Life gets busy, and juggling dog ownership with work, kids, hobbies, and chores can be tricky. But as a responsible dog owner, it’s important to prioritize dog training in order to have a well behaved, well-adjusted canine member of the family.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours of each day working with your poochy pal, in fact – if you use the right training techniques, you can see incredible results with just fifteen minutes of training per day!
To get you started, in this guide we’re going to take a look at the different training methods, and exercises that you can use to see a massive change in your dog’s obedience in no time.
Types of Dog Training
With so many names of training types thrown around nowadays, whether it’s on dog training TV shows, in books, or in articles galore – it can be overwhelming to not only choose a technique that will work for you and your dog but even know what on earth the technique is!
If you’re a little curious about what all that chit chat is about, let’s walk you through three of the most popular techniques, and show how you can utilize them in your canine training.
Using dog treats can be a great way to keep a food-happy dog focused on the task at hand, it is worth noting that treats should be used sparingly, so as not to add extra calories into your dog’s diet.
When you bring out your dog treats, some dogs get so excited about that treat – that they totally forget that you exist, so the first thing that we want them to do – is respect that there are boundaries.
Bringing out a packet of tasty treats is bound to have your dog jumping for joy, and trying his very best to get at them – this is especially true when working with puppies who haven’t yet learned boundaries quite yet.
To start using the training with treats technique, you want to give your dog a treat – this helps him to know what he’s working for – that it’s so incredibly tasty, and that it’s worth putting in that little bit of work!
Now that he knows what’s in your pouch, you can begin teaching him the ‘leave it’ command. This command works as impulse control for your dog.
When he sees a treat and wants to immediately gobble it up, teaching him to leave it gives you control and allows you to redirect his energy and focus toward you – and hey presto, you’re ready to start your training!
We’ll be running through how exactly to teach them this command later in our guide.
Some dogs are so people friendly and easily motivated that all it takes is a quick ‘good boy’ and they’ll jump through hoops for you – sometimes literally!
Not all dogs have the right kind of focus for using vocal praise alone, and it’s important to mention at this stage that this has nothing to do with their intelligence.
Many dog owners with rambunctious, highly energetic and easily distracted dogs refer to their four-legged friends as goofballs, ditzes, or clowns – but, did you know that these characteristics are actually all signs of incredibly intelligent canines who just aren’t challenged mentally, and therefore; try and keep themselves stimulated.
It’s this kind of dog that can be a star using the vocal praise technique, and here’s how you do it:
Getting Their Focus
The first command that you want to teach with vocal praise is the ‘look here,’ and while this is all about vocal praise, we are going to utilize our hands to add some sign language into the mix – this makes it easier for your dog in the very beginning.
We’ll get into the details of how to run through the exercise step by step later on, but to give you an idea of how it might go down, this is what you will be doing:
Ask your dog to ‘look here’ using your hands to guide their attention from their current focal point to you. When they have done this, you can then use vocal praise to tell them what a good dog they are. However, it’s very important to note that this must be done in a calm manner. What do I mean by that? Well, you know how it’s easy to get your dog over excited if you use a high-pitched voice and start talking quickly? Well, this is NOT what we want to do.
Keeping your dog in a calm state will help him to learn, and we can keep him mellow by using a positive tone, but keeping it calm for example saying ‘Good boy’ instead of ‘Oh my goodness, who’s a good boy, you are, yes you are, oh yes you are.’
Ah, good ol’ clicker training, it’s something we’ve all heard of – but that doesn’t necessarily mean we all know what on earth it is, or how it works!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it is important to note that this method has become so immensely popular because it works well, in fact, it has been used on many species with great success.
Clicker training is a technique that uses a training clicker, which omits an easily recognizable ‘click’ sound to inform an animal, in this case – your dog, that he has completed the desired behavior.
But for clicker training to work, your dog has to be taught that the ‘click’ means ‘good job’ so, how do we teach them this? The first stage is what we call ‘charging the clicker.’
How to Charge the Clicker
In order to charge the clicker, you need to have a few things set up first; these things are, your dog, a pouch of dog treats, and that trusty clicker.
We always recommend training in a confined area; this can be your living room or even your backyard — if it’s not too big as we don’t want Fido getting distracted!
So, here we are, let’s say in the living room. Fido is hanging out, and you’ve got your clicker and treats ready to go!
Start by — without giving any command at all — a click and immediately give your dog a treat.
Repeat this several times and your dog should start to realize that there’s a connection, in fact, you might even find that he tries to sit or lie down to get the treat. Basically, he is trying to recreate any behavior that he thinks might have gotten him that click and treat in the first place.
Now that he knows that the clicker is a good thing, you’ll notice that he comes over to you for his treat every time that he hears it – this is great! Now you’re ready to start training.
Introducing Commands With the Clicker
Starting out, you’ll want to ask your dog to perform an action, let’s say the sit for example. We won’t go into the details of teaching the command now, as we’ll be running through that later. But it’s important to know that AS your dog is performing the desired action, i.e. as their butt hits the floor – this is when you click and reward.
Top Tip – Don’t be afraid to click and treat if your dog makes a step in the right direction. If your pooch isn’t quite sure what you’re asking of them when you say ‘sit,’ giving them that additional click and treat as they start to lower their hindquarters can provide them with the confidence to go for it and sit down!
The Problem With Negativity
OK, so now that we’ve run through the three most popular reward-based training techniques, it’s important to point out why we only use positivity aka reward, and never negativity aka punishment to train our dogs.
Negative reinforcement is often justified as a means to an end, i.e. performing a negative behavior in the hopes of a positive outcome. But while this is obviously unacceptable and unjustified, it can also severely damage, if not shatter altogether any bond that you and your dog may have.
Dog Training Basics
Now that we’ve run through some positive training techniques, and highlighted why you shouldn’t ever use negativity or punishment in your training, we can get to the fun stuff – the training exercises!
Whether you’re teaching the following commands to a puppy, adult dog, or previously mistreated dog – the principles remain the same, however as all dogs are different – you’ll need to be sure to go at your dogs own pace.
Sit (5-10 minute exercise)
One of the first commands that you want to teach, this is great for refocusing high-energy situations and getting your dog’s focus on you.
Step 1: Start with your dog on a leash in an enclosed area. You’ll want to have the necessary setup for your chosen training method, for example – a bag of dog treats – and you’re ready to go!
Step 2: With your dog stood in front of you; you’re going to take one of your treats in one hand – lift that hand up so that it’s above your dog’s head. At this stage, he might sit down, but if not – you can encourage this more by moving your hand forwards so that it encourages him to look up and back, and ultimately end up with him in a sitting position.
Step 3: Once your dog has completed the desired behavior it’s imperative to reward him immediately, that way, he’ll understand that is being rewarded for that specific behavior, as opposed to rewarding him late – in which case, he may assume that’s what you want him to do.
Step 4: Repeat this exercise a few times, then move to a different area of the room – and start again. We do this to ensure that we have his focus anywhere we choose to train.
Top Tip – Don’t do the same thing every day! It’s human nature to want to have a successful training session, and often this means doggie parents will repeat an exercise that they know their dog can do well. This can result in your dog getting bored, and starting to play up. Keep it fresh, keep it fun, and mix it up!
Stay (5-minute exercise)
Teaching your dog to stay put when you ask can be vital, especially in dangerous situations. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you live in suburbia, there are no bears near you – what could possibly be dangerous?
Well, you’d be surprised by the mishaps that our little furry friends can get themselves into. To give you an idea – skunks, dog park fights, and poison ivy! All of which can have the most horrible outcomes – if you can’t shout for your dog to sit his butt down, and not move that is.
But here’s the thing, just like all of our exercises that we’re running through in this guide, training your dog to stay can be as easy as pie – so without further ado, let’s get to it.
Step 1: Start in a small enclosed space, and for this exercise, it’s important to have your dog off of the leash. I know what you’re thinking ‘Surely having a leash is better for training as it gives you more control’ well yes, for the most part.
But here’s the thing, in training the stay – it’s vitally important that we don’t put any pressure on the leash that could lead your dog to think you want him to move forward – and that’s pretty much impossible to do. So to avoid miscommunicating our intentions, we’re just going to get rid of the leash for now.
Step 2: Ask your dog to sit, and reward the behavior. This not only puts the dog in a great position for the stay command, but also gives him that confidence boost of getting something right, and being rewarded for it!
Step 3: From here, I want you to raise the palm of your hand outwards, and say ‘stay’ in a forceful but not aggressive tone.
Step 4: You’re now going to slowly take one step backward, keeping your hand in a raised position. Once you have done this, you can step forward again, toward your dog.
Step 5: If your dog stayed in position, you can now reward him, being sure that you go to him, and don’t call him towards you! If, however, your dog was a bit confused and didn’t manage to stay in position – no problem, we’ll just pop him back in the sit position and try again. No punishments, but no rewards for this mistake either.
Top Tip – Gradually Increase the Distance. Starting with one step, you can gradually increase the distance that you are from your dog – ultimately you’ll want to be able to leave the room to grab something, and come back to a well-mannered pooch waiting exactly where you left him!
Down (10-15 minute exercise)
Have you ever arrived home from a day of work, and you just need twenty-minutes to sit down and have a cup of coffee before heading out on walkies? We’ve all been there, and trust me – this doesn’t make you a bad dog owner!
But my goodness is Fido excited to see you, and he’s raring to go – so what’s the solution? It’s pretty simple, it’s all about shifting his energy from a bouncing ball of fun, to calm and relaxed.
So how do we do this? Well, the trick is to place your dog into a position that he associates with being relaxed, and for most dogs – that means lying down. Just that suggestion of being sleepy, or chilled out can result in him quickly feeling that way.
It’s very important to note that you should train this on a day when you’re feeling patient, and not when you’ve just had a bad day at work!
Step 1: As with any new command, you’re going to want to start by building up your dog’s confidence. We do that by asking for a command that they already know, and then rewarding them for that behavior. As he’ll need to be in a seated position to start, we suggest asking for the sit!
Step 2: Now that your dog is feeling good, and has been given a treat, been clicked, or been told that he’s a good boy. You’ll want to take a treat in the fist of your hand with enough of a gap at the side for him to lick at the treat.
Step 3: Taking your treat hand, you want to very slowly lower this hand towards the ground which should encourage your dog to bring his front paws down to the floor – resulting in a down position!
Step 4: If your dog is reluctant to go down into the lying position, patience is your best friend here. Take your time, allow them to figure it out for themselves, and if they make a step in the right direction, you can reward them for this!
Come (5-10 minute exercise)
The world is an incredibly exciting place for dogs, with other dogs, squirrels, and frisbees galore – but while they might prefer to run after any of these things, it’s important that they understand that no matter what’s happening – if you call, they should come running.
There are two ways to train the come command, and these are the ‘Get Ready’ and ‘From Anywhere’ methods. The first method utilizes the sit and stay command before asking the dog to come – whereas the latter method can be done even with a dog that doesn’t know the sit or stay commands! This comes down to personal preference.
We’re going to work with the ‘From Anywhere’ method, but if you’d prefer to use the ‘Get Ready’ all you need to do is set up your dog in a sit and stay position before following these steps.
Step 1: To start training the come, you should have your dog on a long leash, and be in a confined area that isn’t too small. A living room should be absolutely fine.
Step 2: You want to start just a few steps away from your dog, and with a treat in your hand – you want to concurrently open that hand to show your dog the treat, and use the vocal cue ‘come.’
Step 3: Hopefully your dog will run straight over to you, and you can praise him for a job well done, but if he doesn’t, simply start over – and be one step closer to him this time!
Leave it (15-minute exercise)
If you’ve got kids in the house, you’ll be familiar with those scenes of – kid drops food; dog eats food, kid cries. It’s not only annoying, but it’s also dangerous for your kid and for your dog.
Why is it dangerous? Well, firstly, if your dog begins to think of your kid’s food as fair game – they can get snappy and start to take food straight out of your kid’s hand – which can result in accidental bites.
But also, a dog’s digestive system is not designed to eat human food, and for some specific breeds, it can severely impact their health if consumed frequently.
I like to use the drop and snap method for teaching dogs that something is out of bounds, and here’s how it works:
Step 1: You’re going to start out either sat on the floor with your dog or kneeling – if you have a larger breed of dog. With a pouch full of tasty treats, I’d like for you to give Fido a treat just to let him know what you’re working with.
Step 2: Now this technique requires quick reflexes, so get ready! Taking one treat, I want you to drop it onto the floor from a few inches above – and immediately cover the treat with your hand and say ‘Leave it.’
Step 3: Once your dog stops trying to get at the treat, you can now pick up that same treat off of the floor and give it to them, using vocal praise concurrently!
Your dog might get a little frustrated with you and try to get at the treat, but just hold your ground – he’ll soon know what the game is.
It’s very important to note that you should never uncover the treat and let your dog eat it straight off of the floor, as that will confuse him even more; you must pick it up to give it to him.
Step 4: As your dog begins to realize that this treat is not for him when you say ‘leave it’ you can start to increase the distance between your hand and the treat – starting with holding it one inch away, and then one foot, and so on.
If he decides to be a cheeky little dude and dive for that treat now that your hand has moved further away, you can quickly repeat the cue ‘leave it.’ If that doesn’t work and he scoffs it down – that’s just a sign that you took it a little fast, and you need to go back a few steps.
When training your dog, it’s important to remember that nothing gives us the right to demand that they do as they are told, in fact, dog training is probably better explained as dog communication – we ask them for a behavior, and when they respond positively – that makes us happy.
It’s very similar to your dog showing his utter joy when playing fetch, he is communicating with you that this is something he loves to do – and that will often lead to you, his owner, finding more time to partake in said activity.
Dog ownership is all about give and take. Be patient, don’t give up, and pretty soon – you’ll have an amazing furry companion to share your home, your life, and your adventures with!