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Well, by now everyone is back in school. Learning is a good thing. So are there things I should or could teach my pet? The answer to that would be yes. Any animal can learn, just like any child, but sometimes we have to find out the best way to teach each animal. A cat will not learn the same way as a dog, just as your friend may not learn the same way you do.

Dogs are social animals, and many are food motivated. So teaching them to do things to please the owner, and with a food reward, is often not too hard. There are some dogs that are not as food motivated, but they may work for more personal time with the owner.

So what types of things should that new puppy learn? If you added a new member to your family over the summer, and your schedule has now changed because of school, be sure to keep the structure in the puppy's routine. A summer schedule can be very different from the fall/winter schedule and it confuses the young dog. He will make mistakes because he does not know what you want. Many dogs find it stressful to be home alone all day after a summer of everyone spending all day with him. To counteract this, you may want to look into some interactive toys. There are food toys available for both dogs and cats. These toys can be filled with treats or food and require the animal to do something (usually roll the toy around) to get the food to come out. This keeps the animal thinking and occupied while you are away, or busy helping with homework at night. For those of you with very inquisitive dogs, there are puzzle games as well. These are not meant to be used without supervision but can be used to stimulate the dog to figure out problems. I have some clients who use them as a special time for their dog. Of course, nothing is better than spending time playing with your dog. Fetch can be used to help your dog learn how to come. And teaching him to give you the toy on command will help if he grabs things he is not supposed to have. You could always play hide and seek with his toys also. This again stimulates him to think and can teach him other commands, such as sit and stay while you hide the toy.

A young puppy needs to learn what he is allowed to do and not allowed to do, manners. A young dog should be handled all over, especially the feet, mouth, and ears. This teaches him that toenail trims, ear cleanings and giving pills are not the end of the world. All dogs should be trained to walk on a leash, even if your dog does not go many places yet, leash manners are important. If a hurricane comes through or there is a family emergency and you have to board the dog, leash walking is necessary.

Now, how about training your cat. Many people think that cats cannot be trained, but they can. Cats are not overly social animals, so they are not motivated to please the owner. And most cats are pretty picky about their food, so you need to find something super tasty to use to train them. And cats do not respond well to punishment, so you must use positive reinforcement. It may take longer than with a dog, but it is possible to teach cats to fetch, use the toilet, sit and wait, or just about anything you can imagine. You just have to be more creative about how to teach something with a cat. And back to that hurricane thing, you might want to teach your cat how to load into a carrier in case you need to leave in a hurry.

Clicker training is a good option for dogs and cats, and other animals, too. The clicker marks the behavior that you want and allows many animals to learn faster because they understand what you want better. If you are interested in this type of training, do your research first. It can be a great way to enhance your relationship with your pet.