Just about everyone who owns a dog wants to be proud of him. Pet owners want their dogs to have good behavior, be a good canine citizen, and be dependable. What many pet owners don’t know is that simple training that can be done at home can make that dream come true. Puppies, just like babies, are learning from day one, and by following the ten rules below you can help your dog learn what is expected, what behavior is acceptable, and how to live happily and peacefully with the rest of the family.
Whether you want to use the crate for intense training or not, you should have a crate to put your puppy in when you can’t keep an eye on him. Until your dog learns the rules of the house, he needs to be in a crate any time you can’t watch him. This doesn’t mean you can leave your dog in the crate for hours on end, though. Make sure he has a structured schedule of potty trips outside every hour or two, eating, walking, playtime, and so on. This will help him stay busy, settle into a routine, and understand what behaviors are acceptable.
Teach your dog to respect you from day one. This actually isn’t as hard as it seems, since dogs are naturally pack animals and are “hardwired” to follow a leader. By establishing yourself as the leader of the “pack” during training, your dog will obey you and won’t challenge your authority as time goes on.
Positive Reinforcements Only
Never use negative reinforcement with a dog. You should only use positive reinforcement for behavior that is good and acceptable. Never shout, hit, punch, or otherwise negatively reinforce your dog. Not only is this extremely cruel, but it can actually lead to behavior problems down the road and can psychologically damage your dog. Teaching your dog to fear you is not the same as teaching your dog to respect you. Never use electric shock collars, sprays, prong collars, or other similar “training” tools. They are not necessary, and are harmful.
Humans have a saying that nothing in life is free, and in a way you must teach your dog the same thing. In other words, don’t treat your dog randomly without him first having exhibited some kind of behavior that is worth treating. Your dog should learn that treats, praise, walks, playtime, and so on are the result of exhibiting good behaviors.
While you never want to shout at your dog, calmly using the word “no” and teaching your dog that word from day one will save you a lot of trouble down the road. Never encourage behaviors like charging out of an open door, jumping up, playing tug of war, or unnecessary barking. Always praise good behavior. However, if your dog exhibits an undesirable behavior, simply say “no”, turn your back, and walk away. Your dog will learn more from this behavior than he will if you yell at him. Learning that misbehaving means losing companionship is sometimes all it takes for dogs to learn correct behavior.
Catch Him in the Act
Punishing a dog for poor behavior after the fact is not only pointless, it’s very confusing to the dog and can lead to further behavior problems. If you see your dog doing something he shouldn’t be, like chewing, simply rattle a can of pebbles or make another noise to get his attention. Then, immediately correct the behavior by giving him an alternate activity. For instance, if he’s chewing on a pillow, rattle the can, and then give him a bone instead. When he starts chewing on the bone, or engaging in the replacement activity, praise him extensively.
Don’t Use His Name Negatively
Saying things like “No, Rover!” can actually confuse the dog and halt any training you’re trying to accomplish because the dog will start to think his name is a negative thing. This can lead to the dog thinking he’s in trouble any time you say his name. Always use his name positively, and associate it with things like treats, walks, playtime, hugs, petting, praise, cuddling, and so on. This will lead to your dog being more than willing to come when you call his name, because he associates it with good things.
Short and Sweet
Training should never be done for extended periods of time. Three 10-minute sessions a day is really all it takes, and over time this will be enough to teach your dog whatever it is you want him to learn. Long, repetitive lessons aren’t just boring to the dog, but they can be stressful, as well. You want your dog to enjoy training so he will engage in the behaviors you want him to. Teach one command at a time, and never move on to another command until he’s mastered the first. Sit, stay, and come should be your first three commands on the training list, in that order.
Bonding is Essential
You want your dog to look forward to spending time with you, and bonding is essential not only for your relationship, but for the success of training, as well. If you teach your dog to fear you, he will usually run and hide from you and not be inclined to learn from you at all. Also, teach your dog to be around other people and animals, and take him out where he will be exposed to the sounds of people, vehicles, and other noises. Of course you might not want to do this the first day you have him, but once he’s accustomed to your home, take him out so he isn’t scared by everyday life. Introduce him gently to noises like the garden hose or the vacuum cleaner. When your dog knows he can trust you and bonds with you, you will have a healthier relationship and it’s much safer for you and the dog, as well.
Learn all you can about food training, crate training, house breaking, and leash walking, as these are the equivalent to ABCs for a dog. Every dog needs to master these commands. Also, educate yourself about the unique qualities and propensities of your dog’s breed, as that will give you valuable insight when it comes to training and bonding with your dog.
Being a pet parent comes with many options when it comes to training. You can always train your dog at home by yourself using any one of the myriad training manuals and sets of information available, or you can register your dog at a professional obedience school. Dog training schools have “grades”, such as kindergarten, obedience, sports, show and confirm, and then stages above the basics, such as those designed for dogs who will help those with hearing or visual impairments. Like humans, each dog is unique and has a special set of abilities, talents, preferences, and learning mechanisms. Learn what works for your dog, train him accordingly, and you can look forward to a long and happy life together.