By Juliette Nash
Community Training Coordinator, San Diego Humane Society
Whether you’ve just adopted a puppy during the pandemic or you’re a longtime pet owner, positive reinforcement-based behavioral training is key to a happy, healthy human-animal relationship, especially while everyone is spending more time at home. But with most traditional in-person training classes on hold in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you may feel your options are limited. That is not the case, though — and trainers at San Diego Humane Society (SDHS) have moved many of their training classes online. They have found online training classes, conducted via Zoom or other video chat platforms, can bring tremendous results to pets and families alike.
The Importance of Training Your Pet
Training, when done right, is about more than just preventing accidents in the house or keeping your pet from chewing on the furniture. Positive reinforcement training, which focuses on rewarding good behavior with toys, treats and positive attention while ignoring undesirable behaviors, has many benefits. These include better communication, mental stimulation for your pet, and involving everyone in the house, all of which strengthens your bond with your furry friend, leading to better behavior. Plus, it’s just more fun for everyone!
Multiple scientific studies over the past two decades have demonstrated that dogs trained using positive reinforcement methods show higher levels of obedience; are less likely to show aggression or fear; learn new skills more quickly; and are more interactive with their owners. Positive reinforcement training isn’t just good for dogs, either — you can even use the same methods to train cats in behaviors like using a scratching post, using the litter box, walking on a leash or even doing tricks!
Getting Started with Virtual Training Classes
If the pandemic has brought a new animal companion into your life, it’s important to start training right away. Don’t worry if you can’t attend a traditional, in-person training class. All-online virtual training classes, whether in small groups or one-on-one, are an excellent way to train your dog or cat right at home in their usual environment, with fewer distractions — and they’re incredibly affordable.
January is National Dog Training Month, which makes now the perfect time to take advantage of the many free and low-cost training resources available through SDHS. The certified Behavior & Training Team at SDHS offers more than 50 different classes year-round, and most are currently available online. In addition to basic behaviors, addressed in classes like our popular Marvelous Manners course, SDHS offers specialty classes that address different aspects of high arousal behavior in dogs (Shy Dog, Fabulous Focus for Impulse Control, Reactive Rover and Feisty Fido), enrichment-based classes such as nose work and living room friendly dog sports — and of course, several classes for cats! If there has been a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been an increase in shelter pet fosters and adoptions, or more time at home with their pets for many people now working remotely. Training classes, whether in basic obedience or fun new tricks, will make this uncertain time something memorable for everyone. They can also resolve many behavioral challenges that may be straining your life at home.
San Diego Humane Society is here as a resource for all pet families in San Diego County that need help. All animals are trainable, and believe it or not, they all learn in the same way! As we approach the new year, consider a virtual training class to build an unbreakable bond between you and your pet for years to come.
Juliette Nash, MS, is the Community Training Coordinator for San Diego Humane Society.
Juliette helps the SDHS community address their behavior and training concerns through organizing, developing, and curating content for our extensive range of training classes for dogs and cats, community outreach projects, and responding to inquiries to our behavioral helplines. Juliette holds a master’s degree from the University of San Diego in Marine Science and has spent more than a decade researching the social and vocal learning behaviors of killer whales. Juliette grew up training a wide variety of animals and has been professionally training dogs for the past 10 years. When she’s not at work, Juliette is being trained regularly by her three cats: Kitty (15) Ginny (4) and Poe (2).