In some ways dogs are just like children. They can be well behaved and great to be around, or they can drive you around the bend with their stubbornness and misbehaviour. It’s important to realise that you can influence how your dog behaves.

From the minute a puppy opens its eyes, it starts to learn new habits and behaviour that can last a whole lifetime. It’s important to begin a proper programme of exercise and discipline, along with plenty of affection, from the moment you bring your new family member home.

An important part of training is socialisation. Socialisation means exposing your dog to as many different things as possible. This includes other dogs, children, birds, beaches and forests. By making your dog comfortable with a variety of different scenarios early on, they will grow to be more relaxed, happier and hopefully be less destructive around these things later on.

If you feel that you need a hand preparing an effective training programme for your dog, New Zealand has lots of different certified professionals and obedience courses available.

These can be a great way of testing your dog in simulated real life scenarios under proper guidance and instruction. Training can help you by improving your dog’s behaviour, such as walking in a controlled manner, food manners, hierarchy in the family and control around other dogs.

Training courses are available for dogs of all ages, and while entry conditions may vary slightly, most certified courses will insist that your dog have current registration and vaccinations.

Puppy training is designed to give your dog the best start in life. Aimed at dogs aged around 12 weeks, these classes begin the important task of socialisation by introducing your dog to new sights, sounds and smells. Puppy training can provide you with great training techniques that will set a strong foundation for your puppy to grow into a well-behaved dog.

Puppy training also offers a range of courses for puppies aged 13 weeks and older. Here, puppies further their socialisation and move on to basic obedience. This includes learning how to ‘heel’ without pulling, sit, lie down, stay, and come when called. These classes generally run over an 8-week period and can be repeated if you feel your puppy needs further training.

Classes for adult dogs (usually 9 months and older) are most commonly aimed at dogs that have had very little obedience training in the past. Similar to puppy training, they focus on laying solid groundwork to build on by teaching basic training and socialisation. After this course, owners can choose to move their dogs on to a more advanced training course or repeat the basic obedience classes if they feel their dogs need further training.

To find a course near you, ask your local pet store, vet, your dog’s breeder, your local branch of the SPCA or contact your local Council’s dog control officer .