7 Tips for Training Your Dog

June 15, 2015

Owning a dog can be a lot of work, but ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you the love and companionship you receive is well worth the time and effort! When you first bring home your new furry friend, you’ll be over joyed by how cute and loving they are. But more often than not, you’ll also quickly be overwhelmed by how un-trained they are, how frequently they pee (inside your house), and how much endless energy they seem to have. The sooner you begin training, the sooner you and your dog can start living a happy and stress-free life. Seriously, how can such a tiny dog have so much energy?

Before you jump into training, there are a few tips every dog parent should know—read on to learn some of our favorites!

1. Be Calm

It may sound strange, but dogs can sense our emotions and often behave based on what they sense. This means that if you are overly anxious when it comes time to teach your dog “sit,” your dog may sense that anxiety, and in turn become anxious as well. An anxious dog trying to learn a new trick? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess that it won’t end well. Stay cool, calm, and collected while training your dog and hope that your calmness rubs off on them.

2. Be Patient

Training doesn’t happen overnight. It takes lots of time, repetition, and patience. If your dog isn’t understanding the new trick right away, don’t worry! Stay calm, and continue working on it. If you find yourself (or your dog) getting tired or discouraged, take a break. Training is all about patience, for both you and your dog.

3. Action First

When it comes to dog training, it is common to want to jump in head first by saying the word or phrase you want your dog to perform while making the dog perform the action (i.e. saying “sit” while getting your dog to sit). This is a lot for a dog to comprehend all at once.

Instead, begin your training by simply making the dog perform the action and rewarding them. Once your dog can successfully “sit” or “shake” (whatever the trick may be), you can then add in the word. It may seem like an extra step, but easing into the trick is crucial. You want your dog to know that the action is what you are praising and rewarding, not them simply hearing the word.

4. Reward Good Behavior

Dogs are not born understanding what we humans view as “good” and “bad” behavior. Because of this, it’s important to reward your dog whenever they exhibit “good” behavior. You can reward your dog with:

  • Love and praise
    • When your dog exhibits good behavior or performs a trick on command, say his or her name, tell them how good they are, and give them lots of love! The dog will begin to associate positive reinforcement with the trick or action they successfully completed.
  • Treats
    • Make sure you are using very small and low-calorie treats to avoid overfeeding your dog during training sessions. If you are lucky, your dog may even perform tricks for pieces of kibble. If this is the case, take out a measured amount from their daily food serving and use that kibble for training. If your dog is a picky eater, try finding a strong smelling treat that you can break up into smaller pieces. The strong smell will gain the attention of your dog and help them focus. Whatever treat you decide to use, make sure that in the early stages of training, you are rewarding each and every time your dog performs the trick. If you say “sit” and your dog sits, reward them right away. If you wait too long, your dog may get confused and not associate the reward with the trick. Once you are farther along into training, you can start asking more of your dog before you reward them. For instance, if your dog has nailed “sit”, you can then start working on “stay”. During this training period, you’ll likely ask your dog to “sit” and then work on the “stay”. Once your dog is far enough along into their training, you can stop rewarding every time for the “sit” and begin rewarding for the “stay”.
  • Play time
    • After a training session, reward your dog with a game of fetch or tug-o-war. Training is tough work for both you and your dog! Play time afterwards is a great way to relax and give your dog a mental break.

5. Train in Public Settings

So often dogs are trained in the confines of their (quiet and distraction-free) home. This is a perfectly acceptable environment to begin your training in, especially when working on the basics. But don’t be surprised when you take your dog out into the real world and they seem to forget everything you’ve taught them! Training in the home only goes so far.

Distractions can be anything from a neighbor mowing the lawn or a car driving by to a bird flying overhead or even a slight shift in the wind. There is no better place to train your dog than out in the real world where they are tested by countless distractions. Whether you go to the park and work on your sit/stays, or bring your dog into your local Shoppers Supply store (yes, dogs are allowed!), training outside of the home will be the best thing you can do for your dog.

6. Understand Your Dog’s Behaviors

Just as us humans have different traits and characteristics, so do our dogs. Before you begin training, it’s important to truly know your dog. What scares them? What gets them excited? What distracts them? The more you know about your dog, the more responsive you’ll be as you begin training. If loud noises scare your dog, then you’ll want to begin training in a calm and quiet space. You can then begin training in louder areas so that your dog gets used to those loud noises and learns that something such as an airplane overhead is nothing to be scared of.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like we said earlier, training doesn’t happen overnight. The more you practice with your dog, the better trained and more well-behaved they will be! Seems simple enough, right? Then what are you waiting for?

If you’ve recently adopted a new dog, or have one that could use a little more training, there is no better time than the present to get going. And before you do, make sure to stop by your local Shoppers Supply to pick up treats and other training supplies to help make the process as easy as possible. Visit our Apache Junction or Chandler location today!