4 More Guidelines for Dog Training

August 5, 2011

1. Make it easy for your dog to get it right.

When you let a dog who hasn’t pooped all day have free, unsupervised run of the house, you’re asking for a mistake that can turn into a bad habit. When you start practicing the “come” command in a dog park, where there are a million distractions, you’re asking for a mistake that can turn into a bad habit.

Train slowly, starting in a quiet, familiar place with no distractions, and gradually make it more challenging for your dog. Don’t progress to the next step until your dog has mastered the current one.

2. Keep your cool.

Yelling, hitting, and jerking your dog around by a leash won’t teach him how to sit on request, pee outside, or do anything else you want him to learn. It will teach him that you’re scary and unpredictable. Fair, calm, consistent training is the best way to get your dog to obey and respect you.

3. Go to school.

In-person guidance from an expert trainer is the best way to get a well-trained dog. Obedience classes are relatively cheap, a great way to learn how to train, and they get your pooch used to being around lots of other dogs and people–good for all dogs, but especially important for raising safe, friendly puppies.

4. Keep practicing!

Don’t expect that once your dog has learned something, he’s learned it for life. Your dog can lose his new skills without regular practice.

Tailor your training to your dog

Every dog is different and will respond better to slightly different training styles. Some dogs are so sensitive that a sharp tone of voice or even animated praise can rattle them; they need calm, quiet guidance. Others are thicker-skinned and need lots of repetition to learn all the rules. And some smart pups will try to feel out what, exactly, your rules mean: Is it only in this house that I can’t sleep on the couch, or in all houses? There are also those dogs who occasionally push back when you push them, rather than give in to what you’re asking for.

Your dog’s behavior, not breed, is the best indicator of his personality. Remember that although different dogs thrive on different training approaches, they all need a benevolent leader. Yelling, hitting, and other techniques that inflict pain or fear are never the solution for any dog–they can create a behavior problem or make an existing problem worse.

Bottom line

Training is the best investment you can make in your relationship with your dog. You’ll need to do your homework first, though, to learn how to communicate what you want in a way that your dog will understand. Stay consistent and patient, reward your dog for getting it right and remember: you can train a dog of any age.

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