Whether you have a new puppy or an old dog, it makes good sense to invest a little time training them. Here are some tips to keep in mind when getting ready to teach your dog some basic commands or new tricks.
1. Positive reinforcement is essential. While there are many theories on how to train your dog, most dog training experts agree that positive reinforcement works best. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding your dog with verbal praise “good dog”, physical praise like a pat on the head and food rewards. It doesn’t involve yelling at your dog, hitting or punishing them.
Positive reinforcement works because it builds a bond of trust with your dog. Dogs are motivated by rewards especially food rewards.
2. Consistency is essential. If you’re working with your dog on a specific skill or trick then try to train them at the same time every day. This helps your dog know what to expect. Most dogs thrive on structure and will perform and learn much faster when they know what’s expected. If you’re training using food rewards, try to train your dog before mealtime so they’re a little bit hungry and motivated.
3. Be patient. Dogs tend to learn in waves. Sometimes they pick things up quickly and then the next day it seems like you have to start over from the very beginning. Be patient. Start each new trick with very small steps and be clear about what you expect. Even with the smallest tricks like “sit” you will want to break it down into smaller steps.
4. Use hand cues in addition to verbal cues. Some dogs have an easier time understanding and remembering hand signals than they do with verbal cues. Assign a hand signal to each trick or behavior you are training.
5. Train in small increments. Dogs have short attention spans. Trying to train them for twenty or thirty minutes isn’t going to work. They’re going to get frustrated and lose focus. Instead, keep training sessions to no more than five minutes.
In the beginning, you may want to train for only a minute or two until your dog learns to look forward to training. Dogs can learn to dislike training. Keeping the training sessions short will help them learn to enjoy the process.
6. Always end on a positive note. Learning a new trick is hard work. End each training session, no matter how frustrating, on a positive note. Always give your dog a trick or behavior to perform that they know how to perform and end with a food reward and plenty of praise.
7. Keep your dog healthy. Finally, one of the most important dog training tips from the experts recommends feeding your dog a quality dog food, giving them plenty of fresh water and making sure they get enough sleep. A healthy dog is a happier dog and will learn desired behaviors much more quickly.