Become an expert: training a dog
Training your dog is a great way to strengthen the relationship between you and your four-legged friend. Learn all about it in this pet parent guide!
Updated on the 10/02/2020, 15:57
Usually, dogs are eager to learn new things! Dogs learn every minute of their lives, so you should exploit this and make it work in your favour! If it’s possible, it’s best to start training your pet when he is still just a puppy. Training basically consists of you helping your dog understand how you’d like him to behave and why it’s in his best interest to behave this way. Here are a few great tips on training dogs!
Tip 1: Use positive reinforcement
Largely, dogs learn through the immediate consequence of their behaviour. The nature of those consequences determines how they’ll behave in the future. For example, if a specific behaviour results in a food reward or a game of fetch, your dog will most likely repeat that behaviour. This is known as 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. When you reprimand him angrily he just gets confused and scared. 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.
Tip 2: Choose your words wisely
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 of it!
Tip 3: Learn to speak
Your dog understands your tone of voice and emotions 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 and positive voice.
Dogs can also interpret your body language quite well. Be mindful of your dog's interpretation of it when interacting with him.
Tip 4: Little and often
For both of your sakes, don’t let these sessions last an hour at a time. Training in this way will ‘overload’ your dog. He will lose his concentration and you will lose your patience, which will only result in frustration on both sides.
Put aside 5-10 minutes several times a day instead of doing it all in one go. In this way, your dog will be eager to learn and training sessions will be much more productive!
Tip 5: Train with high-value treats
It’s amazing how much dogs are willing to work for just a few treats. In case you didn’t know, food rewards are highly efficient when training a dog! When the lesson is especially difficult, you need to bring out the heavy weaponry (e.g. chicken breast, sweet potato, banana, etc.). Try to get soft treats for every day training so you don’t have to wait for your pet to chew before carrying on with your lesson.
Tip 6: Join the club
If you can afford it, joining a dog training club or class is about more than just teaching your dog to behave. You and your dog will learn directly from the advice given by professional dog trainers, but also by observing and interacting with other dogs and owners.
Additionally, spending time with a group like this can help you both to develop your social skills and make like-minded 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 want to join a dog school that is science-based and uses positive reinforcement methods rather than coercive methods. You also need to be sure the class will be fun for you if you’re going to go out in the rain on a winter’s evening to take part.
Tip 7: Maintain a positive attitude and be patient
Training your dog isn’t always easy. But you shouldn’t feel discouraged. Just keep things realistic. There will be times when the teaching process will frustrate you. In these moments, the way you talk to your dog will make all the difference in the world. Just be patient and try to remain calm. Not only will you as the trainer benefit from this, but your dog will enjoy your low-stress attitude, and learn faster as a result! Training takes time and effort. What’s more every dog is different! That is why you need to be patient and enjoy the ride! Eventually, the hard work will pay off. Always remember that with patience and persistence, both of you can accomplish great things.
Now you know how to train a dog! You are ready to teach your dog some discipline! Keep these tips in mind and good luck!