Dogs are quick learners, and with your loving guidance, you can nurture your relationship and encourage good behavior by teaching your dog to come, sit, stay, and even use the toilet. Well-trained dogs are less likely to get lost and generally have more comfortable and fulfilling lives than their untrained counterparts.
Young puppies are avid students so you can start training your dog as soon as you bring him home. It’s a myth that puppies must be at least six months old before they can be properly trained – the younger they are, the easier it is to teach them. Think of these as little furry sponges waiting to learn all that you can give them!
Here are lots of tips on the basics of dog training. Contact a professional trainer for more detailed and advanced dog training tips. visit The Coape Association of Pet Behaviorists and Trainers or the Association of dog trainers for more information.
Dog training rules
- Keep the puppy training sessions short and sweet. Young puppies lose focus easily, so it is better to have six five-minute sessions each day than one half-hour session.
- Only exercise when you are in a good mood. Dogs are very sensitive to human emotions, so they can tell if you are stressed or grumpy.
- Always finish dog and puppy training sessions on a high level with an exercise that you know your dog can easily do, so that you will end up with success.
- In the beginning train without distractions. Get the basics in a quiet setting and add distractions later to help your dog get used to a variety of environments.
- Training must always be based on rewards. So use plenty of toys, treats, and cuddles. Negative or punishment techniques are cruel and don’t work. Never use a choke chain as it is very easy to injure your dog’s neck.
- Once your dog gets the hang of it, swap food-based treats for toys or subtract treats from daily food to avoid gaining weight.
What is clicker training?
Clicker training uses a small plastic box (available from pet stores) that fits in the palm of your hand. Press one end with your thumb and there will be a distinct double click sound that you can train your dog to respond to. Here’s how:
- First, equip yourself with a handful of goodies.
- Give them to your dog one at a time, with a short break between each.
- Click at the exact moment they are ingesting the treat.
- Your dog will soon find that one click is a pleasure. So he’ll work hard to earn the click. It becomes a “yes” marker – a way to tell your dog that he did well at that moment.
- Many puppy training classes use a clicker, but the following exercises can be done with or without one.
Now that you have all of the tools and rules for training your dog, you are good to go!
Teach your dog to sit
Sitting on cue is something we all expect from our dogs, but how many of us have spent the time training this cue to be reliable?
It’s never too late to teach your dog to sit.
- When your dog is standing still, hold a treat near his nose.
- Don’t give them too much time to explore the tidbit as you don’t want them to pop open. Hold the treat close to your dog’s nose and slowly move your hand over the head shape.
- When your dog follows your hand and lifts his head, his bum hits the ground. The second that happens, praise your dog and reward them with treats.
- Practice this in really short bursts.
- Now that your dog is used to sitting, you can add the word “sitting” as he moves into the sitting position.
- Now practice this in really short bursts. Remember to say the word “sit” as you move into the position, not before or after.
- If you think your dog associated the word with movement, then you can ask your dog to sit without the lure of any reward.
- If her bum hits the floor, praise and reward her. If it doesn’t, all you need is more practice. So take a step back and give them a little more time.
- As your dog’s response becomes quicker and more reliable, ask him to sit in different environments, with some distractions or a short distance from you.
Teach your dog to lie down
This is another basic dog command. However, be careful not to confuse your dog by saying “down” if you want him to get off the sofa or stop scratching your legs. Instead, use “off” for these times and reward them for obeying you.
- Hold a treat in hand with a little sticking out for your dog to see.
- Show your dog, then place your hand flat on the floor with the treat underneath. Your dog will try everything to get there!
- Eventually, they will lie down. The moment they do, click and give them the reward – and lots of praise!
- Stay tuned and once you learn that your hand means “lie down” on the floor, add the verbal cue “lie down” when you take the action.
- With practice, they’ll lie down on request without the reward.
Teach your dog to come
One of the most important things your dog will ever learn is to teach your dog to come when called (known as a “callback”). The key to success starts early (from six to eight weeks) as young puppies love to follow their owners. By six months, your dog will become more independent and the recall will be more difficult to teach.
- Ask a friend to help you with this exercise.
- Have your friend kneel on the floor and hold the puppy in a sitting position.
- Sit in front of your pet and call them out by saying their name and the word “come” with enthusiasm. You don’t have to go very far to get there.
- Greet them excitedly with open arms. Sometimes having a treat or favorite toy in hand is helpful when you are hesitant at first.
- Try again now, but this time take a few steps further. Call him enthusiastically and they will run to you. Once they do, give you a click, a reward, and lots and lots of praise.
- Practice little and often, gradually increasing the distance between you and your puppy. Make sure to shower them with praise when they come to you.
- As soon as they can come on command, give them a call if they can’t see you. Play hide and seek around the house so you can be tracked down.
- Then go outside to the garden and introduce controlled distractions such as B. when a friend passes by. If you don’t have a garden, borrow a friend – don’t try this stage in public spaces.
- Once your puppy is reliable in an enclosed yard with distractions, it’s time to take the training to the park! Use a retractable leash or long training line to give them a sense of freedom while staying in control.
- Practice a few callbacks. They have to work extra hard to look alluring as there are lots of exciting distractions for them.
- If they shoot in the opposite direction and ignore your calls, don’t chase them – they will think it’s a great game! Instead, run away in the opposite direction. Your puppy will be confused and will end up haunting you. This way they learn to keep an eye on you while you are out in case they accidentally lose you.
- Praise, treats, and rewards are very important in dog and puppy training. So don’t yell or tell them anything if they don’t come or if they finally do as it will only confuse them. You want your pup to associate coming to you with love and praise. So be patient and practice often.
Teach your dog how to stay
Training your dog to “stay” is probably one of the toughest clues – puppies hate being quiet! However, with short, frequent hours of practice, this useful exercise can be mastered.
- Start with the “down-stay”. Ask your dog to go downstairs.
- Say “stay” in a steady tone and reach out your hand in front of you with the palm of the hand facing you.
- Wait a few seconds and then click and reward your dog for staying there. Practice this several times.
- Next, ask them to go downstairs, take a step back, and say, “Stay.”
- After about three seconds, click, step forward, and reward her. Give them lots and lots of praise.
- Gradually increase the length and distance of the “stay”. But don’t do too much too soon!
- If your dog breaks the “stay”, don’t yell at him. You’ll find out soon enough when the click, treatment, and praise don’t happen!
- When your dog has mastered the down-stay, train your dog to stay in the “sit” position and eventually the “stand” position using exactly the same technique.
Teach your dog “no”.
Dog training works by rewarding good behavior and ignoring unwanted reactions – after all, your dog wants your approval. But sometimes you need to show your dog that their behavior is not what you want them to be. Instead of yelling or saying “no” all the time, teach your dog a “no” signal asking him to stop whatever he is doing whenever he hears it.
Teaching and training your dog to learn the no signal can be done with dog training discs (unless your dog is very nervous or is easily afraid of sudden noises). These are five metal disks, a bit like mini-cymbals, linked together on a key chain. You can keep them still, but just the moment you need to say “no” they can be dropped to create a unique sound your dog is unlikely to hear anywhere else.
- To “No!” To teach, get some goodies first. Just as you would teach the dog to associate a click with a treat, now you need to teach him that the sound of the discs means he is not allowed a treat.
- Put a treat on the floor. When your dog eats it, rattle the slices in your hand. Remove the tidbit as you rattle the discs, but don’t say anything – let the sound do the work.
- With a few repetitions, your dog should no longer be surprised by the sound and begin to associate the sound with not receiving a reward. After all, they won’t even try to take the treat, anticipate the sound and give up and look disappointed.
- Now have them take another action, such as: B. a “sit down” and give them a reward. This will make up for your previous disappointment and frustration!
- Soon your dog will be linking their actions that involve the discs as “errors” and will stop trying without you having to use the discs and just saying the word “no” instead.
Teach your dog to abandon him
The discs can also be used to issue an exit command.
- Put something tasty on a table within easy reach of your dog. Tell them to leave it, count to three, and then give it a reward (but not the one to leave).
- When he takes the delicacy, the slices will ring.
- Increase the waiting time in several hours of practice before it is treated.
Teach your dog to “get off”
- If you find your dog on the sofa or bed, say “out” and encourage them to come over to you.
- If they “get out”, feel free to reward them with praise and a “click” and use your basic training to ask them to “sit down” or “lie down” instead. This can then also be rewarded.
- Consistency is important. If a family member ignores the house rules, you’re done!
- If they growl at you for attempting to remove them, back off and seek the help of a qualified behaviorist via your veterinarian’s referral as soon as possible. Do not try to address aggression problems yourself as this can make the situation worse.
Always contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s health as they can recommend individual advice or treatment options. For detailed behavioral advice specifically tailored to your pet, we recommend that you consult a qualified pet behaviorist. For more information on local canine and feline behaviorists practicing in your area and how they offer help, please contact The Coape Association of Pet Behaviorists and Trainers or the Association of dog trainers.