Parents are often thrilled when their child walks or talks at an early age – it’s natural for us to want to think of our children as quick learners or clever. It seems that dog owners also like to think their pet as smart, they enjoy being able to show off clever tricks and a well behaved four-legged friend.
There’s no doubt dogs are smart animals, after all, they can herd sheep and cattle, sniff out drugs, hunt down criminals, assist people with disabilities and master a host of other helpful activities. The truth is ‘smartness’ in dogs is subjective and influenced by many factors such as breed and training.
Many dog breeds have been developed over centuries resulting dogs with an aptitude for specific purposes, such a herding livestock. The character traits that make them good for a particular job can also make them highly trainable and quick learners, helping them to appear very intelligent.
The reality is that ‘smart’ often simply reflects ‘training’. If you want to have a clever canine you need to invest time training and communicating with your dog. Following are five top tips to make your dog smarter –
1. Early Training
Commencing training from a young age is more likely to achieve results, in fact research suggests that puppies taught to fetch from a young age will be more enthusiastic retrievers than those taught adults. So it’s a good idea to start training your puppy early and keep it up. That said, contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks, so if you have an older dog it’s still worth investing time in training, although training is easier and more effective in younger dogs
2. Word Association and Rewards
It’s possible for dogs to understand a range of vocabulary similar to that of a two year old child. To achieve this you need to communicate with your dog. Teach your dog to associate your words with behaviours, activities and items by using rewards and positive reinforcement. It’s no coincidence so many dogs understand words like ‘walk’, ‘park’ and ‘dinner’; when they hear those words they are rewarded with a fun outing or food. Remember your dog will constantly pick up on words and signals – you can use this to your advantage and increase the effect with rewards.
3. Use Hand Signals
Most dogs love visual cues, in fact, dogs are one of the few animals that understand a human pointing gesture. They seem to have adapted to have an innate comprehension of human visual communication. So be sure to back up your voice commands with hand signals to help your dog respond quickly and enthusiastically.
4. Trick Training
Nothing says smart like a dog that can do tricks. Your friends will be delighted and entertained when your dog rolls over and ‘speaks’ on command. Better still, trick training helps build your relationship with your dog. Most dogs enjoy having a job to do and they love to please. Trick training is fun and rewarding for both dogs and owners.
5. Five Minutes of Training Every Day
Short bursts of regular training can give great results. It’s ok for training can be brief and spontaneous, as long as it’s regular. Spend a few moments training your dog before you give them their dinner so you really get their attention when they’re keen to learn.
Just like humans, a dog’s intelligence can be enhanced through education and training. Children attend school to learn and the more time you spend time schooling your dog, the more they’ll learn and the smarter and better behaved they’ll be. Well trained dogs are smarter, better behaved and more fun.
To inspire more owners to train their dogs and experience a happy lifelong relationship with their animal companions TV veterinarian, Dr Katrina Warren, has created Wonderdog School, where puppy and dog owners can complete a four week interactive online training program to become confident, knowledgeable dog owners with social, well behaved, happy dogs.
For more information visit our Wonderdog School