Training a puppy or adult dog can seem daunting, but having a well-trained canine companion has huge rewards.
Whether you have a new pup or an older dog that needs some refreshers, using positive reinforcement and setting a solid foundation will set you both up for success.
This comprehensive guide covers all the dog training basics, troubleshooting problems, and pro tips to make your furry friend a star pupil.
Establish Yourself as the “Pack Leader”
Before diving into specific training cues and techniques, make sure your dog understands you are the leader that they should respect and follow.
Some key ways to establish your leadership include:
- Walk ahead of your dog during outings instead of being led
- Go through entry doors and gates first
- Have your dog sit and wait calmly for food bowl refills instead of diving in
- Set up rules and structure around access to furniture, beds, toys, etc.
Having a leadership framework first makes formal training cues much smoother.
Start Young: Benefits of Training Puppies Early
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the best time to start teaching a puppy is right away during their critical socialization period between 7-16 weeks old.
Some perks of early formal training include:
- Helps puppies better adjust to domestic life
- Sets habits around potty training and chewing/nipping
- Teaches important basic obedience cues like sit, stay, come, down, leave it, etc.
- Makes it easier to train more advanced behaviors later on
- Gets puppies used to learning and being rewarded for paying attention
Prioritize at least short, focused training sessions multiple times a day for fast progress.
The Power of Positive Reinforcement
Current expert consensus overwhelmingly favors positive reinforcement as the safest, most effective approach for both puppies and adult dogs.
Some key principles:
- Use highly motivating rewards like tiny treats, excited praise, or a favorite toy when introducing new behaviors
- Immediately reward the exact moments your dog demonstrates the behavior you asked for
- Use a unique verbal marker like the word “Yes!” right as the desired behavior happens so your dog understands what earned the treat
- Avoid yelling, hitting, shocking, or other punishments if your dog does not perform the behavior‐ those methods risk side effects like fear and anxiety.
Staying positive keeps the training process fun!
5 Commands to Practice Daily
Building your dog’s repertoire of obedient behaviors starts with consistently rewarding the same 5 fundamentals.
Having a reliable sit is pivotal for manners, impulse control, and paying attention. Here are some sit training tips:
- Hold a treat at your dog’s nose level but pulled back slightly towards the top of their head so they tip their nose up
- Say “sit” then immediately reward once their bottom touches down
- Repeat this gesture while slowly fading the food lure until the verbal cue alone gets a quick sit response
Having a bombproof recall can save your dog’s life if they dash towards a hazardous area. Follow these tips to teach ‘come’:
- Start “come” training on a long lead leash in a safe enclosed area without major distractions
- Say your dog’s name and “come!” in an upbeat, encouraging tone of voice
- Keep slack in the leash as they turn towards you so they don’t feel trapped
- Quickly feed multiple treats the moment they reach you
The “down” cue tells your buddy to lay down with all elbows and hips on the floor. Training method:
- Ask for a sit first, then show the treat right in front of your dog’s front paws
- Slowly guide it straight down towards the floor forcing their nose to follow until they lay down
- Say “down” then mark and treat the second their elbows touch the floor
Stay means your dog should hold position and not move from that spot until released. Practice:
- Start with sit stay first, say “stay”, take one large step back
- Return and treat if they held still for just 2 seconds
- Very gradually work up to longer durations before marking and rewarding
Prevents counter surfing for food or chasing critters. Steps:
- Hold a treat in your closed fist and say “leave it” when they sniff
- Only open your hand once they stop trying to access the treat
- Pair with a treat from your other hand to reinforce ignoring what they cannot have
Aim to run through these 5 core behaviors in short sessions multiple times a day. Repetition and real-life practice builds the strength of these cues over time.
Dog training is always an ongoing journey. Be patient with yourself and your pup or dog. With time, positive methods profoundly deepen your human-canine bond built on mutual respect and understanding.