How Important is Dog Training?

Ask the Expert
 brown and white dog putting learning to sit and being rewarded with a treat
Training a dog to sit and rewarding with a treat at Henry and Lois Foster Hospital's Behavior Service. Photo: Jeff Poole, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Ask the Expert: How Important is Dog Training?
According to the 2023-2024 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 65 million U.S. households own a dog. Training provides many benefits to both the owner and the pet. Below, a certified professional dog trainer from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University outlines the importance of training.  

Helps with the human-animal bond
Positive reinforcement-based training is fun for the learner and the human.

Teach a dog what you want them to know in the future
A puppy jumping on people is cute; that same dog jumping as an adult is not usually appreciated.

Dogs are more likely to respond to an owner’s cues if there has been a high rate of reinforcement (reward) previously
Calling a dog to “come” after they slipped out of the house is more likely to be successful if the person has practiced in different situations by praising and rewarding the dog for coming.

Punishing a dog will not teach them what you want them to do
Instead, give the dog alternative behaviors like sitting for attention rather than jumping.

Socialization happens during the early weeks of a dog’s life
Focusing on beneficial exposures rather than frequent exposures is best. For example, use treats to pair with seemingly scary, unfamiliar people like those in hats, with walkers, or with beards. Alternatively, when dogs feel overwhelmed, allowing them to choose to walk away supports them to make good decisions in the future.

Sandra Robbins, CVT VTS, CPDT-KSA, KPA-CTP is a veterinary technician and trainer in the Behavior Service at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals.