Over the course of the last year, I’ve learned a lot about training new dogs, especially puppies. I thought I might share some of the tips I’ve learned and found useful with my “kids”. Here goes, hope you find them helpful!
1. Positive reinforcement works. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any set boundaries. Your relationship with your pet is just that- a relationship; it should be a rewarding one. Your dog shouldn’t fear you, but he or she should respect you and want to follow instructions because they know good things will happen if they comply.
2. The opposite of reward is not punishment. The opposite of reward is… no reward! If your dog doesn’t perform the behavior you are looking for don’t give him a reward or praise. Clear your throat or softly say “no” and try again.
3. Start early, and don’t stop. Basic training can begin as early as 8 weeks. The earlier you start the better, since the brain is just starting to mature and the connections made will develop faster and be stronger. That’s not to say an old dog can’t learn new tricks, it just takes a little more effort. Start training during puppyhood and make it part of your routine to continue training each and every day.
4. Always be positive. You don’t want your dog to dread training sessions. Keep a positive attitude and your dog will look forward to training. If you feel you are starting to get frustrated it is time to end the session. Your dog can sense your frustration and may reflect your mood.
5. Always be consistent. “Sit.” and “Sit, Sit, Sit” are not the same to a dog. Pay attention to how you are relaying information to your dog. If you want him to sit, say it once and wait until his bottom has touched the floor, then you can reward him with treats and praise. Don’t repeat the command over and over again, it will only confuse him. Also, keep your hand signals consistent. If you are using a closed hand to signal “sit”, don’t change it up on him, it will only frustrate you both by the end of the session.
6. It can take time and lots of it! Training doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience, time, and commitment. Keep at it, and your efforts will be rewarded tenfold.
7. Keep sessions short, but frequent. Dedicate 5-10 minutes a day, several times throughout the day for obedience training. If you feel your dog is starting to lose interest, it’s time to end the session.
8. Speak dog. Learn your dog’s body language. Picking up on visual clues from your dog will help the two of you communicate more effectively. Effective communication leads to faster, better results.
9. Mix it up. Once your dog has mastered a command, you can move into new environments to train. Expect some set-backs – it will be more difficult for your dog focus in a park with other dogs and distractions as opposed to a closed environment like your living room. Transition training slowly into new environments. You can even start in your own yard, then move on to more challenging locations.
10. Always end sessions on a positive note. Training sessions should be fun for you and your pet, and you should both look forward to them! End each session on a high note with lots of praise and attention.
Bonus tip: Set yourself up for success. Take precautions to ensure your training sessions will be successful. For example if you are trying to teach your new puppy to “come”, you should start on a long leash so that you can suggest that he come your direction with a gentle tug on the lead.
These are suggestions for how to develop a rewarding relationship with your dog. If you have any other tips that have worked for you be sure to leave them in the comments of this post. Happy Training!