I find it interesting when I hear new dog owners suggest they’re sending their dogs to training. The reason this intrigues me is because these people has it a little backward. The truth is training schools are for the owners, not the dog. I saved the the cost of training school and trained my two labradors on my own.
Can you trust my ideas?
Well, I’m not trying to brag, but it is possible to have your dog listen to you.
When it comes to kennel training, you can get your dog to know when to go into their kennel and stay until you let them out. When it comes to bathroom training, you can get your dog house trained for pee-pads or outdoor trained to wait until you walk them. When it comes to food training, you can get your dog to wait for commands. When it comes to human visitor training, you can get your dog to ignore, sit, or any other number of reactions.
Here are 5 Ways to get you started on the right foot with training your puppy – no matter what your dogs age (you can ‘teach an old dog new tricks’).
1. Use a Short Leash
Too often people buy the elastic leashes. The ones that get longer and zip back short. The error here is owners believe they can restrain the dog with the thumb lock. Unfortunately, if the dog wants to get away it will break through the ‘thumb press’. The problem is the dog is also given too much ‘free’ reign.
It’s important to understand the short leash keep the dog at your side and therefore in line.
One of the things I loved was with a six-foot leash if the dog was difficult, I could double the leash and make the lead even shorter. It still give the dog the ability to walk normal and doesn’t choke them. The key is, it allows the owner to control the head, which controls the dog.
2. Stay Consistent
Decide on what you want the dog to do in all situations. Then make sure you require the same action over and over.
For example, to stop dogs from chewing things, get a toy (I suggest a Kong bone). As soon as the dog starts to chew something, move it’s mouth away from the object and give the dog the appropriate toy. I also used the Kong toy as a must for greeting guests. By asking guests not to address the dogs until they have their chew toy, the dogs will soon learn to grab the toy prior to approaching guests.
Another example, to get your dogs to wait prior to eating, and sit too. When you prepare the food, start by preparing the dish above the nose of the dog. Too often owners pour food into a dish on the floor and dogs already have their noses in the bowl. By keeping it out of reach, you can then dictate the reaction that is appropriate. You might be required to hold the dish slightly higher than their nose while saying sit and helping their bum down. You might have to hold them back until the dish is on the floor and you say the magic word: ‘take’. This process might take a week or two – but don’t change the process and the dog will learn to do it quickly. (Also, don’t leave food in their dish throughout the day, mealtime should be a scheduled time)
No matter what you decide, from commands to reactions, stay with your plan. It’s okay to change if something doesn’t work, but make sure your transparent to the dog that the change is the new norm – basically restart the training with the new plan.
3. Reward Good Behavior
While training it is an easy way to ensure your dog knows what the right action is. Also, keep in mind you don’t have to go crazy with treats. A few pieces of their kibble will do the trick.
You don’t need to penalize bad behavior. In reality you should be correcting the wrong behavior with actions that show the dog what is the right behavior.
As training progresses you can remove treats for anything you feel the dog is doing correctly.
Personally, I removed the treats from the in-between steps and kept the end treats. For example, in toilet training (which is a beast on its own) I wanted to train my dogs to go outside. As puppies, it meant being on them as much as possible. Learning to recognize their quirks helps too.
My one dog would start to sniff everywhere. My other dog would start to waddle you back legs. As soon as I noticed those signs, I lifted them out the door (the same door each time). As they matured, it became gentle ushering to the door. Then they went to the door on their own. A little treat each time, reminded them that the door was the appropriate place to exit when they had to go. Now that they are three, I only give them a treat once we get back from our walk and they did their business outside.
If you want to do pee-pads, you can start with a enclosed space with multiple pee-pads. As they get used to going, change out the pee-pads in most areas to paper. Again you may have to encourage them to the pee-pad. The dog will get used to the texture and the appropriate place to go. It’s like getting a cat to use the litter box. Eventually, you’ll be able to remove the paper, and finally the enclosure.
4. Language is Key
Use one word commands for each tasks. I’m sure you know the common: ‘sit’.
For allowing them to eat: ‘take’. I also use ‘gentle’ to have them eat treats from my hand to keep them grabbing.
For getting their toy: ‘ball’ or ‘Kong’.
For laying down: ‘down’ or ‘pillow’ (if they have a specific bed).
For when you’re going out: ‘kennel’.
Yes, I talk to my girls as though they might actually understand me. And sometimes I’m pretty sure they actually do understand me. One of the funniest things, is my girls have learning the words ‘going out’. Whenever I say I’m going somewhere, they head straight to their kennels. Even if I’m just going upstairs.
5. Keep It Simple
It’s important to keep training simple. Yes, it’s great to have a dog that can do tricks, but keep those simple too. I’d make sure they do the key actions first before the tricks.
My girls are retrievers, which means they want to play fetch (well, the chocolate one at least). So, while playing I still trained her with what she needs to do in order to play. For me that includes when we play in the water, she understands ‘stop’ and ‘shake shake’. These two small additions keep her from covering me in spray water.
More than anything during training, don’t forget to love your dog. Giving the dog love and attention will help with all your training. A dog that feels loved wants to please its owner, which translates to easier training.
It’s a win-win.