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The Chew: Back to School, For Your Dog

The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

By Rae Patterson, Writer and Animal Enthusiast

August is “Back-to-School” month, and it may be time for your dog to do some learning as well. We all know dogs are clever animals, but did you know that according to Dr. Stanley Coren, an expert in canine intelligence, the average dog can understand about 165 words, possibly more with training?

Dogs are amazing creatures, and any dog can learn at least 20 basic commands that will help you and your dog communicate on a daily basis. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, training is always an option.

With puppies, it’s important to start training early. Usually at around 7-8 weeks old, puppies can begin to learn simple commands like “sit” and “down.” Formal training typically begins around 6 months, but according to VCA Hospital, you don’t want to wait until your puppy is 6 months old to start basic training at home: “The dog is learning from every experience and delaying training means missed opportunities for the dog to learn how you would like him to behave. During the juvenile stage, the dog is beginning to solidify adult behavioral patterns and progresses through fear periods.”

It’s worth it to work with your puppy while they’re in this developmental stage. Just 15 minutes a day, broken into short sessions, will make a huge difference. You can get help from a professional trainer, consult the internet or your local pet store for tips on a training plan. Puppyhood is also the best time to teach your dog how to behave well during walks. It’s a fairly easy task to teach your puppy, but a very difficult behavior to change for an older dog who has learned that it is acceptable to drag you around!

If your new dog is already an adult, don’t worry, it’s not too late for them to learn. Adult dogs can concentrate better than puppies and are just as eager to please. Often behavioral adjustments are as simple as getting settled into the new environment, learning the new routine, and understanding the expectations of the new family.

According to a 2016 study by the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Vienna in their “Clever Dog Lab,” older dogs may take a little longer to learn new things than puppies do, but even senior dogs are able to learn the same amount and level of material. Patience and dedication will yield the same results with your adult dog!

Many of your problems likely stem from your dog’s simple lack of knowledge. Your dog may hear No more often than clear commands. Starting fresh with a new training plan and with a goal of helping your dog learn the desired behaviors is the best way to go. says that “good potty habits, obeying basic obedience commands, and having nice manners are the most important things to work on at first,” and they have some great tips for getting started. If you’d like some in-person help with an older dog, don’t be afraid to join an obedience class. Even if there is a primary problem behavior at home, an obedience class will help re-establish fundamental communication with your dog and will be a fresh bonding experience.

Bark + Boarding would love to work with you on socializing your dog of any age. The best way for us to give you the best recommendation would be to schedule an evaluation for your pup.  During our evaluation process, your dog spends the whole day with us so we get the opportunity to get to know them best and point you in the right direction.

From basic socialization at the park, routine visits in a controlled social environment to a group training class or even one-to-one with a professional trainer.  We can help get you and your dog on track with a realistic plan.  Mention this article for a FREE evaluation and click here to sign up for one today!

If you have a question about your pet’s behavior, feel free to email [email protected]. If you and your pet are featured in an article, you will receive $10 off any of our services!  For more information check out

*Free evaluations through September 30, 2017.

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