Whether you’re adding a puppy to the family or working on obedience with an older dog, dog training is serious business.
Without proper training, you could find yourself with an out of control dog on your hands. You can eliminate excess barking, pulling, jumping, and more with obedience training.
You can always sign up for an obedience class, but it’s not a necessary step. Dog obedience training is something you can do yourself, in your own home. From basic commands to advanced tricks, dog training can be a rewarding bonding experience for both you and your dog.
All dogs want to please their owners—but they need a nudge in the right direction. These training tips can help effectively guide your dog towards better behavior.
1. Reward the Right Behaviors
When you start training your dog, you’ll probably run into a lot of conflicting advice. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the differing opinions out there.
Regardless of which avenue you pick, effective dog obedience training comes down to one simple rule. Reward the behaviors you like and don’t reward the behaviors you don’t like.
For example, if your dog barks when the mailman comes to the door, don’t reward them. But if your dog remains quiet, then give them a reward. This could mean petting them, giving them praise, or feeding them one of their favorite treats.
Dogs learn best from your behavior. By operating off of the reward vs no reward system, you can effectively influence the way they act.
2. Learn How to Speak Dog
You and your dog need to create your own form of communication. Your dog isn’t born knowing what “no” or “good dog” means.
In order to better communicate with your dog, you need to speak in a way that they can understand. Learn what your dog is trying to tell you through their ear, tail, and eye movements.
When training your dog, show them what you want them to do. Guide them with your body language—leading by example is the best way to help them understand what you’re trying to get across.
3. Keep a Pawsitive Attitude
Be sure to keep a positive attitude during training sessions. If you start to get upset or frustrated, your dog will pick up on those emotions.
It isn’t always easy to keep a level head—especially when your dog just doesn’t seem to be getting it. But if you let your emotions get the best of you, it will be even harder for your dog to get something out of the training session.
Any negative energy will make your dog anxious or overexcited, so try to keep a calm, patient, and positive attitude.
4. Don't Reinforce Bad Habits
Sometimes, dog owners might be unintentionally reinforcing bad habits from their dogs.
For example, if your dog jumps on top of you when you get home from work, do you still pet them?
Even if you’re saying no, by petting your dog, you’re giving them what they want. This encourages bad behavior, even if you didn’t mean to. It teaches the dog that jumping is an acceptable way to get attention.
When it comes to unacceptable behavior—like jumping, biting, barking, and more—be sure that you aren’t accidentally encouraging these habits.
5. Make Sessions Short and Sweet
Dogs have pretty short attention spans. When training your dog, you’ll be competing with a thousand other small distractions—a leaf blowing in the wind, a squirrel running across the yard, or the smell of food a few houses over.
For this reason, you’ll need to keep your training sessions short and sweet. Start out with just 5 to 10 minutes of training at a time. You can slowly increase the length and frequency of sessions as your dog matures and becomes accustomed to the training.
Always review what you’ve already learned and try to incorporate something new each time. Keeping sessions consistent and short will help your dog stay engaged without getting bored or frustrated.
6. End on a Positive Note
Be sure to keep sessions encouraging by ending on a positive note.
Even if your dog is struggling with a new trick or concept, always try to end by reviewing something the dog already knows. In the end, you can give them a treat and plenty of praise for their success.
When you end the training on a positive note, you leave the dog with great memories of the last training session. Not only will this keep them encouraged to stay focused and keep learning, but it will make them even more excited for the next session.
7. Take on the Role of Pack Leader
No matter how hard you try or which techniques you implement, you won’t be successful if your dog doesn’t respect you. In order for your training to go well, your dog needs to look up to you as a leader and as the boss.
If your dog is taking on the role of pack leader, they’re more likely to be aggressive and ignore your commands.
It’s important to remain calm, patient, and assertive during training. Keep your voice low and don’t lose emotional control.
By asserting yourself as the alpha of the household, you can take command of both the training session and your ongoing relationship with your dog. Your dog should be looking to you for cues—not the other way around.
8. Boost Your Training With Socialization
Using socialization to supplement training is a great way to boost your chances of success. Your dog shouldn’t just learn to interact with you—they also need to learn how to behave around other people and dogs.
The key to good behavior is exposing your dog to a number of different social situations.
First, let them interact with other dogs. This could be in a regular outdoor area or a designated dog park. This will help them learn how to properly socialize and play.
Learning how to play with other dogs will also discourage aggression, anxiety, or other behavior issues in the future. It can even boost your dog's overall health.
Next, you need to get your dog accustomed to being around strangers. Take them to a friend’s house to meet new people—you can even hold a training session there to help your dog learn how to behave properly around others.
For other socialization opportunities, try taking your dog on a walk down a busy street, past shops and restaurants, and into a pet store.
9. Deliver Timely Consequences
Dogs live in the present moment. They can’t make a connection between their behavior in the past and punishment in the present.
For this reason, you need to make sure that your consequences are immediate. You have to catch them in the moment and reprimand them right away.
For example, if you catch your dog jumping up on the counter to grab food they shouldn’t be eating, make sure to say “No” and push your dog away within a few seconds of the action. The message is immediate: jumping up on the counter is not okay.
If you wait too long to punish your dog, they won’t remember what they’re being punished before. And then the next time there’s a tempting treat on the counter, they’ll jump for it again.
10. Stick to the Script
Once you’ve established a solid form of communication between you and your dog, don’t start mixing things up.
They’ll start to lose track if you mix up your terminology. Be consistent with your commands. Don’t say “down” one day and then “lie down” the next.
Be consistent with rewards and punishment too. Don’t reprimand your dog for barking but then accept the same behavior the next day.
To further work on consistency, try to keep your training sessions to the same place and a similar time each day. This will help keep your dog on track—and keep them energized for the next training session.
Starting With the Basics: Dog Obedience Training That Works
Dog obedience training will do more than make your life easier—it can create a long-lasting bond between you and your dog.
With these tips in mind, you can start training your dog the right way. By using the right forms of reward and punishment, being mindful when planning training sessions, and keeping your dog engaged and encouraged, you and your dog can reap the rewards of good behavior.
It might seem like a lot of hard work, but the result—bringing your happy, well-behaved dog into the family—is well worth the effort.
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