5 Tips to Train Your DogPosted by Sara Scott, Contributor | 01.10.2020
January is National Train Your Dog Month! Whether you’re just starting to train a new puppy or you’re thinking about teaching your old dog some new tricks, we have 5 helpful tips.
1) Consistency is Key
It’s true. Anyone trying to pick up a new skill will tell you it takes time and practice. Dog training is no different. Not only should your training happen on a regular basis, but also the method of training and verbiage used should be as consistent as possible. If there are multiple people in your household you should all be on the same page with training before you ever get started. Everyone should know the rules and enforce them. You should also make sure everyone is using the same words for commands. It will only confuse your pup if one person uses “down” to stop them from jumping while another uses “off.” As for your training sessions, working on one command/action per training session will help your dog from getting confused or overwhelmed. When teaching new skills, work in an environment with as few distractions as possible. Let your dog master skills before you move on to the next set of skills. Once your dog is able to perform a skill consistently, move onto that same skill in other more distractible situations. this is called proofing a skill.
2) Use Positive Reinforcement
Of course reinforcement can include healthy and delicious treats, but you can also use praise and affection or other rewards like walks, games, or car rides. As long as your dog responds positively to the reinforcement, it can be used in training. If you’re using treats, make sure the treats stay special by only using them when training, or for rewarding good behavior; Not as an everyday treat.
Good behaviors that you want to encourage in your dog should always be reinforced, even when you’re not having a training session. When your dog performs a skill, or shows good behavior, quickly respond with their positive reinforcement. Waiting too long could make the dog confused about which action prompted the reinforcement. Another positive way to reinforce your dog is to end your training sessions with more treats, snuggles, or play time. Ending well will show them that working hard pays off.
3) Maintain a Positive Attitude
Dogs are incredibly intuitive and can tell when you are in a bad mood or feeling frustrated. This is why maintaining a positive attitude during training is essential to successfully training your dog. Be happy when your dog comes to you! Even if you didn’t call them, your happiness will reinforce that behavior so your dog will come when called.
Use a low and calm voice when training your dog and while disciplining them. Never yell at your dog, even while disciplining them. You don’t want your dog to only respond when you yell at them.
4) Timing Matters
Pick a time when you and your dog can focus on your training. When you begin training make sure your dog is not hungry or in need of exercise. Training is not exercise and treats are not food.
The same goes for you! Make sure your training sessions are at a convenient time for you without distractions like work, house chores, or dinner prep.
You should spend time training everyday. Short training sessions multiple times per day are the best way to keep your dog engaged and obedient. If your dog starts acting distracted or disobedient it is time to wrap up your training session.
5) Do Your Research
You can find almost anything online these days and methods of dog training are no exception. Do yourself a favor and pick the training style that will work best for you and your dog. If you think a training style will be easy for you, but your dog doesn’t respond well to it, they might be telling you it’s not a good method for them.
You will most likely only need a few core items in the way of equipment, but whatever method you choose for training, you should make sure you have all of the equipment needed before you begin a training regimen. If you’ve been consistently training for a while and things aren’t going well, or you feel like your dogs behaviors are worsening, puppy classes or behavior management classes may be in order.