What are your best dog training tips?

No matter what you want to teach your dog, the training process is easier with some basic knowledge. Here is our top ten tips, in no particular order.

  • Learn to listen to your dog.

Paying attention to dogs helps us learn their language, and knowing what they want and how they feel helps when trying to teach. Listening to the dog will help find the best training opportunities. It’s hard for anyone to learn when the body bursts with energy or when eyes fall shut, yearning for sleep.

  • Be generous with affection

As humans, we’re good at saying “no.” Unfortunately, that word means little to a dog. If a dog jumps and their person says “no,” the dog might try jumping to the right instead of to the left. Dog training is much easier with clear instructions and lots of praise and affection. The praise will make your dog feel that staying, sitting, or balancing a treat on their nose was a great experience that is worth doing again.

  • Figure out what your dog likes

Most dogs like treats, but many like a toy or affection more. When training a dog, rewarding them with their favorite thing makes learning a breeze. If you have a hard time finding the perfect treat, most dogs prefer soft, chewy, and smelly things over hard and crunchy.

  • Be clear

Your dog wants to please you, but may not be able to figure out how. Going back to the example with the jumping dog, we think it’s clear that “no” means “stop jumping.” The dog might just as well interpret it as, “jump higher.” Instead of something generic, provide the dog with a clear alternative, for instance, making them sit.

  • Be consistent

It’s easier for your dog to learn the rules if the rules stay the same. If they’re not allowed in a special room, or on the sofa, they will get really confused if they’re sometimes allowed. Also, be consistent with commands. Many dogs learn extensive vocabularies and will figure out that drop and release are the same thing – but it’s easier to only have to learn one word.

  • Have realistic expectations

None of us learned all we know in a day, and learning new things can take time. Also, be aware that it’s never too late to change a behavior, but it can take time to change a deeply rooted habit.

  • Some behaviors are harder to change

Barking, digging, and jumping are “normal” behaviors for a dog. These things will take longer to change than re-learning a trained behavior. Be patient and consistent.

When trying to change a “problem” behavior, it can be helpful to start at the other end. That is, if your dog barks a lot, it’s helpful to teach barking on command before teaching to be quiet. If the problem is jumping on people, you may want to redirect to being really good at sitting – and give the command sit before they have time to jump.

  • Be careful what you reinforce

The philosophy, “do as I say, not as I do” will not work on a dog. It’s easy to accidentally encourage an unwanted behavior – and you will spend a lot of time “un-training” it.

For example, your dog paws at you to get a treat. When you give in, your dog will know that pawing on you makes treats appear. Instead, make them sit – or another behavior you want – and then give a treat. Same thing if the dog jumps on the door to make you open it, or barks at you to throw a toy.

It is much easier to handle a dog who thinks sitting brings good things than one who knows that barking or jumping brings good things.

  • Rewards are not bribes

Some dog owners think rewarding their dogs for good behavior is the same as bribing a person. Dogs aren’t human, and giving rewards helps them associate a behavior with something positive. That is, the reward make them want to do it again. It can be treats, but it can just as well be petting, praise, or play.

  • Limit the freedom of new dogs and puppies

Limiting freedom sounds harsh, but when you bring home a new puppy or a dog from a shelter, both your life and the dog’s will be easier if you start with a small area. Let your new dog get used to the new place, the family, and your rules.

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