The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has made January "National Train Your Dog Month," so, whether you have a new puppy in your home or an older, cheeky dog you wish would listen a little better, look no further than this post for some ideas on how to go about training them.
In this blog post, we won't go into detail about the way to stop your pup from chewing your furniture, or toilet training or how to get your older dog to start picking up different habits... Instead, we're going to give you some tips on how to make these other behaviour-altering training easier.
The trick is to remember that dogs don't process things the same way we do, so getting frustrated with their excessive barking or inability to do as you say isn't going to change their behaviour or attitude. Being patient and consistent will! So, here are our 7 tips on successfully training your dog:
Training Time - Commit to helping your dog understand you and what you're asking of them. Set aside a time for a training session, it doesn't have to be long, in fact we suggest you keep it short so 10 to 20 minutes will do just fine. During these sessions, teach your dog one thing at a time, hounding them with 4 commands in 10 minutes could really confuse them and you won't be making any progress this way. Make sure there are no distractions around when you have your training sessions e.g. no dog barking away next door or a child playing with a ball nearby. Finally, always end on a positive note. Keeping the session short and ending with a reward will help make your companion enjoy the training time!
Make it fun! - Playing games with dogs are huge learning opportunities that people sometimes overlook. Training your dog shouldn't be hard work or a burden! You can even get your children involved in this. Good games to try out are: Hide and seek, with this game, you can easily teach your dog how to "stay" and "come". Tug of war or Fetch, these are good to get your dog to learn a release command such as "drop" or "give". Hide the treats, you can place some treats around the room without your dog knowing, and tell them to "go find" and they should pick up the command in no time.
Positive reinforcement - Positive reinforcement is a training technique that we highly recommend and carry out ourselves at Wanaka Dog Walking. Dogs will repeat good behaviours when it is followed by a reward, whilst bad behaviours are ignored. This doesn't mean the dog gets away with playing up. The technique helps them realise that behaving a certain way will end up with their owner/carer not giving them any attention let alone a reward. So to carry this out, you just show your dog that you approve when they do something well by treating them or giving them a toy and playing with them, and ignoring them when they are doing something they shouldn't e.g. biting the lead. The dog will eventually come to understand that not biting the lead gets them a treat whilst biting the lead will mean standing around doing nothing and getting no attention.
Avoid the word NO - As mentioned above, ignoring your dog when they are behaving badly is the best way to get them to stop. However, saying "no" often comes automatically to us all. This is a habit we humans should try and kick, as "no" is general and is applied to different situations when we say it to our dog. This means that they have no idea what the word actually means and it can be something that just ends up confusing them. For instance, if your dog is jumping up at you and you're telling them "no!" they're probably unsure of what exactly you want. So instead, give them a command that they can follow i.e. tell them to "sit", "go find" or "go play" are good ones too to teach them to head for a toy.
Make it easy - Don't try to make your training to hard. The key is being able to reward them when they get it right, so by making sure they do get it right they'll learn much faster! Just like humans, your dog will be more encouraged to keep trying if they can see the benefit of doing so. If they're always getting it wrong, they'll get bored and lose attention. If your dog just isn't getting it, take a step back and simplify it.
Boundaries - Ensure that your dog knows their boundaries. For example, if they aren't allowed in a certain part of the house, make sure they know this and work on getting them to accept it. This way they won't always be running after you or trying to sneak into a room you don't want them in. This will also reinforce your dominance. If you have a new puppy, try not to give them too much freedom around the home too soon, ease them in and let them get to know where is safe for them to be and where is not.
Persistence - Don't give up on your furry friend, they are trying really really hard! One-off training sessions aren't going to cut it, if you want to teach your dog new things (which they are completely capable of) you should be reinforcing the training throughout the day every day. Dogs aren't going to remember something after doing it once, so just keep going with it and you'll get there.
We know that having a cheeky pooch can be overwhelming and exhausting at times, but with these training tips, hopefully you can get a handle on your dogs' minor behaviour issues. After all, dogs are part of the family and it's worth working on training to be able to fully enjoy their company and amazing personalities!