If you have a puppy or just recently became a dog owner you might be wondering how to train your dog to avoid certain behaviors and engage in others. While dog training instructors abound and you can always have your dog professionally trained, there are some basics you should know, and some methods of training that you may be able to do yourself.
If you choose to take your dog to a trainer the pricing depends entirely on where you take the dog, the instructor you choose, the method they use, and sometimes your geographic location. However, training your dog from home is usually free and can actually be very simple to do. If you’re going to train your dog yourself, though, be sure to read up and educate yourself on training so you can ensure it’s done right the first time.
Many people are eager to teach their dog tricks. While tricks can be entertaining, there are more important and useful things to teach your dog first. (Also, if your dog hasn’t mastered simple commands, tricks will probably be off the table anyway.) Sit, stay, and come are the first three commands you should teach your dog, usually in that order. To begin your dog’s training you will need to have some dog treats and, if you’re using the clicker training method, a clicker. These can be purchased at pet stores for under five dollars.
Start training your dog in a quiet environment so there are minimal distractions. If you’re not using a clicker, you can hold a treat over your dog’s head and say the word “sit” repeatedly. Making the dog look up at the treat usually forces the dog to sit down. Immediately upon sitting, reward your dog with a treat and praise. If they don’t sit automatically, very gently apply pressure to their rear end and they will sit. This type of training works because when the dog continually hears the same word over and over, then completes an action and gets rewarded for it, the dog will associate the word with the action.
The next part of your dog’s training is going to be teaching him to stay. This can be a more difficult task to teach your dog to do, since he will likely want to follow you. Start by having your dog sit. Then, walking backwards slowly and maintaining eye contact at first, repeat “stay” over and over. If your dog gets up, say “no” and start the process over. Remember that training your dog is not an overnight process. It often takes four months or longer to train your dog, so be patient with him. Reinforcing the same desired behaviors consistently will eventually work and your dog will learn what he is meant to do.
Once your dog can stay with you making eye contact, try turning your back to your dog and walking away. Sometimes your dog will get up and follow you, even if he’s mastered staying while you back away. If he does follow you, simply say “no” and start over. (Be sure to say “stay” as you walk away, though. The word needs to motivate the action.) Once your dog has mastered this level of “stay”, you can move on to teach it to come.
Tell your dog to stay and walk away. Then, using an upbeat voice and patting your knee, say “come”. Your dog should usually respond right away, as this is typically the easiest command to teach. Reward your dog when he comes to you. Always use praise and positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors you want your dog to do instead of using negative reinforcement, or punishment, to teach your dog not to do something. Teach them replacement behaviors for undesirable things they do, such as handing them a bone if they’re chewing the pillow, instead of yelling at them or striking them for chewing the pillow.
If you were in training at a job and you had a boss who rewarded you when you did something right, you’d likely learn a lot faster and be a lot more relaxed than if your boss screamed at you every time you made a mistake. Teaching your dog is no different. If you reward your dog with positive reinforcement and teach them desirable behaviors, that will, in turn, lead them away from undesirable behaviors.
Following this advice and teaching your dog the three basic commands, in the order listed above, should result in an obedient dog and a positive, life-long relationship.