About Dog Training
The relationship between dogs and their humans is the most pleasurable aspect of dog ownership. Dogs enjoy our company, we love being with them, and a happy, well-trained dog is a wonderful companion for life. Here’s what you need to know about dog training.
Why dog training is important
Just like a small child, a dog needs to know how to stay safe. It’s one of the most important reasons to train your dog. Once they learn to respond instantly to your commands to sit, stop, stay, come and so on, they are reassured because you are in control and you know how to keep them out of trouble.
A loving, firm relationship is a great relationship. Dogs actively enjoy having rules to stick to, and genuinely enjoy pleasing their owners. Once your dog understands what the basic commands mean, you can do a lot more together. Dog training commands are about more than simple obedience, they’re also about having more fun.
Dog training is the best way to avoid problem behaviours, too. Firm, kind, clear instruction helps your dog feel loved and cared for, with all the boundaries they need to feel safe and happy with you.
Training a dog is a fun process as well. Dogs are such clever animals, as every dog owner knows. Both of you will get a lot out of the learning process, which brings you closer together and seals a good, loving relationship for life.
How to train a dog?
A positive human-dog relationship means more than teaching your dog what to do and what not to do. As much as it is about training your dog, it’s also about training yourself to be the leader of the pack. This is vital, since you don’t want your dog to run the show!
The best way forward is to start training your dog as young as you possibly can. It’s wise to set the ground rules from the start so everyone knows their place and knows where they stand. If you have a rescue dog or have taken on an older dog, they’ll still be able to learn.
When it comes to dog training, a positive, happy, clear tone of voice works wonders. It’s no good shouting at a dog or punishing them. It will only make them anxious and unhappy, can make them frightened of you, and you might even lose their trust altogether. In severe cases, it can even make a dog aggressive. If your relationship breaks down completely they will never learn from you.
Positive reinforcement means verbally praising a dog when they get it right and ignoring the times when they get it wrong. Show your dog what you want them to do, never force them. Praise and treat them when they get it right, and you will both enjoy the learning process. Making dog training fun means they’ll learn faster, appreciate it more and be more likely to remember the lessons they’ve learned. A bored dog won’t learn anywhere near as well.
It’s really important to be consistent so your dog doesn’t get confused. And it’s vital to be really patient, since it can sometimes take a while for a dog to ‘get’ the message fully. Distractions don’t help, so make sure you train your dog in a quiet, calm environment, at least until they’re used to the learning process and understand what it’s all about.
Train a dog to know their name
Your very first step is to teach your dog to know their name. With some dog treats handy, say your dog’s name in a happy, clear voice, looking them in the eye if you can. When your dog comes to you, use a simple word like ‘yes’ and give them a treat straight away so they connect their actions with treats. Wait a few seconds then do it again. Keep practising for five minutes, and do it regularly throughout the day.
Essential dog training commands
Your five basic essential commands are Sit, Down, Stay, Come and Leave it. Here are some simple tips about training your dog to obey these five commands.
- Sit – Get your dog to stand in front of you. Let them see you have treats in your hand. Gradually move your hand above and over the dog’s head towards the tail, saying, “sit” (don’t say ”sit down”, since they’ll get confused when you train them to go “down”). The dog’s head will go up as they try to reach a treat from your hand, and their bottom will automatically go into the sit position. When it does, hand them a treat and give them lots of praise. Never push a dog’s back into a sit position, you might hurt them.
- Down – Ask your dog to sit and let them see there’s a treat in your hand. Move your hand gradually down towards the ground in front of the dog, using the command “down”. The dog will follow your hand to the ground and naturally end up lying down. When they do, praise them and hand over a treat. Again, never force a dog to lie down.
- Stay – First, get your dog to sit or lie down. Move a step away, saying, “stay”. Count to three in your head – not out loud! If the dog stays where they are, treat and praise them. If not, ask them to sit or lie down again and try again. Slowly increase the distance between you each time.
- Come – Use treats your dog loves to get them to come to you when you ask. When you’re in the same room, call your dog using a clear, happy, kind voice and when they come to you, give them a treat and praise. It should only take a few days for them to understand that coming to you when called is a good thing because it means love and treats.
- Leave it – Hold a treat in your fingers with the palm of your hand facing up. When they try to take it from you, say “leave it,” close your hand and turn it so your palm faces down. Ignore the dog until they make eye contact with you or look away. The second they do, say “good” and hand over the treat. Keep doing it until your dog naturally starts to look at you or look away from your hand when you say, “leave it”. Each time, wait for the point where the dog breaks their attention away from
- A good dog training class is an excellent way to get support with training. If your dog is nervous around other dogs, a one-to-one training session with a trainer is the way to go
Dog training for specific issues
Here are links to more handy information about training a dog successfully:
- About house training your dog
- How to deal with barking
- All about dog walking
- Handling dog anxiety
- Help, my dog keeps eating grass / poo!
Dog training key takeaways
- Reinforce – Once you have rewarded try it again, dog training takes a lot of patience but it pays off in the long run. If you keep going back to the lesson and reinforcing it your dog is less likely to forget it.
- Reward – Rewarding your dog is a great way to encourage good behaviour. Use a combination of food treats, toy treats, praise and affection.
- Repeat – By repeating things it helps your puppy or dog understand exactly what you want them to do. This will help the dog learn what’s right and what’s wrong.
- When you are training your dog remember this phrase. It’s the crux of all training.
- Repeat, Reward and Reinforce