is the process of working towards a wanted behavior slowly. For instance, if you want your pet to bark at the door to go outside, you may start by rewarding them for approaching the door, then gradually make your requirements to receive the reward a little more difficult. 

Puppy and Kitten Pointers

A young puppy or kitten has so much to learn, and often you are starting with a clean slate. Make sure you put the best paw forward by:

  • Discussing rules for your new pet with everyone in the home ahead of time. 
  • Giving your new pet a safe space such as a crate that is their own.
  • Easing the transition from litter to solo life with pheromones, a ticking clock, and a warm, snuggly place to rest.
  • Not encouraging behaviors like nipping or jumping that may be cute when your pet is small, but not so adorable when they are grown.
  • Be sure to take advantage of your pet’s socialization period to help them have positive experiences with different people, sounds, animals, and places.

Teaching an Old Dog (or Cat) New Tricks

An older pet may bring some more specific challenges, but it’s still very possible (and important!) to train your new pet. While there are some differences between an older pet and a puppy or kitten, the same basic rules apply. Consistency and rewards are key. 

An older pet may need a lot more work with counterconditioning and desensitization to already learned stimuli – they have a lot more life experience than a younger pet. 

While it is important for us to meet your puppy or kitten soon after welcoming them into your home, it is even more vital that you bring a new addition who is a bit older in to see our expert staff right away. We want to be sure that we are able to catch any medical issues that may interfere with successful integration into your home. 

Welcoming a furry addition into your home is such an exciting time, and training your new pet is a key component of their care. By understanding the basics, putting in the effort, and asking questions when they arise, you are sure to have many yeas of enjoyment ahead with your new four-legged companion.