Training your dog should be a great experience for both you as the owner and for your dog as well. The problem is that puppies, like small children, can sometimes be frustrating. It is helpful to remember that nearly everything your puppy experiences for the first year or so of its life is the first time it has ever experienced that particular thing.
There are a number of techniques to training your dog, and while many are similar, once you choose a method, it is wise to stick with just one set of commands and techniques to avoid confusing your dog. However, here are some general guidelines that nearly every system agrees with.
The younger you start to work with your puppy, the easier it is for them to catch on to what you are trying to teach them. Puppies brains, like those of human babies, start to develop and learn patterns early. This means things like taking your dog to puppy kindergarten classics to get them acquainted with basic commands is a great idea.
This also offers you the opportunity to socialize your puppy and get them used to obeying commands from other people and not just you. They will also learn the proper way to interact with other dogs, which enables you to have playdates with other pet owners without fear and go to places like dog parks and other group training classes.
Remember, the real test of dog obedience is if they will still follow commands when distracted. This type of training should continue throughout your dog’s lifetime.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement than they do to being swatted on the nose with a newspaper. This means training must involve some key things. The most important is that your dog focuses on you or whoever is giving them commands. Their attention is the key to obedience.
When a dog focuses on you, they also feel much more secure. You can get their attention in a number of ways, from using a squeaker from a toy to a whistle or even just using the sound of your voice. Once you get your puppy’s attention, the key is to keep it no matter what else is going on around you. Your dog needs to understand that you will direct their attention to where it needs to be.
Most puppies really crave your attention, so when they do something right, offer them praise or a high-value treat, a toy or biscuit they really like. Eventually, they will do the right thing even without a reward.
With few exceptions, if the dog does something wrong, don’t acknowledge it or give them attention at all. The exception is if your dog is putting themselves, others, or you in danger. Then a harsh “No!” usually works to get their attention.
The more positive you can keep the training experience, the more likely your dog will respond to you in a positive way when you want them to do something. Positive reinforcement is common to all of the best training methods.
Determine the Right Reward
Every dog is different, and some are very toy oriented, others love treats, and still others simply love a pat on the head, petting, or a scratch behind the ears. Part of the training process involves you, the owner, getting to know what motivates your dog the most, and how you can best reward their good behavior.
Usually, puppies are very food motivated. This is why treats and biscuits work well. The key is that you don’t want to use “treats” that aren’t good for them. It’s like using dessert as a reward for your children. Use high quality, single-ingredient treats that are nutritious, and don’t overuse them. Get small treats or break them into small portions so your puppy is not getting full from them and doesn’t overeat.
In fact, for some puppies, pieces of their regular kibble between meal times will serve as enough of a treat to motivate them.
Be Patient and Start Slowly
Just like a young child, your dog can only take in so much at once without getting confused. You will quickly learn what your dog can handle, but for most of them working on one thing for any longer than fifteen minutes is too much. The same goes for introducing too many commands.
This means you as the owner must be patient. Work on a few basic commands before moving on to more advanced ones. When working on potty training, be consistent and try not to get upset when accidents happen.
Try to avoid being frustrated. Your dog will sense your stress and adopt it as their own. If you find yourself losing patience, stop the training session and pick it up again another time later in the day or even the next. You have a lifetime to teach your puppy. Be sure they are happy and that both f you enjoy the training experience and the time you spend together.
The Importance of Routine
One of the most important dog training techniques is to establish a routine. This routine will vary from family to family and situation to situation. Whether that routine means getting up early to let the dog out or take them for a walk so they can go potty to feeding them at the same time or in the same place on any given day, stick with what you establish.
For some dogs, this will mean spending long periods of time in a kennel or dog run during the day while your family is gone. When a dog is new to your family, try to have someone check in on them from time to time, or better yet do it yourself. It will give your new dog time to adjust to your routine.
Overcoming Dog Training Problems
No matter how good your dog is, or how expert you are at training, you and your dog will have issues from time to time. These issues will vary from dog to dog too, including excessive barking, jumping, food aggression, issues greeting new people or dogs, and potty training issues.
If you find yourself in this situation, call in a pro for an in-home private lesson. Often this one session will teach you how to better deal with your dog and will help your puppy understand what they should be doing.
If you continue to have issues, you might want to have more extensive lessons, change your dog’s environment, change their food, or even have a vet checkup. Often pain or hidden health issues can cause your dog to act out.
Dog trainers all have different ideas and techniques. But they all agree on some basic principles. Positive training has become the norm. You must determine what rewards work best for your dog, and you must be patient in your training sessions. Developing a routine is the key to success. When it comes time to overcome problems, often professional help is useful, even if that is just to get another viewpoint and opinion.
But most important is that you offer your dog some training and that you do it together. You’re going to be best friends for a long time, and a well-behaved dog is a true asset to anyone.