Dog Training 101
Dogs. They just keep going and going (and going). Their seemingly endless energy can wear even the most athletic pet owner out.
In many cases, this is a good thing- there have been several studies that find dogs to be powerful motivators for their human companions. But if all that energy isn’t given an appropriate outlet, dogs can develop bad habits and behavior that will drive you crazy.
Why do they act this way? Where do the bad habits come from?
Take a look in the mirror.
Yep, that’s right. Dogs learn most of their behavior from their owners, including the bad behavior. It is so easy to praise dogs unintentionally when they have exhibited bad behavior.
For example, do you remember when your dog was oh-so-tiny and would jump into your lap and you would pay attention to it and smother it with love?
Well, he was rewarded then, why shouldn’t he be rewarded now (30, 50 or even 100lbs later)?
So what’s a pet parent to do? Dog shaming, no matter how hilarious, is hardly effective. To my knowledge, there are, maybe, a handful of dogs on the planet that can recognize words, and the rest are shameless.
Simple ways to train your dog.
Get into a routine
Dogs like routines and are very fast learners. A daily schedule is best with a short lesson and follow-up.
Food is a positive motivator and if used wisely can provide a major incentive for good behavior. A simple first step into training your dog revolves around the feeding schedule. Try feeding your dog once or possibly twice a day only. Before you place the food bowl down have your dog sit until you have placed the bowl on the floor. Most importantly have him continue sitting till you say go.
Use Paws-itive Reinforcement
Using treats and praise is the best way to quickly train your dog. Every time your dog learns something new praise him and give a treat. Of course, low-calorie treats are best- I always use popcorn. I played a game with my Labrador to catch popcorn in the air and this reinforced the popcorn as praise for good behavior.
Until you have to correct them
Oh no….the negative voice!
Dogs need to know the difference between good and bad behavior and they can be easily confused. You’re not being mean and you’re not scolding, you’re reminding your dog that bad behavior will not be tolerated.
Training yourself to use two distinct and different tones of voice can be the hardest lesson of all. Dogs learn from your voice inflection. Your positive voice is always friendly and enthusiastic and used for praise. Your negative voice is harsher in tone and strict. Practice these two voices at length and make absolutely sure they are distinct.
Have a friend or family member hear your negative voice and give advice. Never ever give a treat after you correct them. Treats are for good behavior only.
Correct, not punish
Be very careful with any type of punishments. The bottom line is that dogs never really understand negative reinforcement if any time has elapsed. Praise works much better. Personally, I do not recommend any types of punishment whatsoever.
Ideally, training should start the first day you get your dog.
Little late for that? It’s OK! I mean, with busy lives, who has the time? But dog training is very important. If you cannot make the time, consider hiring a professional dog trainer. Trainers can be pricey but if you have limited time and a few extra dollars it may be worth it.
For the DIY-ers, many places offer day classes to get you started. There are also many short videos on Youtube, if you want to get technical about a certain technique, some are even made by professional trainers! An added benefit – dog training is a great way for you and your pup to get to know each other and improve your relationship, like those trust games they make you do at school/work.
Whatever way you go, dog training can ensure you and your pup keep making happy (and stress-free) memories for years to come.
Do you use any tricks to train your dog? Tell us about them in the comments!
Meet the Author
Dr. Clayton Jones
Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. He also is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.