Dogs are a lot like people: they are emotionally intelligent beings that are happy and eager to learn.
So don’t worry, in the core your dog wants to do good and be a good behaving dog for you. The only challenge is communicating to them what you want.
Training your dog is important. Making sure you can get your dog’s attention and control his actions can save his life. Other advantages are of course that your dog will be much more pleasant to be around, which will improve the bond between you two.
Some people tend to teach their dog by physical punishment, like yanking on the leash or even hitting them. This is not necessary and should be avoided.
Most training can be done in a positive way using minor corrections and giving/withholding rewards. This will make the whole experience much more enjoyable for both you and your dog, and will avoid creating a relationship based on fear instead of love. If you really have to punish a dog after he has done something bad, a simple scolding by saying ‘bad dog!’ will do the trick usually to make clear that his behaviour is not acceptable.
Make sure you have a clear and healthy relationship with your dog before you start the training. You should be the one in control, and take charge. You don’t have to pretend to be a tough alpha-male-primate for this. Just be like a ‘pleasant boss’: positive and friendly whenever possible, but assertive and authoritative when required.
For controlling a dog’s behaviour, you need to communicate to them what you want. Since we do not share a common language with them, you will have to do this with actions.
The basics for every training are to reward good behaviour and any progress made towards your training goal, and to not reward any behaviour that is not in line with your goal.
It is important that your dog understands what a reward is for, so do this as soon as possible. If you are too late, the dog might not understand what he is being rewarded for which is disruptive.
A reward can best be a small snack, but also a physical touch like a pat on the neck or saying something like ‘good boy’ in a pleasant tone of voice will let the dog know that he did well.
Start early with training. Same as with us humans, dogs learn easiest when they are young. Training can be started when dogs are between 5-12 weeks old. Especially puppies have a very short attention span, so limit your training session to about 15 minutes. Same like us, your dog may have an ‘off day’ when he is tired or distracted, which makes it hard for him to focus and learn. In that case, just repeat some exercises that he already knows and reward him for it. You can always try again later.
First off, you have to decide on what you want to teach your dog. Think about how you want your dog to behave, and to which commands you want him to respond. Start with the most important ones and work you way down the list from there.
Once you have figured out what you want to train for, just start and tackle one topic at a time. Ensure that other people that are around your dog are aware of what you are training for so they do not allow behaviour from your dog that you are trying to change.
Be consistent in your training sessions, and stay positive.
During the training always repeat some simple exercises that the dog will already know. This will give you a chance to reward him, which will motivate him to learn more and look forward to the training sessions.
I have personally found it handy to teach my dog to regard a specific whistling note as command to listen and watch me. Especially in busy places the dog may not hear you saying its name, or maybe you don’t want to be shouting the dog’s name on a certain occasion.
When teaching your dog to respond to commands, also teach him how to respond to hand signals at the same time. At least the commands ‘stay’ and ‘come’ should be know to the dog by hand signals. This will be of great use when you want to be able to give your dog commands in busy and noisy areas.
Some suggestions to train for:
- Crate training:Teach your dog to get used to being in a crate. At one point or another you will probably require your dog to be in a crate, for transporting or perhaps a temporary kennel stay.
- Proper leash walking: not walking in front of you, but at your side. Not pulling on the leash.
- Stop, lying down, staying put, sitting
- Coming to you when you call them
- No jumping up at people when your dog is enthusiastic
Remember, your dog is your most loyal friend. Be patient, have fun together, and don’t forget to play!