By Jessa Paschke, Pet Training Specialist
All pets need guidance. Training helps ensure they stay safe and healthy, and interact well with those around them. In fact, a well-trained dog is often happier and more relaxed! Dogs love structure, and they enjoy learning new skills, working with you, and gaining praise and affection through the process of dog training.
Here are six dog training tips to get you started…
1. Set rules for your dog and stick with them
Is your dog allowed on the bed or furniture? Is part of the yard off limits? Decide on your “house rules” and stick with them. Being inconsistent will confuse your dog and make it harder to make progress with training. BLUEPEARL™ Veterinary Partners has some helpful ideas about good manners for dogs and how to reinforce them.
2. Teach the core four dog training cues
Make sure your dog understands the “come,” “sit,” “stay” and “drop it” cues. These can literally be lifesaving, for example if your dog gets away from her leash near a busy street, or goes to eat something that could be dangerous. Learn more about the principles of teaching and training dogs from VCA Animal Hospitals.
3. Train your dog with small steps, repetition and rewards
To train your dog, you need to show the behavior you want – like coming when called – and reward it. For example, get down on your dog’s level and say “come” while enticing the dog to come towards you with playful gestures or moving slightly away from him. When he gets to you, reward him with praise and a treat. This will teach your dog that great things come from you when he comes when called.
Practice over time, from a greater and greater distance, and at times when your dog is most likely to succeed. Work up to eventually being off-leash in a distracting environment. But, don’t practice outdoors until your dog has mastered this cue and won’t run away. Here are 20 helpful training dos and don’ts from our PEDIGREE® brand.
4. Watch body language during dog training
Dogs use their whole bodies to communicate. Be sure to keep an eye on what yours is trying to tell you. For example, a wagging tail and “smiling,” open mouth is generally a positive sign. Ears back or a tail held low is generally demonstrating concern or unease. Watch your dog and adjust your training to match. Never try to force a training session when your dog is unhappy or uncomfortable. Download “What Is That Dog Trying to Tell Me” for pictures of different dog body language and what it means.
5. Socialization and stimulation are part of dog training
Dogs are social animals. Are you exposing yours to new situations and helping her get comfortable meeting other people and dogs? Are you taking enough regular walks to help her burn off excess energy? This article from the ROYAL CANIN® brand explains why both are important. Be sure to introduce your dog to different situations, people and pets – in a controlled environment and with careful guidance – so she becomes adaptable and will follow cues in any situation.
Remember, it’s “dog time”
Dogs live in the moment. Shortly after they’ve done something, they move on to their next adventure. So, you have to remind and reinforce accordingly. Don’t wait to interrupt an undesirable behavior. Ask for the desired behavior as soon as possible so that your dog learns what you’re looking for right away.
When your dog works hard in a training session and achieves the behavior you’re seeking, be sure to give lots of immediate praise, a treat or a few extra minutes of playtime. (Don’t over-treat, however, since you want your pet to stay at a healthy weight. You can break up treats into small bites to provide several treats in a training session.)
Of course, if you’re having significant issues with your dog’s behavior, be sure to get professional help. Work with a dog trainer to create a tailored plan for your dog’s needs, and talk with your vet to see if behavior issues might relate to an underlying health issue.
Remember: A poorly trained dog is the responsibility of the person, not the dog. As a responsible pet owner, make sure your dog can thrive in any situation. That’s how you can spend the most time, and the best quality time, with your very best friend.