Training your dog is one of the most important things you can do. Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog from the animal shelter it is important that your dog listens to you.
Why Train Your Dog
Think of your dog as you would a child. There are important life skills that they both need to learn.
- It is important that your dog know their boundaries, so they are safe.
- Your dog needs to have good social skills and get along with others.
- Dogs need to be accustomed to traveling and going somewhere new.
- It’s good to have your dog accustomed to coming to the vet
- Even an older dog can benefit from training
What Attitude Should You Have?
Having a loving and positive relationship with your dog is very important. You will find training them much easier if you have mutual respect.
Make training fun. Your dog should enjoy spending this time with you.
Offer a favorite treat as a reward. You may not want your dog filling up on doggie junk food so consider using low cal healthy snacks or fresh vegetables like baby carrots.
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You need to use consistency when training a dog. Choice your words for training carefully and use just that word. For example, use “come” when teaching your dog to come. Don’t say “come here” or “come on” – those phrases get confusing.
We will leave housebreaking to another article.
The first basic skill your dog needs to learn is to wear a collar or harness and be used to walking on a leash. A dog that does not walk on a leash is going to get tangled and hurt themselves or trip the owner.
Sadly, we see dogs everyday that are not used to walking appropriately next to their owners. We get that some of these dogs are farm dogs but regardless if your dog lives in a small apartment or a cattle farm it needs leash etiquette.
Don’t get into the “who is walking whom” situation where your dog pulls at the leash and runs around you. The best way to start leash training is to walk your dog without a leash. Do this in a fenced in yard or even a room in your house.
Walk around the area and use a happy voice to encourage your dog to walk with you. Give a treat when they walk a couple steps by your side.
Do this for a few minutes and take a break. Then repeat. Work on this off-leash walking for several days using short training periods.
Next start working on with the leash. Take your dog for a walk outside. Dogs often pull on the leash because they are excited and want to see what’s coming up.
If your dog pulls on the leash, simply stop and take two steps backwards. When steping backwards call your dog in a happy voice. Give a reward when they come back to you.
Take your dog for a short on-leash walk every day and repeat this process. Your dog will learn that they get rewarded whenever they walk with you.
Your dog may be your alarm system and the one who keeps you safe at night. However, they still need to behave nicely in public. At some point they will be in a vets office with other dogs or visiting the neighbors dogs.
Take your dog on walks around your neighborhood, at the local park, or even on a visit to a friends house. This gets them used to the leash as well as meeting new faces.
Keep in mind that you as the person have some good manner rules when socializing your dog. When approaching another person/dog ask the other pet parent if its ok to come say hello. If they say yes, then give some encouraging words and approach slowly so neither dogs feels overwhelmed.
Remember that even when meeting new friends you want your dog to continue to have good leash manners. Dont let them pull you forward to meet a new dog.
Come, Sit, and Stay
These are the two most important commands because of the safety factor. If your dog is approaching as busy road or an aggressive dog, you want them to stop and come immediately.
Start “come” sessions by standing right in front of your dog. Move backwards and say come. When your pup follows you offer them a treat.
Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog. Once your best friend has mastered the come command in one area – say your home, then move on to a more distracting but still safe area such as the back yard.
Remember to keep your voice calm, friendly yet firm when teaching the come command.
The next command to teach is sit. You often need your dog to sit so that you can have them in one place, you want them to wait for something or you want them to do or you need to have them sitting still to examine their body.
A dog will naturally sit down when there head is lifted. To teach your dog to sit show them you have a treat and hold it slightly above the head. When your dog sits reward them. You can later work in the verbal command sit.
Once your dog has mastered sit and come they are ready to learn stay. Start by having your dog sit. Walk slowly away from them saying the word stay in a calm friendly voice.
Stop about ten feet from your dog and say “come”. Practice this several times at a short distance before increase the space in which you step backward.
If your dog breaks the sit and moves forward dont scold them. Simply go to them, ask them to sit and start again. This is a harder command because you are moving away from the dog and they naturally want to come with you.
Training for The Unusual
As I write this in August of 2020, we are in the throws of a national pandemic with many communities wearing facemasks. Your happy, social dog may be confused and fearful. You may have noticed they are barking at people they know.
This is normal. Even though dogs are very scent focused they have adapted to reading our facial cues. Your dog knows your happy or sad face and reacts accordingly.
Give your dog time to adjust to his family members wearing masks. Take your mask on and off in front of your pouch so they can see that its you just putting clothes on your face. Let your dog smell your mask so it identifies it as an article of your clothing.
When you take your dog for a walk offer words of comfort when you see other masked persons. Reassure them that they are safe and that you feel safe from these people.
- Keep your training sessions short – 10-15 minutes.
- Offer the command once and wait for your dog to comply
- End your session on a positive note
- Give lots of praise, your dog wants to please you
Need Some Help?
There are two recognized dog training associations in the country. The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors has a list of dog trainers certified by their organization.
In addition, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, has a tool to locate a dog trainer near you.
Give the office a call at 859-472-4141 we are always here to help!
Author, Ame Vanorio, is the director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She teaches onsite and online classes in organic gardening, solar power, and wildlife rehabilitation. She lives on her farm in Falmouth, Kentucky with too many animals to count!