Basic Training Tips 2017-04-13T18:45:43+00:00

Basic Training Tips

“Feed them and they will return, love them and they will die for you.” – Alison Stormwolf

Basic Training Tips for Dogs

From “9 Basic Training Tips for Dogs” by Annie B. Bond

You may not realize it, but you’ve been training your puppy from the first minute you got her!

For instance, each time you say her name and she moves from where she is to where you are, she is learning the command “Come.” You just have to add the word “Come” routinely so she makes the association.

Here are nine great training tips to help you successfully teach your puppy the basics:

Simply set aside about 10 to 20 minutes daily to work on these training tips with your puppy.

  1. Have one person in the family conduct the training. Even if everyone in the family is using the same verbal commands, their timing will be slightly different, which could confuse the dog. It should be someone who is patient. Have other family members work with the dog later, after her learning is well under way. Just be sure everyone in the family is using the same commands. If the puppy seems confused or backslides when more than one person works with her, return to having only one family member conduct the training.
  2. Use positive reinforcement. Reward the dog as she learns, and never punish the dog or become unpleasant when she doesn’t catch on right away. If the dog associates obedience with something pleasant, she is more likely to obey. If she associates obedience with scolding, she won’t learn as well. Training is not the time to issue the word “No.” “No” should be used only to correct inappropriate behavior. A puppy that doesn’t catch on right away to training is not misbehaving. She just hasn’t yet learned what you want her to do.

Use treats to encourage your puppy. Don’t use them every single time, however; otherwise you’ll find yourself with a dog that only obeys when you have a treat in hand!

  1. Teach one command at a time. Move on to an additional command only after the dog has caught on well to the first.

4. Keep your voice cheerful. Some dogs respond best to a very playful, coaxing voice, whereas others respond better to a slightly stern–but still pleasant– voice. Again, experiment to see which tone of voice gets you the best response.

  1. Keep your sense of humor. Puppies are distracted easily and can try your patience. Focus on your puppy’s accomplishments, no matter how small they are, and enjoy your time with her. She won’t be a puppy for long, after all.
  2. Train in various places. All the commands can be practiced in the house, in the yard, or with the dog on leash at a neighborhood park. If you vary the places you train your dog, more likely she’ll learn to obey wherever you are. Training her in different places will also help socialize your puppy.
  3. Train your puppy as you play. For instance, if you are playing fetch with a ball, ask your puppy to “Sit” before throwing the ball. Say “Come” as she returns with the ball. This reinforces your formal sessions, and since playtime is fun, it will help the dog learn to associate obedience with something pleasant.
  4. Integrate these training tips into daily life. As soon as your dog learns a command, begin using it routinely, not just during training sessions, and continue to reward the dog appropriately. Say “Heel” as you go from the kitchen to the living room, for example, and reward her when she obeys. Integrating commands into daily life as soon as possible will help ensure that your dog learns to listen in all types of situations, not just during your training sessions.
  5. Do not expect a dog of any age to obey every command every single time. Dogs are living creatures, not robots. They have good days and not-so-good days, just as people do. Sometimes they concentrate better than others. This is why keeping your dog on a leash anytime she is not in a fenced-in yard or in the house is imperative. Most dogs can, however, learn to obey commands most of the time if you are persistent with training.

Adapted from The Puppy Owner’s Manual, by Diana Delmar (Storey Books, 2001)

Common Problems

Some common problems seen in adult dogs are pulling on lead, jumping up on people, excessive barking, marking, eliminating in the house, digging, aggression, timidness and fear.

It’s not at all uncommon for a dog that was well socialized as a puppy, even tempered and friendly, to begin to react differently during social encounters as an adult. In many cases there are no traumatic experiences to explain this.

Signs of fearful or aggressive behavior can crop up in certain breeds without warning as they mature, and this is typically noticed about 1 to 2 years of age. Don’t let up on socialization at this point, but keep it up as this is a very important stage in development of your dog’s behavior.

Anxiety and boredom can provoke bad behavior and mischief when your dog is left unsupervised.

Bathroom habits can change on occasion as well. This can be due to environment, marking, new pets, family members, stress, age, illness and more. If your dog begins to forget where the bathroom is, or starts to conveniently go wherever he/she feels like it, this can be a more complex issue. Please read our article on adult dog potty training.

An example, dealing with fear:

Say for instance your dog shows anxiety, fear or aggression towards your UPS delivery man. Concentrating on socializing and desensitizing encounters with the UPS driver would be top priority.

Grab a friend or family member, dress them in brown, have them approach with a box and ring the bell. Approach the door with a confident calm demeanor, projecting that you are in charge. Command a sit and DO NOT open the door until your dog sits. Once this happens, praise and reward. If your dog gets up while you’re opening the door, close it! You get the picture, now repeat, repeat, repeat. Most social situations can be handled in similar fashion. It’s not about punishing for bad behavior, it’s more about praising for desired action.

Fear and Aggression

Fear and aggression comes in many shapes and forms and can be quite complex. Both behaviors are somewhat related. Briefly, I will summarize here and further discuss the different aspects of these behaviors with future detailed full-page articles.

When addressing fear and aggression, reward-based dog training is best. Fearful dogs can typically be introduced to new people with a treat/reward. Canines are amazingly food driven and in many fearful dogs this method works wonderful.

This can be a slow process — take a baby step approach. Imagine you are training a wild squirrel to come up on your deck and take a peanut from your hand. In many cases it can seem that similar. Here we are using treats/food as a “lure.” Fear and anxiety often go hand in hand. Our goal here is, by using our lure, to achieve a trust and bond with a fearful dog.

At left, one of my dogs, Koda, is in a “sit/stay” focused on the reward.

Aggression, on the other hand, is more directly related to poor socialization, though a fear aggressive behavior can result as well, especially when a fearful dog is cornered or does not have the means to escape. Further, un-neutered males and un-altered females may become aggressive from time to time regardless.

Positive reinforcement can be used to address aggression. What’s really happening here, however, is with a lure/bait/treat, we are distracting the dog and gaining its focus prior to an elevated aggressive state of mind.

Timing is key, and an aggressive dog is usually put into a sit/stay, or down/stay until the stimuli/distraction passes.

Conversely, many trainers employ the correction reinforcement method for dealing with aggressive dogs. Here and in the same situation, a correction/command is given to “snap the dog out of it” and gain its focus.

Interestingly, it’s often an amateur dog handler’s action that help feed this aggression in the first place! A handler who is nervous, afraid, or worried about a situation projects lack of confidence. This is quickly picked up by the dog and feeds into the aggressive state of mind. Nervous handlers may pull into a leash and yell at their dog to stop. With repetition this conditions the dog that every time this situation occurs it is supposed to behave this way.

The problem with leashes, colors, and corrections with aggressive dogs is it associates socializing with negativity. Compared to the concept of praise, reward, and pleasure, it makes sense to try and address aggression in a positive way.

Continue to Socialize Your Adult Dog

Maintain socialization, structure, and exercise life-long as dogs never stop learning. Don’t let things get boring or stale; always try to introduce new people, pets, and situations to keep the mind stimulated. Failure to socialize can lead to boredom, and a bored dog is more likely to act out, become fearful or aggressive, or develop other serious behavioral problems. Socializing is not difficult and is one of the most important things in assuring a trustworthy canine good citizen — don’t take it lightly.

We hope these training tips have proved beneficial in teaching your furry friend the basics! Please feel free to share these training tips with your fellow dog lovers.