Training a dog can be a frustrating experience if you’re not sure of what you’re doing. There are many ways that people approach the task, but in our experience, postive reinforcement techniques are the most effective and humane. Here are twenty universal dog training tips that will help beginners to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time. They are useful to help beginners to understand the hows and why’s of the techniques that apply to all dog breeds universally. These methods are applicable to dogs of all ages whether they’re young puppies or older dogs. When your pet understands the rules of the house and abides by them, dog ownership becomes a wonderful experience for everyone.
Here are 20 great tips that all beginning dog owners should consider:
1. Toilet training
The ideal time to begin toilet training a dog is when they are 3 to 4 months of age. Younger pups generally haven’t mastered bladder control before this time. Older dogs are more difficult to train but not impossible. Isolate the dog in a smaller area which could be a room, a spacious crate or placing them on a tether. The area can be enlarged as they begin to understand where they are to evacuate. Establish regular mealtimes while toilet training. Offer regular opportunities to go to the bathroom starting about fifteen minutes after the meal is eaten and then every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day.
Praise the dog by telling him “good boy” every time he toilets outside. Make sure that he knows this is behavior that is pleasing. Choose a location and keep taking your dog to the same spot for toileting and be consistent with this every time in the beginning. He will quickly learn to recognize the scent and understand that this is where he takes care of business. Remain with your dog until he is done.
2. Obedience training
Basic obedience training is necessary to keep your pet and those who come in contact with him safe. Disobedient dogs can be hazardous as well as embarrassing and destructive. Obedient dogs can be a pleasure to have around. You will start by teaching your dogs some basic commands. Patience is required while he is learning because he may not understand what you’re doing at first, but hang in there, he’ll catch on.
3. The sit command
Sit is one of the most basic commands and it helps you to maintain control over your dog under all situations. This should be the first command that you teach. Start by telling your dog “sit.” Gently push downwards on the haunches until he is in the sitting position. When he is there, praise him and possible give him a doggie treat as a reward. It’s always a good idea to use hand gestures when teaching commands. A finger pointing downward will help him to learn the word and the gesture together. When fully trained he will respond to either. Repeat this process until your pet has learned to sit on command. Space the treats further and further apart until they are no longer needed.
4. The stay command
Stay is the second command to teach your dog. When he is in a sitting position, tell him “stay,” then walk a short distance. If he gets up, make him sit again and repeat the process, offering him a reward every time he obeys the command. Move further and further away each time until he stays when you are out of his sight. Be persistent and consistent until he understands the command and is willing to obey. The best hand gesture to use with this command is a flat hand turned upwards with fingers pointed up, held outwards towards the dog.
5. The come command
This command teaches your dog to come when you call him. It’s a good idea to start with this command whenever you take your dog out for toilet training. When he’s finished with his business, tell him “come.” If he doesn’t respond, get his attention. Some dogs are more headstrong than others so you will need patience and consistency. Make eye contact with your dog and keep your body at a level that is higher than his head. This lets him know that you are dominant. If he doesn’t come, go to where he is and continue to say “come” while leading him to where you want him to go. Repeat the process until he responds every time you call. A good trick to use is to initially offer a reward when you say “come” and gradually discontinue the reward offers, because he needs to obey you without getting a treat every time. Don’t tolerate disobedience. When he refuses to comply, let him know that there are consequences. This doesn’t include any act of violence, but rather, guidance, patience and firmness. He will know that he’s displeased you when you calmly scold him with a firm voice. By nature, most dogs want to please their owners, so this is an advantage in training for basic and even more advanced commands.
6. The drop command
Drop, or drop it, is the order that tells your dog to drop whatever he has in his mouth. When he has something in his mouth, tell him “drop it.” If he doesn’t gently remove it from his mouth continuing to issue the command. When he willingly begins to release the object, praise him and you can also offer him a reward. This one can take a lot of repetition, but it’s well worth the effort.
7. The heel command
This teaches your pet to stay close by you, preferably right behind your legs as you walk. Start by walking him on a leash. Tell him “heel” and pull him to a position that is close and just a little behind you. Continue to reinforce this command, rewarding him for obeying. If he doesn’t, continue to give the command and keep pulling him into the position that you want him to assume until he gets it.
8. The Lie down command
This is another important command to teach your dog. You start by telling your dog to lie down in a certain spot. While you’re speaking, help to position the dog in the laying position, gently with your hands. Praise him for obeying. Be patient and continue to work with him until he understands what you mean. Offer rewards in the beginning, and gradually decrease the rewards until he will obey the lie down command without requiring your intervention.
9. Choose the best collar for training
When you’re a new dog owner, people will begin to give you advice on the “best” collar to use for training. Using positive reinforcement means avoiding choke or prong collars which can cut off the air supply or cause pain, and possible physical harm to your pet. There are lots of different collar styles that are safe, but still give you control. Smart collars are a new innovation that uses technology to track the health, fitness and location of your dog through GPS. They are useful for some types of training.
It’s recommended that you purchase an adjustable collar that remains solidly in place when fastened. Make sure that the collar fits your pet snugly so they can’t get out of it, but it must be loose enough for comfort. You should be able to fit two fingers between the material and your pet. Be certain to check the fit regularly if your pet is still growing.
10. Leash Training
Leashes are mandatory in some areas and they give you more control over the dog. Your pet may resist the leash initially, but reassure him that it’s okay as you attach it to his collar. Begin by gently coaxing and pulling him in the direction that you want to go. If he is afraid, be patient and work with him until he becomes more comfortable. Most dogs quickly learn that the leash will not harm them. If your dog has been abused, the process may take longer. Reward your dog by taking him on a nice walk. Do your best to avoid harsh stops that may cause choking. You’ll find that the leash can protect your dog from harm when walking near a roadway. It’s the best way for maintaining physical control of your dog at all times. Some leashes have a retractable mechanism that will allow to to let greater lengths out so your dog will have more freedom when appropriate.
Every dog whether puppy or adult needs to be socialized. It helps them to be more accepting of new animals, people and places. The way that it is done is by gradually exposing the dog to new people, animals and experiences. You need to be near your pet when you do this, so you can stay in control. Your dog may have fears or phobias and it’s your job to put him at ease with these new encounters. Use a reassuring tone until your dog feels comfortable and talk to him. Let him know it’s alright. Exposure is the only way to socialize your dog. Use positive reinforcement to reward appropriate behaviors and firmness for negative behaviors including aggressive behaviors. Your dog will be more well adjusted if he is properly socialized. Some things that you can do to speed the process are to take your dog on regular walks where there are other animals and people, take hi to a dog par, enroll the dog in a doggie day care a few times a month or invite friends to come over and bring their dogs for a visit.
12. Learning the meaning of “no”
While this may seem to be an opposite of positive reinforcement, it is an important word that every dog and human needs to understand. Sometimes the answer is no, and it is for their own good. When your dog misbehaves, use the word “no.” Use a disapproving tone of voice and be quite firm so they understand that their behavior is not acceptable and that you will not tolerate it. Yes, dogs can be put in a time out, just like toddlers. In fact, they are very much like children when it comes to learning. They have a desire and need to learn and grow in their personalities and it’s up to the owner to guide them in the process.
13. Dealing with aggression
Some dogs do well with their training until they encounter a new situation. They may become aggressive with other animals or people. If your dog becomes aggressive, this behavior cannot be tolerated. Responding with violence will only make the situation worse. Some things that you should try include removing your dog from the situation immediately. Tell him no, to let him know that you disapprove of the behavior. It’s important to deal with aggressive behaviors swiftly and consistently.
14. Don’t tolerate biting
Some pet owners make the mistake of allowing their dogs to bite them playfully. While all puppies and some dogs do this, allowing the behavior to continue could turn into a serious issue. Rough play can lead to serious injury. Dog bites can cause damage or even make you sick if they become infected. This is also a liability if they cause injury to another human or animal. Even if it doesn’t hurt when they bite you, stop the behaviors immediately by telling them “no” in a firm voice and consistently discouraging the behavior.
15. Preventing dog phobias
Some dogs are fearful and when they are exposed to frightening situations, they need to have your reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Gradual exposure to new situations is the best approach. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, start with moderate situations, staying right beside your pet, and increase the exposure giving lots of affection and reassurance, but don’t stress your dog unnecessarily. Overexposure to fearful situations can lead to phobias. Dogs become phobic when they are left alone, victimized by abusive humans or other animals, or neglected by their owners. Giving them reassurance and the best possible care with lots of love and attention increases the odds of having a well adjusted dog.
16. Extreme behaviors
If your dog exhibits extreme fears or aggression that is beyond what you are capable of handling, all is not lost. You can find a qualified and recommended dog trainer to work with your pet and help them move beyond whatever is causing the problem. In many cases, fear is behind extreme behaviors and a professional trainer is skilled at identifying the likely cause of the problem, then working with your dog to modify the extreme behaviors.
17. The leave it command
“Leave it” is one of the basic dog commands that can transform your pet into a reliable pet that has a tremendous amount of will power. It will give you more control over preventing your pet from picking something up with his mouth that he is considering. Start training by placing something that your dog wants to have within reach and telling him “leave it.” He may grab it anyway for the first few times, but be patient and continue to work with him. As he approaches the item, keep saying “leave it.” If he gets too close, pull him back repeating the phrase. Don’t let him have it, but when he obeys, give him a reward in the form of a treat and praise. Repeat the process until he fully understands and becomes compliant.
18. Give your dog his own possessions
Teaching your dog the difference between what is his and what is yours takes a long time to accomplish, but hang in there, he’ll eventually come to know what he can have and what he can’t. It’s important to supply your pet with plenty of toys and chew bones that are his. Giving him his own bed is also a good idea. If he has these things, he’ll be easier to train. Play with him and reinforce the fact that the toys are his by asking him, “is this yours?” Then tell him, this is yours or this is Fido’s (using his name). Having his own toys and chew bones will lessen the odds of him becoming bored and going after your possessions to chew and slobber on.
19. Break him from chewing up the house
It’s a natural instinct for all dogs to chew. This is why it’s vital that your dog has his own chew toys. We’re going to say “when” (not if), he chews on one of your shoes, furniture, carpeting or any other thing that is a no, it’s important to let him know that he is not allowed to do this. Take the item away from him and tell him “no” with a stern voice. Give him one of his toys and tell him “this is yours.” Here is where the “go lay down in your bed” command comes in handy. Give him a time out when he starts chewing on things that he isn’t supposed to.
20. Teach him to fetch
Fetch is a command that is very useful for socialization, exercise and obedience. Throwing a safe object for a distance will give your dog some excellent running time to build his muscles and improve his overall health and fitness. An additional benefit of this game is that it will help you to form a special bond with your pet. Play is positive attention and it’s good for both you and your dog. Most dogs will respond quickly to this game. When he chases the item that you throw, tell him to bring it to you. When he does, give him praise and a reward. Gradually decrease the rewards as he gains more understanding of what is going on. For this game, you can use the “drop it” command, or if you prefer the word “release,” they both work out the same.