Keys to Great Dog Training

The Right Rewards: Make sure that the rewards you use work well for your dog. What motivates your dog the most? Food? What kinds of food – kibble, chicken, beef, turkey, Milkbones? Tennis balls? Playing tug or fetch? Belly rubs? Playing with other dogs? The more your dog wants the reward, the more quickly he’ll learn the behavior you’re rewarding.

Timing: The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—of the behavior, or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog sit but reward him after he’s stood back up, he’ll think he’s being rewarded for standing up.

Using a clicker or a specific word – “Yes!” works well – to mark the correct behavior can improve your timing and also help your dog understand the connection between the correct behavior and the treat.

Short Commands: Dogs don’t understand sentences. “Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now” will likely earn you a blank stare. “Sit!” however, is much easier for a dog to recognize and remember. Keep commands short and uncomplicated, and your dog learn them much faster.

Consistency: Everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.

Consistency also means ALWAYS rewarding the desired behavior and NEVER rewarding undesired behavior. This can be challenging for a human at first; some days it will be difficult not to slip up and give in to a dog’s inappropriate behaviors, or forget yourself and respond in a way that you know is rewarding for your dog, because your human brain thinks some rewards should be punishing. Don’t get discouraged – you’ll get there eventually!

Set the Dog Up For Success: Setting your dog up for training success means you understand your dog’s limits, and respect them until you can change those limits. Be aware of your dog’s behavioral quirks, and limit his access to situations that he’s not prepared to handle. If your dog jumps up on guests, limit his greeting behavior choices by leashing him and asking him to “sit” before the guests arrives. You can also set your dog up for success in practicing good house manners by crating your dog if he must spend time unsupervised in your home. By controlling your dog’s environment to offer him only “correct” choices, you help him succeed no matter what he chooses to do. For more on crate training, (click here)

For more information on Positive Dog Training:
-“The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson
-“Don’t Shoot the Dog!” by Karen Pryor
-“The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell

Humane Society of the United States – Training with Positive Reinforcement
ASPCA – Training Your Dog
Debbie Wilke’s Dog Training and Obedience

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