Dog Training Tips
Life is a training opportunity. You don’t have to wait for a “formal” training session to train your dog. Your dog is learning every minute whether you are teaching him or not. He learns by seeing what is going on in his environment and deciding what will work for him and what won’t. He also tests new behaviors, and how you react is important as to whether he will continue or stop. You may be unintentionally rewarding the behavior you want him to stop!!!
Be proactive rather than reactive. Teach your dog what you want. Don’t just assume he should know it. He’s not a mind reader.
Be consistent in what you do. If it’s okay to jump on you when you are wearing jeans, is it okay to jump on you when you’re wearing good clothes? Think back to when you were learning addition. If your teacher taught you that 2+2=4 today, that means 2+2=4 tomorrow. 2+2 does not equal 3 because you look cute. 2+2 does not equal 3 because you’re in a bad mood. If your teacher kept on making exceptions, would you ever learn? That’s why consistency is so important.
Decide what the rules are. Sit down as a family and decide what the rules are and what the command words are. Then everybody should follow the same rules and use the same commands.
Training your dog gives him more freedom. A trained dog can go with you to more places than an untrained dog, and you don’t have to feel guilty about leaving him at home.
***Listen to your dog. He will tell you if what you are doing is working or not. He will tell you if he is stressed. He will tell you if you are meeting his needs.
Be a good owner/guardian. Make sure your dog has a proper diet, exercise (both physical and mental), and positive interactions with you.
Work to earn or say “please.” Use what your dog wants to reward him to do what you want. Have him say “please” by sitting while you put on his leash or before you put his food down. You get what you want before he gets what he wants.
Examine your dog. Make sure that your dog’s behavior problems are not stemming from a medical problem. Have him thoroughly examined by your veterinarian (including blood panel with thyroid test, orthopedic exam, hearing and vision test).
Give him a job. Dogs were not bred to be couch potatoes. Wear him out at least once a day physically and give him some mental stimulation.
Read your dog. Dogs let you know their “mood” by their body language. Learn how to read your dog and correctly interpret what he is telling you. If you think he “looks guilty” when he has done something wrong, maybe it’s because he sees that look on your face. He doesn’t connect that look with his misbehavior unless you catch him in the act.
Be realistic. Quick fixes don’t work in dog training. Correcting a problem takes retraining. Punishment only suppresses a problem – it will surface in another form, sometimes worse than the problem you started with. Find out what the cause is. Don’t just treat a symptom.
Let your dog be a dog. He is not a person in a furry suit, and he has his own needs — he needs to exercise his mind as well as his body. He needs to play. He needs to use his nose. He needs to relax. He needs to be with you, and he needs a place to be by himself. He needs you to learn how to communicate with him in a way that he understands.
Dog Training Tips
Have a plan. Keep your goal in mind and know how you are going to get there. Don’t train haphazardly. Give your plan a chance to work, and if it doesn’t seem to be working, reevaluate your plan and change it. You can’t know every response to every situation and why what you are doing isn’t working. Get input from someone who is qualified to give it, i.e., a trainer, not your neighbor or your brother-in-law.
What do you want? Think of what you want your dog to do instead of what you don’t want him to do, and then train him to do that. For example, instead of thinking, “How can I get my dog to stop stealing food from the counter?,” try thinking, “How can I get my dog to only eat food that is given to him?”
Stay calm and in control. If you’re supposed to be the leader and you’re so upset you can’t see straight, how does your dog feel? Maybe he thinks he should take over as the boss so as not to put you through so much stress? The more you are in control, the more freedom your dog will have. Why? Because you can take him more places because he knows how to behave.
Follow through on your commands. If you don’t follow through on your last command, then you have just given your dog permission to disobey your next one! His memory goes back to the last command, and he is thinking, “Well, if she let me get away with not sitting when she told me to sit, then she surely doesn’t mean I have to come to her when she tells me to come.”
Learn your dog’s activity cycles. Learn the time of day your dog is active and the time of day he sleeps. Match his activity cycle with what you are trying to train. For example, teach the “down” command when your dog is less active. Teach the “come” command when he is more active.
***Listen to your dog. He will tell you if what you are doing is working or not. He will tell you if he is stressed. He will tell you if you are meeting his needs. We can’t repeat this too many times.
Reward, reward, reward. Give your dog lots of rewards – praise, petting, food, a walk, a ride in the car, throwing a ball, playing with a toy – for correct behavior. Make sure the reward you are using is relevant to your dog. If you know your dog won’t work for a piece of bread, will he work for a piece of steak? Reward 100% of the time when he is learning a new behavior. Then reward randomly for only the best behavior thereafter.
Keep lessons short. End your training sessions before your dog wants them to finish. And have fun when you are training.
Use different voices.
- Command is deeper than your normal voice.
- Praise is higher than your normal voice.
- Reprimand is more forceful than your normal voice. A reminder — don’t reprimand your dog for doing something wrong unless you have taught him what the right behavior is and you are certain he understands what you expect.
Smile when your dog does what you want and tell him how good he is, and give him a pat or tummy rub.
Timing is everything. Make sure your timing is good – you have a maximum of 2 seconds to reward (or correct) a behavior or your dog doesn’t make the connection between his behavior and the reward (or correction).
***Listen to your dog. He will tell you if what you are doing is working or not. He will tell you if he is stressed. He will tell you if you are meeting his needs. Didn’t we just say that? Is there an echo around here?
How your dog learns
Your dog goes through different phases when he is learning something new, just like you do. Many problems occur when we expect that he has entered the next phase when he in reality has not. Be sure that one phase is completed before you begin the next phase.
- Teaching phase – show your dog what you want him to do.
- Practicing phase – practice with your dog over and over what you have just taught him.
- Generalizing phase – practice in the presence of small distractions and in multiple locations.
- Testing phase – after your dog has a 90% success rate every time you ask for a behavior, begin testing to see if he will do the behavior in new locations with greater distractions. Set up a situation where you are in control of your dog and the environment and test him to see how he responds. If he succeeds, great. If not, re-examine the situation. Review and/or change your training. Then try testing again.
- Internalizing phase – this is when he finally “gets it” and does what you want without your even asking, i.e., waits at every curb before crossing the street.
I’d love to hear what your comments are. Do you have any other Dog Training Tips? Please share your experiences or ask a question so we can begin a dialogue to help each other.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.