The last thing in your mind is training. You’re more excited to play with them. Soaking up their joy, happiness and excitement as they explore every part of their new home. But for a dog to be happy over the long term, a life of pure freedom is going to stress them out. Puppies need rules and boundaries, they are instinctively looking for leadership and guidance. In nature, they would be part of a pack, and the leader would demonstrate the right and wrong ways to behave. In your house, it’s you who needs to take charge. To learn more about the way puppies learn, Training Your Dog 101 teaches you how to understand your dog, as well as basic training using the clicker method. This is a form of reward training, where you associate good behaviour with a “click” noise and a treat.
Your new puppy will do a million things wrong. Instead of getting mad, learn the techniques to train your dog properly. A well trained dog will improve both your life and their own. Online, there are many methods of training promoted by a range of experts. You can assert yourself as the “pack leader,” and guide your dog in the right behaviours through correction and rewards. The clicker method is also popular, as well as those who believe you need to be very very strict, or on the flip-side, only ever reward positive behaviour. Ultimately, each method comes down to a single principle. If you want your dog to change, reward the behaviour you want to see, and do not reward unwanted behaviour.
Understanding the training
There are two types of training you need to master to have a polite and well behaved dog.
Behavioural training is important, it sets the standards your puppy needs to follow in their daily life. You need to teach your dog not to jump on people, beg for food, bark excessively, or chew the furniture. Potty training falls into this category, you need to reinforce where it is “ok” to go to the bathroom and where it is not. Consistency is key. Decide from day one the behaviours you want to reinforce, and stick to it. If you plan never to let your fully grown dog on the couch, don’t let them climb all over it as a puppy. A full scope of the behavioural training every puppy needs is here, learn what it takes to make your dog become a joy to everyone who visits your house.
Obedience training is the second form. Everyone wants their dog to listen to their commands and obey, but first you need to teach them what the words mean! The key is using rewards for the behaviour that you want, and associating it with a specific word. Follow an easy program like Heather Hammonds “Dog Tricks & Training” and you will have your best friend responding in no time!
On day one, focus on teaching your puppy their name. Have a supply of treats ready, and choose a name that is short (one or two syllables are easier for a dog to remember). I like to have training sessions just before feeding time, it makes my dog more attentive (he’s hungry), and he associates the training positively with a big meal afterwards. You should never go over 10-15 minutes for a training session, both you and your dog will lose focus.
Look at your dog and say their name. You may need to repeat it a few times until they look at you. When they give their attention, give a big enthusiastic “yes!” and reward with a treat. If your dog doesn’t look at you at all, a slight tug on their leash will turn their attention to you. After a couple of sessions, your dog will learn that when you say their name, you want their attention. After a few weeks, they will never forget their name.
Two things to be very careful of here. Never use your dog’s name to scold or punish bad behaviour, and don’t say it “too” often. You don’t want to associate negative feelings with their name, and you also don’t want it to become part of the background noise.
Once they know their name, you can move to commands. Speak their name, and then the command you want your dog to follow. It should always be in this order, their name (to get attention) followed by the command. A fair warning – as you begin training you may get increasingly frustrated at your dog for not “understanding.” Just remember that English is a foreign language to them, and it will take time to associate meaning to the “funny sounds” you are making. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or impatient, take a break. Dogs are very adept at picking up on the feelings of those around them, and you do not want them to associate the training sessions with negative emotions.
The most basic command for your dog to learn is sit. Take a treat in your hand and hold it above your dogs head. They will be very interested as they can smell the treat, and be looking up at the reward. With your free hand, gently push your dog into a sitting position while saying the command “sit”. Wait for your dog to go into a full seated position (and stay there) before giving both verbal praise and the reward.
Do not let your dog jump and grab the treat from your hand. If they act excited, firmly say “NO” and withhold the treat until they calm down. It will take a number of sessions, but soon your dog will learn that the word “sit” is associated with the act of sitting down.
Stay & Come
The next two commands for your dog to learn are stay & come. Once they know how to sit, you will find it much easier to get them to remain in one place. Especially when they are already sitting. After your dog fully understands the sit command, and has been demonstrating this for a few days without your assistance it is time to progress.
Take two rewards in your hand, and tell your dog to sit. Give a treat after they successfully sit, then hold up your empty hand (like a stop sign) in front of your dog and say “stay” as you back up slowly. Don’t take your eyes off your dog and remain facing them. After you get a few paces away, say “come” with enthusiasm. When your dog comes to you, give them the reward. If they come too early (without you giving the command) say “NO” and start the process again.
When you begin, start by only moving a short distance from your dog. As they learn and understand what you are after, you will be able to back further and further away. Eventually, you will even be able to walk out of sight, and have your dog stay until you call “come”.
After learning sit, stay and come the next command to teach is lie down. Once your dog has mastered the first three commands, take another treat and tell your dog to sit. Show that you have a reward in your hand, but don’t give it to your dog yet. Slowly lower your hand to the ground while saying “down”. Your dog should lie down to reach the treat. If they stand up, do not reward the dog. Say “NO”, and start the training over.
Walking your dog
Regardless of size, all dogs need to be taken on daily walks, for at least 30 minutes of exercise. It’s also a great way for you to get outside! Taking your dog for a walk allows them to release any mental and physical energy that has built up, and gives you also a breath of fresh air. Before you head out on a walk, there are a few tricks you need to know beforehand. These greatly assist the entire process of training your dog. If you are interested to see them in action, TreatPouch has a great lecture series aimed at teaching your dog to politely walk on a leash.
Dogs are pack animals, needing both leadership and exercise. It’s up to you to be your dog’s master. You need to consistently train your dog to follow your lead. When heading out for a walk, it’s you who leads your dog. You should be the first one out the door, and during the walk your dog should not be pulling you along, rather walking calmly beside you. If your dog is hyper, sniffing everything, and consistently pulling at the lead it may be that you are not giving them enough exercise. If you still have this behaviour and you are taking your dog for daily walks, make sure that you always act as the master, leading your dog as you walk.
When preparing for a walk, call your dog to you. Do not go to them, they are the follower. Tell your dog to sit, and once they calm down, latch on their lead. Your dog remembers the lead equals going for a walk, and will instantly switch into an excited and frenzied state of joy at being able to go outside. Never take your dog on a walk if they are in this frame of mind, get them to calm down first. Once calm, the way you exit your house is very important. You must lead the way. As you walk out the door, tell your dog to sit and stay. Your dog shouldn’t have left the house yet. They need to realise you are the one in command, the master. You alone decide when they can leave the house. Exit the house first and call your dog, you just need to be a step in front.
To give the lead the most control, set your dog’s collar high on their neck. The lead is for correcting unwanted behaviour, it should have some slack and not be constantly pulling against your dog during the walk. If your dog starts to pull from you, snap the lead in a quick sideways tug. This will bring them out of it. If you find your dog is becoming too excited, stop the walk and have them sit until they calm down. Once calm, begin the walk again. You don’t need to say “come” at this point, your dog should instinctively follow you.
As you pass a barking dog, ignore it and keep walking. If your dog becomes distracted, a short tug on the lead will bring their attention back to you. If it doesn’t, use your foot to slightly tap your dog. It’s not a kick, simply a small distraction to snap their attention back to the walk. If your dog gets too excited and starts pulling on the lead, have them sit. If none of this is working use a firm grip on their neck and your hand like a claw. Timing is the critical part here, you need to be aware and stop the unwanted behaviour before it begins or at the exact moment it starts. If you wait too long your dog may be too distracted to react to your commands. If so, you need to be ready to match your dog’s intensity as you correct their behaviour.
For active dogs and larger breeds, you can use a dog backpack to make walking more meaningful. It gives them a job to do, and you can add additional weight with some water bottles giving the dog a better workout. The added bonus is it makes your dog slow down, great if you have a very energetic breed. The best time to walk your dog is before you feed them, reinforcing the dog’s instinct that they have to work for their food. If you leave your dog at home during the day while you are at work, walk your dog before you leave for the office. This will put your dog in a relaxed state, leaving them calm and rested while you are gone, and less likely to destroy the furniture!
Successfully training your dog will give you a well mannered pet that is happy, healthy and responds to your commands. It only takes a couple of short training sessions each day to reinforce the behaviours you want, why not get started today?