There are few joys in life like owning a dog. However, that joy can soon turn on its head if you aren’t able to train your dog well. Dog training dog isn’t just about party tricks and being Alpha in the household though, as it’s actually an essential part of keeping your dog safe.
Dogs are naturally inquisitive beings and are known for happily running headlong into danger, without the appropriate guidance. Thus, your dog obedience training should come first and foremost – and we aren’t talking about the dog themselves. After all, there’s no such thing as an untrained dog, just an untrained human master.
Make Training Fun
Obedience training sounds a lot stricter than training really ought to be, as your dog obedience will mostly stem from positive associations. As their leader and Alpha of the pack, your dog will follow your every move and their reactions are based entirely on your mannerisms.
While it can be a little frustrating when you first start your dog training, try to remain positive and stay upbeat. Your dog will pick up on any negative feelings and this, in turn, can cause them to try and stay away when it comes to training time. Instead, bring lots of dog toys and be the most interesting thing in the world! You’ll soon find your dog responding to your commands in no time.
Have Lots Of Treats
Most dogs are extremely food-oriented and will happily work with you, as long as they can get a tasty treat. In the same way that Pavlov’s dogs ended up drooling when they heard their bell, you’ll quickly find that a rattle of the treat tin will bring your dog close by and ready to train.
You’ll be using a lot of these as you work on your dog obedience training, so do check that your treats are suitable for canine consumption. Use smaller, puppy treats that are packed with goodness, so you don’t feel bad about overfeeding your dog – and don’t forget to praise them as you go along.
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Practice, Practice, Practice
It can get a little dull saying the same phrase over and over – especially if you think your dog just isn’t “getting it”. However, we can promise you that, if you keep following these tips and allow plenty of time for practice, you’ll definitely get there.
If you find yourself (or your dog) getting bored, then feel free to switch it up and try some new games. “Find it” and “Fetch” are excellent ways to increase your dog’s listening skills and you can encourage lots of commands as they naturally “come” and “drop it” for you during these games.
It’s really important that everyone who is involved in your dog’s life be on the same page. If one person says “Give” and another says “Drop it”, your dog will become confused. After all, those are two separate commands they’re being given, so nobody can blame them for not doing either.
Get together with everyone who will be taking part in training and agree on the same words – and stick to them. Choose whether your dog will be told to “get down” or “off” when they’re jumping up, for example and consistently use these commands throughout their training.
Whether you have a young puppy or an old dog, training can take time – but it can also be an excellent bonding opportunity between you and your dog. While dogs can be known for their short attention span, a little guidance and a lot of love will usually bring them back into focus.
Never, ever lose your temper with your dog. Getting angry will just make your canine companion get scared and end up fearing you. While this should be reason enough to not shout at your pup, it’s also important for their safety and wellbeing. If your dog fears you, they’re more likely to bolt instead of return to you when you call – and for good reason. Would you want to be around someone who makes you feel bad all day?
Similar to being consistent, clarity is key with your dog. Keep your training clear and concise to get the best results. Use simple words that are easy to pick up when in busy areas (as it’s likely that, one day, you’ll need your commands when there’s a lot of background noise) and keep your voice loud but positive in tone.
Keep your routines similar, for example if you’re learning “sit”, you’ll give your command, then the treat as they set their back down, quickly followed by “good boy/girl” and perhaps use a clicker. It may seem a little obvious, but it can be easy to switch this up and do the last part of the routine in the middle – which is telling your pup that the command has finished and to carry on as they were, before you’re ready.
Training is a lot of hard work for both you and your dog. Make it easier on yourself by avoiding any distractions while you’re working on your training – especially at the beginning. As mentioned earlier, you need to be the most interesting thing going on in the area, so avoid parks with lots of dogs or noise which can easily distract your pup.
We recommend starting in a quiet, comfortable area. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing a little training at home, before moving into the yard and then choosing a quiet park during a quiet time of day. The more comfortable you get and more confident you become with your dog’s obedience, the braver you can become with your training.
Go With Their Flow
Training is a lot of hard work – your dog is biologically designed to want to please you (they actually release the feel-good hormone serotonin when you praise them) and they will work tirelessly to do so. But that doesn’t mean that you should make them work so hard. Both puppies and adult dogs will use up lots of energy and brain power during their training, so they’ll get tired very quickly.
Pay attention to the signs your dog will show, when they start to become tired. Lying down, refusing to pass you their toy, going to their bed, sighing and panting can all be signs that they’re overdoing it, although your own dog will have their own way of telling you when enough is enough. When this happens, give them lots of praise and a break – you can always come back to their dog training later.
Work On The Basics First
While it can be tempted to jump into “roll over” and similar commands when you first start training your dog, jumping in at the deep end is not recommended. A big factor in dog training is to build up the trust and fun you can have together. But, if your dog hasn’t mastered their “down” command yet, it’s unlikely they’ll understand you and your body language enough to start rolling when you ask.
The biggest commands you’ll need to cover before jumping in with more complex options are “sit”, “down”, “come”, “stay” and “leave”. The last three in particular can be vital to their safety – bringing them back if another dog or aggressive animal walks nearby and quickly needing to place them on their lead, for example. So work with these before delving in to others.
Give Plenty Of Reinforcement
This may be a little obvious at this point but receiving plenty of positive reinforcement is absolutely essential to dog training. Treats and toys are a great way of encouraging positive behavior and are also a great way of keeping yourself interesting to your puppy – especially if you’re moving on to more distracting areas. However, it’s not just playtime and food that makes your dog happy.
Your dog will respond to your body language and tone of voice, so you can use all the treats in the world, but an angry owner is unlikely to get a good response from a puppy. Instead, keep your voice light and soft – and feel free to get extra excited when your dog does a really good job of obeying your commands.
Your body language is also key, and dogs will quickly associate movements with commands. For example, lifting your hand up with the treat when telling your dog to “sit” will cause them to naturally place their rear end down to better look at the food you have. Use this to encourage natural movements from your dog and quickly associate that movement with positive reinforcement.
Similarly, you can open up your arms and shout “come” in a happy voice, which will naturally encourage your dog to return to you. Eventually, your dog may not be able to hear you in a busy area, but they’ll see the movements you make and know what they need to do.