4 Guidelines for Dog Training

August 3, 2011

1. Be consistent.

Use the same cue for the same command, every time. If you use “come” one week, “come here” the next, and “come here, boy” the following, you’ll confuse your dog. If your dog is allowed to pull on the leash sometimes but is jerked by the collar when he pulls at other times, you’ll confuse him. Make sure everyone who’s around your dog follows the same rules and uses the same cues.

2. Use praise and rewards.

Almost all modern dog trainers believe that dogs learn better and faster when we praise and reward them for getting it right, rather than punishing them for getting it wrong.

The best motivator is usually a combination of a small food treat–especially if you train before mealtime–and enthusiastic praise. Don’t worry that you’ll wind up with a dog who’ll only work for food. Once your dog gets the idea of what you’re asking him to do, you’ll begin rewarding him sporadically, and eventually you can phase out the treats entirely.

If your dog isn’t that interested in food, try offering praise without the treat, or a favorite toy, or a physical reward such as a good behind-the-ears scratch or tummy rub.

3. Time the rewards right.

The praise and reward need to come immediately after your dog does what you want if he’s going to make the connection–“Hey, whenever I pee outside, I get a treat. I’m going to do this more often!”

4. Keep it short and sweet.

Training works best if it’s fun and you stop before either of you gets bored or frustrated. Keep the mood upbeat, not drill-sergeant serious, and make the sessions short. Five to ten minutes is plenty to start with, or you can do many mini-training sessions throughout the day, especially if you have a puppy–like kids, they have shorter attention spans.

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