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Best dog training tips: how to train your pooch

dog being trained by owner by the sea advice
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Dog training is a long and rewarding process. You will need knowledge, empathy, and patience to reach success. But having a few digestible dog training tips on hand can help you develop good habits

By G. John Cole

There are no shortcuts: you are raising a (canine) child! Training a dog requires discipline from you as well as your hound. Keep a few things in mind, and it will be a lot easier.

Dog training tip #1: Join the club

If you can afford it, joining a dog training club or class is about more than just training your dog to behave. You and your dog will learn directly from the lessons, but also by observing and interacting with other dogs and owners.

Dogs are social animals. People are quite social, too. Spending time with a group like this can help you both to develop your behaviour and make some friends. It also gives you additional motivation to do your homework!

Give a couple of your local classes a call to see if you can ‘sit in’ for a lesson. That way you can find one that suits your pace and tone. You need it to be fun for you if you’re going to go out in the rain on a winter’s evening to take part.

Dog training tip #2: Be positive

You’ve probably heard of positive reinforcement training. This is the best way to teach your dog, and also to develop trust and love with him. It means rewarding your dog when he’s good, rather than punishing him when he’s bad.

Dogs don’t understand human language (or at least, they pretend not to). When you shout at him he just gets confused. You’re likely to end up with a dog who doesn’t trust you and also doesn’t behave, since he doesn’t know what he did wrong.

But dogs lap up praise and rewards. Give him a treat or a compliment when he gets something right, and he’ll soon start doing it for more.

Dog training tip #3: Choose your words

Don’t forget that English is your dog’s second language. If you keep changing your command words, he will get confused. Choose some words early on and keep using them so that he understands what is expected of him. Make your command words clear and distinct from each other.

That goes for his name, too. It can be tough to think up a name, but try to settle on something in the first few days. And use it properly: don’t be surprised if he doesn’t respond to your witty variations (“Rover! The Rove-meister! Rovebot 3000! Roverino!”).

Dog training tip #4: Learn to speak

Your dog understands your tone of voice better than he understands your language. So not only should you be consistent with your command words, but you should learn to use them in a consistent voice. One tone/inflection for toilet time, one for praise, one for sit, one for walkies, etc.

He’ll also learn your body language. That’s why reaching for your shoes can be so treacherous when you have no intention of taking him for a walk! He knows shoe-grabbing means going out time, so he expects to go along with you.

Dog training tip #5: Little and often

Part of training a dog is that you develop good habits at the appropriate times. In a way, you are constantly training a dog, since you have to respond to your puppy at any moment necessary.

But you will also hold regular training sessions with him to teach him some of the basics. Sitting, laying, waiting, walking, and of course high-fives.

For both of your sakes, don’t let these sessions last an hour at a time. He will lose his concentration. You will lose your patience. Your voice will rise. You’ll both do a bad job.

Put aside 5-10 minutes several times a day instead of doing it all in one go.

Dog training tip #6: It’s on you

As you’ll have noted, you’re the one doing the training. You want your dog to obey your rules, in your language, on your clock. So the responsibility is on you, and it’s important not to blame your dog when things go slowly. Don’t lose your temper. If you feel your temper rising, take a breather.

Every dog is different. You need to do your research so you know how to train him and what to expect. But you also need to spend time with him and learn his ways.

Follow these tips as you train your dog, and you should both come out of the experience happier and brainier!