The Master Becomes the Student: Tips for Training Your Pet

I adore dogs and cats, but much like kids, I adore them so much more when they’re well-behaved. That’s why I’d rather adopt an older pet that’s set in its ways, chill, and, most importantly, trained. Maybe you’d rather take the opposite route and adopt a rambunctious puppy or kitten full of lessons to be learned and midnight mishaps! If so, make pet ownership easier and learn a few training basics.

Potty Training 

Undoubtedly true, dogs love to please. But another reason to teach them basic commands is to help socialize them and help them understand the type of behavior you expect from them. Potty training is one of the most important, so let’s start there.

Crate training is a great place to start. Dogs are den animals, which means they have a natural inclination to seek out an enclosed space for comfort; you aren’t punishing them by putting them into a crate. When your pup does start whining and clawing at the crate, that means it probably has to go. Take your canine companion outside immediately to avoid accidents.

With puppies, you’ve got to keep a close eye on them to recognize their rhythms. Some pee whenever they play or get excited, others can hold it for a while. Getting to know your pet means recognizing when it needs to excuse itself to go to the bathroom. If you like, you can also train your dog to ring a bell when it needs to handle its business.

Other Basic Commands

Moving on to the fun stuff, teach your dog to sit by kneeling in front of it with a treat held up in your hand. Say, “sit,” and when your pooch reaches up for the treat, put your hand on its rump and gently push down until it’s sittin’ pretty. Repeat the sit command. Give ample praise and treats when your pooch obeys.

To help with leash training, teach your dog to heel. With your dog wearing a collar and leash, have it sit. Hold a clicker or squeaky toy in your right hand above your dog’s head and the leash in your left hand. Start walking and say, “heel,” using the toy or clicker to hold your pup’s attention. Stop walking if your dog either gets ahead of you or becomes distracted. Award your dog for paying attention with a treat or toy. Begin walking again after your dog gives you at least 30 seconds of attention. Increase the amount of time before giving a treat or toy.

Cat “Commands”

Depending on a cat’s temperament, you may manage to train it to recognize a few … requests. Much like with a dog, use a clicker and treats to reinforce desired behavior. One of the main reasons to teach your cat a basic skill like “come” is in case it darts outside. Sound the clicker before opening a bag or a can of food. That way, your cat associates the sound with food or treats. It’s best to teach your cat how to come even when it’s not its regular feeding time. Gradually increase the distance you call your cat from and get into a twice-daily practice of teaching your cat to come on command.

If you let your cat outside to use the bathroom like you would a dog, there’s a good chance your feline companion won’t even bother chucking a deuce before splitting. Rather than let your cat use a litter box, you can train it to use the toilet. Doing so can save you money on the cost of litter and make for a fresher-smelling home. Position the litter box next to the toilet. Over time, place the litter box on top of the toilet seat (you may need to put a stool next to the toilet to make reaching the litter box easier). Next, buy a litter box made specifically for the toilet, making sure you fill it with flushable litter. Over time, use less litter until your cat is used to going without it. Finally, remove the litter box entirely.

Training any pet can be a massive investment of time and energy, but it can also serve as a great bonding experience. Tuck these tips in your training toolkit to forge a satisfying relationship between you and your four-legged family member.