20 Dog Training Tips

General Dog Training Tips

  1. Concentrate on what your dog is doing right. Professional dog trainers everywhere tell their students to reward their dogs when they do something right. This “positive training” method is in contrast to training that centers on punishment. Trainers recommend that owners praise and reward their dogs with treats and affection for good behavior instead of just scolding them for bad behavior.

  2. Be proactive and keep your dog from behaving badly in the first place. One of the most important tips that a professional dog trainer will tell his or her students is that good behavior is not just the responsibility of the dog. The owner must make every effort to avoid giving the dog the ability to engage in bad behavior while they are still learning the ropes. For example, if you notice that your dog likes to chew, it’s important to make sure that everyone in the home puts their shoes behind closed closet doors to remove temptation.

  3. Stop saying NO! One of the biggest mistakes that people make when training their dogs is saying NO without giving the dog an explanation of some type. Dogs, much like children, will become confused with a simple command of NO! Here’s what you should do instead. If your dog is stealing the cat’s food, tell him NO and then gently guide him to his own food dish. Or, if your dog is chewing on a table leg tell him NO and give him rawhide or another toy on which he can chew. Once your dog begins to actually use the new behavior, reward him with treats, toys and praise.

  4. Learn the difference between boredom and separation anxiety. It is important to determine whether your dog is misbehaving when you leave home because he is bored, or because he is experiencing a case of separation anxiety. Figuring out why your dog is engaging in bad behaviors is usually the quickest way to combat the problem. If boredom seems to be the issue, you can probably keep your dog from destroying your house during alone time by providing him a toy stuffed with treats or something else that will help exercise his mind a little. If separation anxiety is the problem, you will need to learn ways to desensitize your dog to not only your absence, but also your “preparing to leave” routine.

  5. Consider trying clicker training. Clicker training is a relatively new technique in the dog training world and involves the owner using a specific sound to indicate to their dog that a particular behavior is acceptable or desired. The owner will repeat the “click” and then reward their dog for his or her good behavior. The positive feedback will encourage the dog to repeat the good behavior.

  6. Be patient, persistent and consistent. These three behaviors on the part of an owner will develop similar behaviors in a dog. Patience means that you understand that learning new behaviors may take some time and a lot of practice and repetition. Persistence means that you, as the owner, do not give up when training does not seem to be going well. Consistent means that your dog knows what to expect from you. For example, if you always say NO when your dog is misbehaving, they learn to recognize NO as a sign of disapproval. Conversely, if you only give treats for good behavior, your dog will learn to recognize such positive feedback.

  7. Start early. As soon as you get a dog, you should begin training in some capacity. If you are getting a late start, it may take some time to catch up. The key to remember is that training is often nothing more than reversing bad habits and behaviors. If your dog is young, they haven’t had a chance to develop a significant number of these bad behaviors and training will be simple. With an older dog, you really have to unteach everything the dog knows about behavior and start to reteach behaviors that you find acceptable.

  1. Be kind and gentle for best results. An owner who constantly punishes his or her dog for bad behaviors is bound to be a lot less successful than an owner who is gentle and kind, rewarding his or her dog for acceptable behaviors. Consider offering your dog plenty of praise, and be gentle when redirecting his attention from a bad behavior to one that is more acceptable to you.

  2. Have reasonable expectations. For example, if your dog misbehaves at home you are wise to expect that he will misbehave at the dog park or in the yard. Therefore, if your dog is having trouble paying attention to your commands you will want to make sure to keep him on a leash when outside. If your dog jumps on people in the house, expect that he will be rough with other dogs. You can reverse these behaviors through positive training, but you need to realize that bad behaviors will most likely continue regardless of the circumstances until they have been unlearned by your dog.

  3. Always enforce your commands. If you give commands, but do not enforce them, your dog will learn that there is no reason to listen to you. On the other hand, if you back up your commands with reinforcement he will quickly learn that you mean business. For example, if you tell your dog to sit and he ignores you, gently push him into the desired position and praise him. Always praise good behavior as a means of enforcing your commands.

  4. Use the ONE command rule. Only give your dog each command one time. If you want your dog to sit, tell him SIT! If your dog decides to ignore the command the first time, gently place him into the sit position and then praise him. Do this with every command, so that your dog doesn’t think that your commands are optional. Stick to the ONE command rule, and your dog will quickly learn to take your commands seriously.

  5. Clearly define your commands. If you expect your dog to follow commands, then it is imperative that he understands what it is that you want him to do. For example, if you are trying to teach him to sit you will only confuse him if one time you use the command SIT and the next time SIT DOWN. If he’s confused he’ll most likely just ignore you. And this can lead to a vicious cycle. So, pay attention to the commands you are teaching and don’t confuse your dog by being inconsistent.

  6. Teach your dog to read your tone. Tone is just as important as the actual command that you are giving. Therefore, try to always use a consistent tone when issuing a command. Yelling a command will be less effective than just using a firm and authoritative tone. Pick a tone, and stick with it. Your dog will begin to recognize that tone, and respond to what you are telling him more effectively.

  7. Analyze stubbornness. If you find that your dog is stubborn and does not want to listen to your commands, there may be a simple explanation. Look for signs to see whether you are giving commands that your dog understands, whether your dog knows what to do when they hear a certain command and whether the command is creating an uncomfortable feeling in your dog. Most likely, you need to simply repeat training for a specific command and make your dog feel more comfortable through rewards and praise.

  8. Never use your dog’s name in anger. You should try to reprimand your dog without using his name so that there is no negative association with the name itself. When you praise your dog, call him by name so that the dog responds happily when he is called by name. You may find that simply using the dog’s name will get him to come to you eagerly in just a short period of time.

  9. Earn the respect of your dog. If you hit or scream at your dog, he will quickly lose respect for you. And instead of becoming a loving companion, will become reserved and fearful. Therefore, be sure to avoid training when you are in a bad mood and avoid negative reinforcement whenever possible. Staying upbeat will make your dog more willing to do whatever it is that you expect from him and help the two of your form a good relationship.

  10. Never use a training technique that is not natural and comfortable for you. If you are using a technique that does not come naturally, your dog will sense your hesitation as quickly as he will sense fear or anxiety. This can lead to your dog ignoring any commands given and cause frustration for both of you. Therefore, work to find techniques that you understand and feel comfortable with before starting to train your dog.

  11. Consider an obedience training class. There is no shame in asking for help with training your dog. Some people are simply not equipped to train their dog on their own, either due to a lack of patience, inexperience or not enough knowledge. Investigate different obedience training classes in your area and sit in on a few to determine whether or not they might work for you.

  12. Consider a training club. Some kennel associations offer training clubs to their members and the general public. These groups will often allow member access to professional trainers, and the knowledge of other members. Some breeds are more difficult to train than others, and having this type of resource available may be an excellent asset to your own training program.

  13. Learn about your dog’s breed. Different dog breeds may respond better to different methods of training. Dogs of different sizes may also require different types of training. For example, if you have a small terrier who likes to jump it is less dangerous to all involved than if you have a St. Bernard that weighs in at 150 pounds who likes to jump! You will need to concentrate on different areas with different breeds and sizes of dogs, and knowing what to expect is half of the battle.

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