How do you train a dog?

How do you train your dog to listen, to be good, to stop doing something, etc? There is no easy answers for how to train your dog. There is no one perfect tool to magically “fix” them. Training your dog is about building a relationship and putting time and effort towards your dog.

There is no one correct way to train your dog. I could teach a dog to sit, for example, at least three different ways. None of these ways are right or wrong but some dogs might succed faster with one methods over the others. Also many people will suggest methods of learning that are not kind. Cruel and unkind training methods often result in a dog that is slow to listen, fearful, and wants to avoid their human. The most important thing about training is that you are rewarding your dog for behaviors you like and not expecting them to immediately know what you want.

Reward your dog

Dog do not listen to us humans just because they should or for praise. If you are stingy with the treats and rewards you will get a dog who doesn’t see a need to interact with you when there are better things to be doing. My own dogs love training and working for me and even if I just stopped rewarding them they would stop staying engaged and stop wanting to work with me.

Silouette of a man handing a german shepherd dog a treat in front of a blue cloudy sky which is reflecting on the lake below.

We also have to make sure that when we reward our dogs that they actually find our “reward” appealing. Treats are often the easiest reward to use but if our dog doesn’t like the kind of treat we buy they won’t want to work for us. What kind of treat they like also depends on the situatuion. I might find ice creaming really rewarding in the summer but not want it in the middle of winter. The same thing happens with dogs. They might like their kibble or other low value treat at home, but when you go somewhere more exciting the dog doesn’t care for it at all.

We might also assume some actions are rewarding that aren’t actually. Many people tell me their dog will work for praise or pets but often this isn’t true. My dogs like praise and pets at times but usally when learning at new trick this isn’t rewarding. Many pets might actually find a pet punishing. My dog, Luna, doesn’t like pets when training or out and about. When working on nice loose leash walking I would pet her when she was next to me and she would move away and start walking at the end of the leash to avoid pets. She was telling me petting was not a reward and was actually a punishment.

Don’t ask too much

We also can’t expect our dogs to be mind readers. Often people tell me their dog knows a skill after one day. It takes a little bit of practice to get a skill down amazing.It takes practice learning to do that skill anywhere, anytime, with any distraction going on. Just because your dog knows how to sit at home in your quiet living room doesn’t mean they know in the dog park with a bunch of other dogs running around them.

If you find your self repeating a cue, the word “sit”, over and over again then your dog doesn’t know the skill all the way yet. If you dog is stuggling you need to work in a less distractiong enviroment or go back to the beginning of teaching the skill.

Learn from the experts

There are many great free dog training tutorials online. I have a couple free videos on my youtube page but for more great free content, watch kikopup. These can be a great starting point but there is also a lot of bad information out online. Anyone can claim to be a expert and spread a lot of hurtful, untrue information out there so if someone offeres quick fixes or if they suggest something you aren’t comfortable with don’t take their word for law.

Also every dog is different. Online dog help might not help with your specific case. For example some might recommend grabbing your dog’s collar as part of a step. I have a dog is terrified whenever someone grabs her collar, so I avoid doing it and don’t keep a collar on her most of the time. My other dog would not care at all about having his collar grabbed. So while this step might work with one of my dogs, it would just terrify the other and not make it easier for her to learn.

Private lessons are a great way to get personalizied help for your dog so you can learn how to train your dog. A one-on-one lessons are designed to work around your needs and abilities to teach you how to train a dog. Dog trainers often offer other option, like board and train but that is more about actually training the dog while private lessons are designed to train the human. Even if there aren’t dog trainers near you can still do private lessons virtually and they are just as effective as in-person lessons.

Dog Training is hard and takes time to learn

Dog training takes time. It is not something that will happen over night and asking too much from our dogs with not enough rewards, can make them not want to work with us and start ignoring us instead.

If you get stuck don’t worry, even dog trainers talk their dog training friends to ask for advice. Getting a second option for figuring out what is going wrong is a great step to take.

I offer private lessons, in-person or virtual to help you learn how to train your dog. Contact us today or sign up here if you need help.

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