When you introduce a new dog into your life, training is very important, no matter their age. Spending time on basic training from the earliest opportunity will start good habits and help prevent any unwanted behaviours.
Our understanding of dog behaviour has changed over the years and this has affected training advice. It is now widely recognized that positive reinforcement, rather than punishments or causing fear, is the best method to train your dog.
What are the benefits of training?
Training your dog allows your bond to develop, along with mutual trust. It means you can have more control over them and better predict their behaviour in various situations, as well as helping them to fit into your home and lifestyle with more ease.
Without basic training you may have issues with your dog toileting in the house, not coming back when walking off the lead, or even showing aggression towards other dogs or people.
Despite its name, ‘basic’ training isn’t necessarily easy. It requires dedication and works best as short, simple lessons, repeated over time. It helps to keep things fun and stress-free and reward the wanted behaviour with positive reinforcement. This positive reinforcement depends on what motivates your dog but is commonly a tasty treat, a click from a clicker device, or some enthusiastic and loving verbal encouragement, like ‘Good boy’.
When starting any basic training, choose your environment carefully. The fewer distractions there are, the more of your dog’s attention you will have, so choose somewhere quiet with no other people or animals. As your dog achieves the basics in a quiet environment, you can move on to proofing the behaviour. This works by changing the environment, gradually increasing the noise or distractions, to replicate real-life more authentically.
How to train your dog to sit
With a treat in one hand, place the treat in front of your dog’s nose. When you have their attention slowly raise the treat upwards, in the direction of the back of their head. As your dog looks up, following the path of the treat, he should adopt a sit position naturally.
As soon as he sits, say ‘Good boy’ or use the clicker, and give a tasty treat. As this is repeated, over time your dog will perform the posture if you use the hand gesture, even if you aren’t holding a treat. At this point introduce the verbal command ‘sit’, just before the hand gesture. After repetition, the command alone will be sufficient.
Now you’re ready to try it somewhere with more distractions!
How to train your dog to lie down
Once your dog is sitting, lower the hand with the treat down to the ground slowly. As they follow it, they should lie down naturally. By following the same process as for ‘sit’, eventually, just the command ‘lie down’ will be needed.
How you train your dog to ignore other dogs
The key to getting your dog to ignore other dogs is to first learn how to reliably get their attention. It’s easy to fall into the trap of shouting their name repeatedly when they are behaving badly or are in danger. However, the overuse of their name, especially when used only in negative situations, can be an obstacle to training as it gradually has less impact.
Instead, start by giving a ‘good boy’ or treat reward each time they choose to acknowledge you on their own. This acknowledgment could be a glance back at you or them approaching you. Over time, you can wait for eye contact before giving the reward. You can then advance to calling their name once and rewarding their acknowledgment.
This basis of positive reinforcement in a stress-free environment will make it easier to implement the same principle when you need their attention in an urgent situation.
How to train your dog to come
Training your dog to return when called is similar to getting their attention. However, a dog shouldn’t be allowed off the lead until they reliably come back, so the training should be started with them on a long lead.
Start by calling their name, just once, and providing the reward when they return. Gradually give them a longer lead, then introduce more distractions like toys, noise, and other dogs or people.
How to train your dog to stay
Training your dog to stay is a slow process and requires patience. Initially, the reward should be given for them just being still at your side. Gradually introducing the command ‘stay’, then over time increasing distractions and your distance from them will lead to a successful ‘stay’.
Leash training dogs and puppies
The main issue as your untrained dog starts to walk on a leash is pulling. There are many anti-pull collars and methods, but many are cruel and risk injury. The most effective way to stop a dog from pulling on the leash is to stop walking whenever they are pulling.
There is no need to punish or shout at them, just allow them to realize in their own time that you’ve stopped. Once you have their attention again, continue walking. Engaging with them and making the walk exciting by varying directions and pace will help to keep them focused on you.
How to socialize dogs and puppies
If your dog or puppy is up to date with vaccinations, it’s time to start exposing them to different situations. Although a very exciting time, it’s important not to get carried away. Starting small, with a short time in the company of a single quiet dog, cat, or child, then gradually increasing the intensity of the new experience, is a good way to build confidence and resilience.
If your dog shows signs that they are not comfortable by cowering, yawning, lip-smacking, or growling, you should respond by taking them away from the situation and allowing them to calm down.
Advanced dog training
Aside from basic training, taking time to teach your dog more advanced tricks or commands can be enjoyable, as well as useful. Try teaching your dog to give paw, high-five, or roll-over. You could even try teaching them to retrieve items.
Other advanced training such as training your dog to guard or attack should only be performed under the guidance of professionals, since encouraging aggressive behaviour will mean having to limit the people, dogs, and situations your dog is exposed to and can be very dangerous.
Training is not easy and takes time. As long as you start with the basics, manage your expectations and reward even the small victories, it can be achieved. Focus on each step rather than the main goal and remember that once your dog has mastered the basics, you can build on these with proofing, to ensure that you can keep them from harm in more stressful situations.
Check out the links and additional resources below for further info on equipment and advice on dog training…
- https://www.fordogtrainers.co.uk/ – Professional dog training equipment for IGP, Police dogs, K9 dogs and dog accessories from the producer directly with world-wide shipping.