Having a well trained dog doesn’t happen over night. They may well be man’s best friend, but that doesn’t stop them from having some innocent (and lets face it, some quite irritating) tendencies that can make them difficult to live with! The barking, the digging, the chewing – the list goes on. To make the most out of your relationship with your dog, you need to to teach them some important skills that will help lead an easy life. Having a trained dog is one thing; learning how to train your dog is another. But the sooner you start, the easier it is.
There are endless methods when it comes to dog training. Some people will tell you that the key is to use punishment to make sure your dog doesn’t think he can get away with naughty behaviour. Some people argue that positive reinforcement works better, where you reward your dog with positive feedback every time he is well behaved, and then others insist that you have to “be the alpha dog” and become the leader of your “pack.” Although different tactics work for different dogs, focusing on teaching dogs what you do want them to do is usually a more effective approach. Positive reinforcement is probably the least stressful, more enjoyable and most rewarding for you and your dog.
Whatever tactic you decide to use to train your dog, there are some ground rules you should abide by too. I call them the 10 Command-ments!
Thou shalt set the ground rules early, and stick to them! It’s essential that everyone in the household understands what the rules are and abides by them. There’s no point in teaching your dog something if he is allowed to do the opposite with someone else. Discuss the rules in advance with your family and even let visitors know the rules so that nothing will undermine your efforts!
Thou shalt not be unfair. Your dog can’t read your mind so be patient with him.
Thou shalt be consistent. Don’t confuse your pet by varying your commands. Make your command words clear and simple and stick with them. If the command is “stay” then the command is “stay,” not “stay there.” Dogs like simplicity.
Thou shalt practice frequently. Your dog needs practice. It’s better to practice 10 minutes every day, than to practice randomly every few days for a long period of time. If you slack, your dog will forget commands and behaviours.
Thou Shalt stick to “dog time.” Dogs live in the moment. Minutes after they have done something, it’s forgotten about. Therefore rewards should be given immediately after your dog has shown positive behaviour so that he can make a connection between positive behaviour and reward.
Thou shalt not be weak. ALWAYS make your dog follow through with the command you have set them.
Thou shalt use treats strategically. For commands your dog already knows, use small treats, so when it comes to encouraging him to learn a new behaviour, he knows a bigger reward is on offer.
Thou shalt not shout. Your tone should always be positive, but at the same time assertive and firm. Shouting will only make your dog feel tense and therefore less likely to do the command.
Thou shalt not expect too much too soon. Every dog is different. It will take some dogs longer to learn than others.
Thou shalt end the training session on a positive note. Leave him with lots of praise, a treat, some petting, or five minutes of play. There’s much more chance he’ll be happy to join in with the next training session if the last one ended on a high.