Training your dog affects every aspect of your life with your dog. Training is much more than teaching your dog to sit, lie down, stay, or come; it is also about keeping you, your home, and your dog safe. Thankfully, training doesn’t have to be difficult and you can have fun doing it.
1. Find Out What Your Dog Likes
When your dog does something that you ask him to do, you reward him. Perhaps he walks past the kitchen trash can purposely turning his head away ignoring the good smells there. The rewards can first be your voice, “Good boy! Good choice!”
The other rewards need to be something your dog likes. After all, a reward isn’t a reward unless he likes it. Tossing his ball, playing a quick game of tug, or a few special treats are all commonly used rewards. Try out a few things, and come up with several things your dog likes a lot.
2. Work on Your Timing
When teaching your dog in any situation, no matter whether it’s a training session or during your daily life, timing is important. If you reward your dog for an action even seconds after he’s done it, he may think the reward is for what he did after that action. Or if you try to interrupt an unwanted action late, he may not understand what you were trying to communicate.
A great time to practice your timing is during play. For example, if your dog likes to play retrieving games, when he brings the ball back, ask him to drop the ball (or give it to you). When he spits the ball out of his mouth, praise him as the ball leaves his mouth. Were you early or late with your verbal praise?
3. Set Your Dog Up to Succeed
You don’t want your dog’s training program to be focused on his mistakes. Telling him, “No! No! No!” and then expecting him to do something different is going to be frustrating for both of you and it isn’t going to be successful.
Instead, set your dog up to succeed. This may mean that at times he needs to be on leash, you may need to put the trash can away for a while, or make sure the cat food is up off the ground. Think about your goal and how you can help your dog work towards that goal.
4. Teach Alternative Actions
Does your dog like to jump on people? Many techniques used to teach the dog not to jump on people focus on making jumping up bad. The downfall to these techniques is that although the dog gets into trouble for jumping, he isn’t being taught how to greet people.
Teaching an alternative action, however, teaches the dog that he can greet people when he sits. The sit is the alternative action.
Think about your dog’s actions in other situations and decide what you’d rather your dog did instead. Then teach that alternative action.
5. Have Fun with Your Training
Training is important, especially if the end result is all about keeping your dog safe. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while training. In fact, your training is going to be more effective if both you and your dog are having fun.
Smile when you look at your dog. Cheer him on when he succeeds at something.
Trick training is great fun and owners general laugh and have fun with it. So mix some trick training in with the obedience training. Sit, down, stay, heel, shake, spin in a circle, sit again. It’s all training, after all, just with different goals.
6. Be More Interesting Than Grass
I didn’t create this phrase and can’t give credit where credit is due because I’ve heard many trainers use it. But the phrase is perfect.
Dogs often lose focus on their training because the world is an interesting place. Grass, in fact, is amazing because there are so many smells buried in grass. Therefore, to be successful, you need to be more interesting than grass.
Have a few good rewards in your pocket, not just for training sessions but even when out on a casual walk. That way when your dog is totally lost in a distraction (or smells in the grass) you have some ammunition to ask him, “Sweetie, watch me! Yah!”
Use your voice to help regain his attention. Help him do an alternative action, then praise and reward him. Act silly and dash the opposite direction. Do some jumping jacks. Use your imagination and be more interesting than grass!