Dog training all comes down to using carefully selected consequences that aim to modify the behavior of your dog, to ultimately get your dog to do activities you teach them are appropriate, and stop them from doing activities you teach them are inappropriate.
Truth be told, dog training is both an art and a science, and it’s one that’s easy to learn once you get the basics down.
What Is Dog Training?
If you do any kind of search online, you’ll likely come across many different dog training methods, and each one has its positives and negatives. Some of the most popular dog training methods you might have heard of are the Koehler method, the clicker training method, dominance-based training, negative reinforcement and relationship-based training (just to name a few).
No matter which dog training method you ultimately choose to go with, all successful dog training techniques have a few key elements in common, most important of which are immediate and instant reinforcement of consequences after your dog has taken a specific action (with reward or punishment being the consequence, more on that later in this article) and consistent communication with your dog throughout the entire training process.
If you’re panicking and thinking that this is way too hard for you to do all on your own, relax!
Dog training is much easier than it seems, and after you’re done reading this article, you’ll be WAY ahead of 90% of dog owners when it comes to knowing how to train your dog.
Why Should You Train Your Dog?
Let’s face it, we don’t own dogs for no reason.
We own dogs because of the fact that they have the potential to make our lives a much more enjoyable experience than it already is. But, without the proper dog training, what you picture as a perfect life with your dog can turn into a nightmare.
When not properly trained, dogs don’t know any better than to do some silly (and sometimes dangerous) acts like continuous and annoying barking, digging and chewing on stuff they shouldn’t be getting near their mouths. And, the problem is, the more they perform these acts, the harder it becomes to train them to do otherwise, and the more difficult it becomes to live with them as a result.
So, the smart thing to do is always train your dog early on before their bad habits become a very big part of them, so that “a dog is a man’s best friend” becomes a reality and not just a meaningless saying.
One other reason every dog owner out their should train their dog is that it’s been proven time and time again that training your dog actually improves the bond between the two of you. So, not only will he/she grow on you, you will also grow on your dog and you will experience that first hand and reap the rewards accordingly! Dog training isn’t a chore, it’s actually a very fun and eye opening process.
So, without further ado, let’s go!
How To Train A Dog?
Ever feel like your dog just doesn’t listen to you no matter what you say? Welcome to the club then, you’re on the same page as just about every dog owner out there.
However, every person who has succeeded in dog training will tell you that one of the biggest secrets to it is good and effective communication. The same way we were raised when we were kids to tell right from wrong by means of effective communication, your dog must also clearly understand how you would like them to behave at different scenarios.
For the best and most effective communication experience with your dog, you have to understand the following. Whenever your dog performs any sort of action, they will learn from the immediate consequence of that action.
What exactly does that mean? Good question.
If your dog does something that you approve of and you immediately reward them with something like a yummy snack, a fun round of their favorite game or just good old praise and affection, you will be communicating to your dog that you approve of the action they just did and that they should do it more often.
On the contrary, if your dog does something that you do not approve of and you “punish” them for it by not rewarding them (refraining from giving them their favorite treat or ignoring them by not giving them any attention) they will get the message that you’re upset by what they did, you did not reward them for it, and they should not do it again.
We’ll go on to much more details on everything related to rewards vs punishments in dog training in the next few sections, but for now, just understand this basic concept.
There’s also the aspect of social learning, which means that your dog will observe, learn from and imitate the behavior of others in their environment.
This is especially important if you’re having problems with your dog and you know for a fact that they interact with other dogs during their day to day life.If so, you should be aware of how these other dogs act, because more often than not, what your dog sees others of their kind doing, your dog copies.
Speaking of effective communication during dog training, below is a very cool video I found about how much your tone matters when talking to them. Check it out!
Best Dog Training Tips
As with everything in life, there are many different approaches to dog training.
You might get advice from someone saying your best bet is to establish yourself as the authority figure in the relationship and use a “domination-like” approach, while someone else might advise you with going down the rewards route and staying away from any sort of firmness with your dog because of possible repercussions with time.
Lost with which dog training approach you should go with? I don’t blame you. This is information overload at its finest here, people! So, and as I always like to do in my life, let’s keep things simple, because they really don’t need to be complicated at all.
Contrary to mainstream belief, there is no right, wrong or best way to go about training your dog. As long as you get the most important basics down, you’re good to go.
In the end, every dog training method (no matter how different the approaches they take are) all aim to achieve one thing, and that is to control the way your dog behaves at different circumstances.
All you really have to do is reward them when they behave the way you want them to, and “punish” them when they behave in a way you don’t want them to.
Sounds simple? That’s because it really is.
Rewards In Dog Training
Rewards you give or refrain from giving to your dog (depending on whether you want them to learn that you’re happy with what they just did or not) must satisfy one of their needs. So it can be their favorite treat, a fun round of their favorite game, or just giving them the attention they are always so desperately looking for.
So, let’s say your dog starts jumping all over you whenever you get home. Some people like that, but for the sake of this example let’s assume you don’t. So, how do you change this behavior? Easy!
A reward can have a million forms. Instead of rewarding them with attention and facial expressions that scream out YAAAAAY, try turning/walking away or ignoring them (yes, facial expressions can have a big effect here, try pulling an I’m-not-entertained face and walk away and see what happens after a couple of times).
Then, when they’re back to the way you want them to be (that would be sitting down peacefully in this case) you can instantly reward them by giving them the attention they were seeking in the first place.
What does your dog learn here? They learn that you don’t appreciate them jumping all over you like a maniac, and this will get them ignored (so they’ll start doing less and less of that), while sitting down like the good boy/girl he/she is will get them all the attention in the world (so they’ll start doing more and more of that).
To maximize the effectiveness of this dog training approach, the rewards you use with your dog must be things that mean the most to him/her. You know your dog best, so it’s up to you to choose what the most effective reward will be. The key principle is to discover what motivates your dog the most and use it to elicit certain behaviors you want and stop others you don’t want.
It also must be said that the reward you give to your dog (if it’s going to be food) must be easily chewed and must not make them feel full. The latter will only make the dog training session longer (which will do more harm than good, more on that in the dog training session time section) and make them feel lethargic.
Punishment In Dog Training
“Punishment” referred to in dog training has nothing to do with any physical or psychological pain inflicted on your dog, it simply refers to you refraining from rewarding them after they’ve done something you do not approve of and want them to do less of. The ultimate goal of punishment is to make them perform less of a certain behavior they have.
Physically punishing your dog with leash corrections, scolding or whatever similar technique to discourage them from performing certain acts can work well for the short term, however it can backfire big time in the long run. I can’t personally imagine that doing such a thing on a daily basis would be something pleasant for you, nor can I imagine how much your dog will enjoy that.
I’ve seen it time and time again with people who choose to go with the punishment technique, the dog sooner rather than later becomes afraid of the owner, and you can kiss any sort of pure emotional bond goodbye. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes, how fun would it be for you to have physical pain inflicted on you everyday? Dog training or not, that’s just not humane and there are many other more effective methods to go with.
Therefore, giving your dog rewards or taking rewards away is a much more effective and enjoyable approach to go with rather than physically punishing your dog whenever they do something you don’t want them to do. It isn’t rocket science! Your dog does more of what gets them rewarded, and does less of what doesn’t. This way, you’ll get the message through much more effectively, and without damaging the relationship between you two forever.
For example, if your dog starts barking next to you for no reason and you want them to stop, the last thing you want to do is show them attention. In this case, the punishment/refraining from rewarding them would be to simply ignore them or walk away from them until they stop barking. This will teach them that when they bark, they will only drive you away, so they will start doing less and less of that every time.
If you give them any sort of attention when they bark (such as yell at them, throw light objects at them or continuously tell them to stop) you would be telling them indirectly that when they bark, they have your attention, which would obviously be counterproductive.
The Importance Of Consistency And Immediacy
The consequences you show to your dog in order to influence their behaviors MUST (and I cannot emphasize this enough) be immediate when attempting any dog training method.
If your dog does something and is shown consequences for that action at a later part in time and not right after they did it, there’s no way they will ever be able to make a connection between the two events. Dogs only connect the consequences of their actions with their actions if they are shown immediately.
Whether we’re talking about rewards for good behavior or punishments for bad behavior, they must both come within 2 seconds of the action for your dog to understand the relation between the two.
Also, the consequences you show to your dog must always be consistent. Give him/her mixed signals every time and you’ll have them confused for a long time. For example, if you sometimes warmly greet your dog when they jump up and down to greet you when you come home but angrily yell at them instead other times, they’re surely going to get confused. How can they know whether it’s okay to do what they did or not?
Speaking of consistency, here’s a mistake I see dog owners doing all the time. They teach their dog the meaning of a certain word, like “sit” and “walk” and “treat,” then start using different words for the same thing like “down” and “go” and “yumyum”. If there was ever a way to confuse your dog, this would be it! When teaching your dog a word, cue or command, decide on one phrase/word/command and make sure that it’s communicated to your dog consistently by whoever interacts with them.
Consistency becomes more and more vital especially when more than one person interacts with your dog during day to day life. For example, if you’re training your dog not to jump up and down to greet people when they come to your home, all your family members must also abide by this rule. If any family member breaks this rule and allows your dog to jump up and down to greet them, this will lose all the training progress you’ve done and get you back to square zero.
Your Mood While Training Your Dog
I cannot stress enough just how important the mood you are in (and how it shows on you) is to the effectiveness of the training session. If you’re in a bad mood and you show it (and trust me, your dog can easily tell), you won’t accomplish anything other than scaring your dog and harming the relationship between the two of you.
Don’t go too wishy-washy and emotional on your dog during training sessions, and don’t go too harsh and dominant. Strive for a firm, assertive yet caring personality in the middle.
Dominance Based Dog Training
This model is based on the theory that dog owners must dominate their dogs in their lives in order to get them to act the way they want to, which is pretty much a myth that people have to let go of this day and age.
More than enough studies have shown that using this type of training to modify your dog’s behavior can cause more harm than good, leading to your dog developing fear, anxiety and aggression. In short, domination based dog training has a great chance to lead to your dog feeling threatened and afraid at all times.
So, if you decide to use such an approach on your dog, don’t be surprised if they bite back!
Electronic Dog Training
Electronic dog training revolves around the concept of using an electric shock as a way of saying “don’t do that again” to your dog. The most common form of electronic dog training involves the use of collars that can deliver a shock when your dog does something like barking.
However, and just like dog dominance based training, if you choose to go with this type of training model, you run a very high risk of inflicting physical pain and psychological trauma to your dog.
So, stay away from such a training model because there are others out there that are way better.
Dog Obedience Training
Dog obedience training focuses on certain skills like sitting, standing, fetching something, coming when called and staying. The beauty of obedience training is that you get to learn how to communicate with your dog in terms of what you want them to do. Throughout the process, you develop the skill of learning how to work with your dog and how to make them understand you, which will develop a beautiful relationship between you two.
People who send their dogs for training with other people don’t realize that their dogs will come back having learned how to work with those other people, not with their owners.
I’ve seen it time and time again to say so confidently, the best experience you can ever have with your dog in the long term comes after you train your dog at home yourself. If you insist on having a personal dog trainer involved in the process, make sure the dog trainer works with you and your dog and involves you in the training. Any training for your dog where you aren’t involved is one where you’re losing out.
Dog Prevention Training
Sometimes, one of the best ways to go about handling issues that arise with your dog is by prevention techniques.
When training your dog, sometimes your best bet to solve a behavior problem they have is to simply remove anything that might cause the undesired behavior to happen.
If your dog often declares war on an object you have lying around your home that you don’t really need, instead of spending weeks trying to train them to let go of whatever feud they have with that object, you could just remove that object from your dog’s line of sight and voila, problem solved.
Think smart before you get into the trouble of training your dog for something, sometimes there are much easier options.
Dog Clicker Training
Clicker training involves delivering an instant message of approval or disapproval to your dog with the help of a “clicker”, which could be a sound, a word, or even a light.
The logic behind this method is that with the help of an instant click, you can reinforce your approval of your dog’s action during training much faster than you can when giving them a reward. And by now we know that instant praise is essential to your dog’s learning effectiveness.
Effective dog clicker training revolves around one key element, which is immediately subjecting your dog to the clicker (a sound, word, light, etc ..) right after they do a desired action you want them to do.
All you have to do is click the clicker device (or whatever action the object you decide to use enables you to do) as soon as your dog does an action you want them to do, and instantly give your dog a reward. This lets your dog create a positive association between the “click” and the reward. With time, the “click” in itself will be enough to let your dog conclude that it did something you want, and there will be no need for the reward anymore.
Dog Training Session Time
If you want your dog to best absorb what you’re teaching them, especially if they’ve never been through such training before, shorter training sessions way outperform longer training sessions. With their attention span, an ideal training session for dogs would be 15 minutes or less. Anything longer than that would cause your dog to get bored, and that’s the last thing you want to happen when training them.
How many training sessions should you put your dog through each day? A couple of times a day is more than enough. Then, as you progress together with time, you can see if there’s any room to increase the time or not. But at first, stick to 15 minutes or less per training session.
The last thing you want to do is to end the training session on a bad note when one of you is just not in the mood anymore, that would be much more counterproductive than you could imagine. Even if the training session didn’t quite go as you wanted it to, you MUST end it on a positive note. A small trick would be ending it with asking them to do a skill they have already mastered how to do pretty well and rewarding them for it, which always makes them feel good.
How To House Train A Dog
When you first started driving, you didn’t just get in the car for your first time and drive off, did you? I also suppose you didn’t get on the bike for the first time in your life when you were a kid and drove off like a pro cycler, right? You have to get in the same mindset whenever you want to figure out how to train dogs.
The same thing holds true for your dog when it comes to training them. Dogs can learn anything new you want them to. Anything from obedience skills to entertaining tricks, you name it. However, it’s best if you work out your priorities at first and then focus on the less important skills.
Start off your training experience with your dog by short and punchy training sessions where you require them to perform easier tasks first. You can gradually increase the difficulty of your required tasks as your dog progresses through them.
This is true for whatever you’re trying to train your dog to do. Whether it’s entertainment skills, training them to fetch, or just training them to sit, the same basics hold true no matter what the ultimate training goal is. Gradually move with your dog from shorter to longer training sessions and easier to harder tasks so they can absorb the most out of these training sessions.
Moreover, focus on having your dog master one skill at a time before moving on to another. Only when your dog has mastered one skill can you add in another skill to the routine. But at first, move on one skill at a time so you don’t confuse them.
If you notice your dog isn’t able to keep up with your demands and is not performing what you’re teaching them, try to decrease the difficulty of your requirements again and see if that could break the plateau and get things moving again.
Where To Train Your Dog
Dogs learn in a special way.
What you train your dog to do at home successfully doesn’t mean you can expect them to take that information they learned and apply it somewhere other than where they learned it or with someone other than the person who taught it to them.
If you potty train your dog in the living room, you can’t expect your dog to be able to perform the same task in the garden. Why? Your dog was taught how to potty train in the living room (with your living room’s environment and surroundings), not the garden. So, for your dog to perform what you teach them in different locations/circumstances, you have to expose them to these different locations/circumstances.
For whatever task you want your dog to perform, train them to do it in your home, your garden, on the street, and anywhere else you could think of. The more they perform these tasks at different places, the closer they become to mastering them.
Conclusion On Dog Training
So, there you have it! The basics of dog training and a little bit more. This is more than enough information you need to get you started and set you a class apart from the majority of other dog owners out there who are unfortunately ruining what could have been a very life-changing experience with their dogs.
Take this information, consume it, digest it, and most importantly, apply it!