You just got a new dog and you’re ready to start training him. The major cornerstone of good behavior in dogs is a good training program. After all, the truth is that there is no such thing as bad dogs- but there is such a thing as an uneducated owner.
In most cases, dogs thrive when they have boundaries and a routine they can predict. If they are not given proper obedience training, they don’t really understand how to behave.
A well-trained dog is much healthier and happier than an untrained one- and you (the owner) will be too.
There are lots of different ways that you can train your dog. You can sign up for classes, hire a professional to give him private lessons, or send him to a “boarding school” for dogs.
Of course, then there are those who want to do it themselves. This is a great way to save money and bond with your dog.
How to Start Your Own Dog Training Program
If you want your training to be effective, you must have a plan. You are going to need to:
- Gather dog training equipment
- Set up a schedule
- Learn some things about training
Gather Dog Training Equipment
You don’t need many items to effectively train your dog- but you do need a few basic supplies to help make it a more convenient process. Start by choosing a collar/harness that is comfortable and suitable for your dog’s size and breed.
Then, you must determine which type of leash is best for the training process. One thing to keep in mind is that the retractable leashes are not appropriate for training purposes.
You should also stock up on treats that your dog likes and are easy to eat so that his reward for doing what he’s supposed to is immediate. There are lots of great treats on the market- or you can make your own at home.
Decide Which Training Method You Want to Use
Before you start training your dog, you must determine which method is best for the two of you. While it’s true that training styles vary, trainers will agree that most dogs do respond best to positive reinforcement (treats, praise, etc).
Clicker training, which is a common variation, uses a conditioned reinforce (the clicker and a treat). There are lots of different resources you can use to find out more about training methods to help you figure out which one would be best for you and your dog. When you are considering your training method, don’t ignore socialization.
Set up Your Sessions
When you are training your dog, you must keep in mind that success will come in small steps. Your training sessions should last about 10 to 15 minutes and you should be doing them 2 to 3 times per day.
You will find this to be particularly true when it comes to puppies because they tend to have a much shorter attention span (much like children). A longer session will cause even an adult dog to become uninterested.
Start with the basic commands and try to only do one action at a time so that your dog does not get confused. In most cases, “sit” is the easiest for dogs to learn first.
After you have trained him to “sit” you can train him to “lie down.” As he masters these two, you can teach him to “stay.” Eventually, you will teach him to come to you as soon as possible when he is called.
These are some of the most important commands. As soon as your dog has learned these, you can move on to the more advanced commands and tricks.
Obedience Training Troubleshooting
Keep in mind that training your dog is going to take some time and chances are that you’re going to hit a few snags along the way. You may encounter some stubbornness or resistance.
However, make sure that you keep being positive and reward him for his good behaviors. Always use a reward that your dog is going to work for, otherwise, a treat is ineffective.
As you are working with your dog, you may notice him exhibiting behavior issues such as jumping, barking, or behaving aggressively.
The best way to correct these behaviors is to interrupt them. Direct his attention to something else. Start running through some of the cues that he has mastered and follow them with rewards. Always make sure that your demeanor stays cool and confident and always be clear about what you want him to do.
The key to success is positive reinforcement. Never punish your dog or get upset with him, as this will cause him to get confused. Try to hold his attention by being enthusiastic and offering treats- but know that when your dog becomes tired/bored, it’s time for the session to end.
Always strive to end your training sessions positively. At some point, with patience and consistency, you will see that your training has been successful.
Of course, there are some owners that would rather let the experts do the training. You should be able to easily locate a trainer that will offer private lessons. There are some trainers that even offer sessions online.
Some owners may also want to consider joining an obedience class in their area so that they have a trainer without paying the high cost of private sessions. Plus, being in a class challenges your dog to learn with other dogs around.
You might want to attend classes or private sessions in addition to implementing your own program. The trainer will be able to assist you with improving your program and customizing it to your dog.
Always be as involved as possible when it comes to training your dog. This will make you and your dog a stronger team.
Six Week Program for Training Your Dog
It doesn’t matter if you have just gotten a new puppy or you have an adult dog- he will definitely benefit from some training sessions. If you’re not sure where you should start, consider following this schedule to get you organized and start training your dog.
There are six weeks outlined below and each week gives you some basic commands that should be worked on as well as some tips to help you prevent/modify behavior issues.
This week, you should start by teaching your dog to “sit.” You should be spending approximately five minutes several times each day working on this command.
If your dog is not already crate-trained, now is a good time to get him used to it. A crate is a great tool for managing your dog when you’re not able to supervise him.
Each day this week, take a little bit of time to get him used to the crate by letting him sit in it for a few minutes each time- again, several times a day.
Begin to build a routine for your dog because dogs enjoy routine. Schedule his mealtimes, playtime, and even walks. During the next few weeks of training- and even beyond, make sure to stick to the schedule as closely as you can. This will help with housebreaking and other common issues.
Finally, this week you should do some shopping and get a few different toys for him. Make sure that you choose some that provide him with some mental stimulation as well as fun. Over the next few weeks, rotate the toys so that you are always giving your dog something new/interesting to play with.
This week, you should spend a few minutes with your dog, several times each day working on “down” and teaching him your emergency recall command.
By this point, your dog should be comfortable in his crate. Begin leaving him in it for longer periods, but never longer than a few hours at a time. Always leave fun/interesting toys in the crate with him and keep using the crate during each week of the training process.
This week, you can start taking your dog on loose leash walks. Try to plan at least one short walk each day for him to practice. This is something that should be worked on through the rest of the training process.
During the third week of the training process, you should be teaching your dog to “leave it” and “come.” Just as the first two weeks, spend a few minutes at a time, several times a day to work on these commands.
At this point, you also want to begin teaching your dog to stop jumping. You can either set aside time each day to practice this or you can just wait until it happens in your day-to-day activities- such as when you get home from work or when your dog jumps up on visitors- to work on it.
This week, you should take about ten minutes at least three times to work on the commands and behaviors you’ve been working on.
During week 4, you are going to start working on the “wait” command. You can practice this during your regular training sessions or you can wait for the opportunities to come up during your day-to-day activities. Work on teaching him to wait before coming out of his crate or going out/coming in.
You should also be training him to go to a specific spot and lie down. Some of the great opportunities to teach him to lie calmly in his spot is when the family is eating or when you’re watching TV or reading.
During week 5, you are going to be working with your dog on the “drop it” command. Just as in the previous weeks, you will work with him for a few minutes several times each day this week. You can let the opportunity present itself or you can purposely work with him.
In addition to teaching him to “drop it” you will be working with your dog on “speak” and “quiet.” As before, you can incorporate this into your training sessions or you can wait until your dog starts barking and then use it as an opportunity to teach him.
This is the final week of this schedule. Now, you can choose a trick to work with your dog on since he knows most of the basic commands. Some tricks that you might want to consider are “roll over” or “play dead.”
At this point, your dog should be walking comfortably on a loose leash. If you want to have a little more control over him when you are walking, you might want to introduce “heel” during your walks/training sessions.
Finally, at this point, your dog should be doing well with a variety of commands and you should have addressed several of his behavioral issues. This doesn’t mean that training is over. You must continue to practice/reinforce the training throughout the rest of his life.
While it’s true that training your dog is going to take time, patience, and plenty of positive reinforcement, you can be sure that the investment is well worth it. Your dog will be a very happy and well-adjusted member of your family.
A well-trained dog is not only a more enjoyable companion, they also are less of a danger to humans and other dogs. You might encounter a dog who isn’t trained and an owner who can’t control them, this is where your diligence as a good dog owner & trainer are most useful.