Training a dog can be time consuming, but it can also be easy if you follow these simple steps:
- Determine your goals. Start with basic commands, including ‘heel', ‘sit', and ‘stay.' Don't forget to include a command such as ‘OK' or ‘free' so that your dog knows it is okay to relax once the task is over. Also teach your dog to respond to his name. Once your dog has learned these, you can add more complicated behaviors. Just like you wouldn't expect a toddler to be able to perform complicated tasks, don't expect your new puppy or untrained dog to be able to do tricks or exhibit complicated behaviors.
- Your goals for training your puppy might also include specific rules for inside your hoe. For example, you may wish to train your dog to stay off the couch or bed. Because it's important to be consistent, make sure that you begin this training as soon as you get your new dog.
- Start training. Many people find it hard to begin training a new dog. Limit each session to 5 or 10 minutes; this is the length of most dogs' attention span. During each session, focus on the commands you want them to learn. Make sure the environment is quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions. Make sure you are in a good mood; otherwise, you may become frustrated when your dog does not respond to commands. Always be consistent with your wording, tone of voice, and expectations; otherwise you may confuse your dog.
- If you are training your dog to obey household rules like staying off the furniture, do not do this in specific training sessions. Instead, firmly say "NO" when you notice the dog doing something against the rules.
- Use positive reinforcement. Every time your dog does it correctly, reinforce the behavior with treats and praise. Be sure to say "Good" the instant your dog exhibits the proper behavior. However, avoid harsh punishment when trying to train your dog. This can work against you.
- Increase expectations. Once your dog has learned the basic commands, slowly increase your expectations. For example, you can begin to expect them to sit for a longer time before showing them with praise. You can also begin to use the commands in a busier environment, although don't be surprised if your dog has trouble listening at first. Be sure to continue rewarding them for exhibiting the proper behavior. Once your dog has mastered these commands and is comfortable with your method of training in general, you can move on to other commands.
- Reduce food rewards. As you are finishing teaching the desired commands, gradually reduce the food rewards. Still be sure to give verbal praise. However, eventually you'll want your dog to follow the commands without the promise of a treat.
If you don't have time to do all of the training yourself, check with your local humane society for dog training classes in your area. Even with classes, you will be expected to put in some work towards training your dog in between the classes. Training a dog takes time and patience, but it is well worth it.