Dog obedience training can be frustrating, but it’s an essential part of having a dog. Whether you have a puppy or a full-grown dog, they can always benefit from essential training. Training not only teaches your dog to behave better, but it can also give you a chance to bond with your dog and give them some mental stimulation.
Yet, many dog parents have no idea where to start when it comes to training. Some people assume it’s easier to turn to a professional trainer, but that’s more expensive and it takes away from quality time with your dog. So, here are some tips for how to complete dog obedience training from home.
Basics of Dog Obedience Training
It’s never too soon to start training your dog, especially if they’re a puppy. Of course, your puppy should be at 8 weeks old though, which is about the age you should bring a newborn puppy home at. The sooner you start working on commands with your dog, the sooner they will start listening to you.
When preparing for training, you’ll need to make sure you have tasty treats ready. These should be small, low calorie treats that are appealing to your dog. You should also have a harness and leash for training outside. Using a harness instead of a collar will provide you more control over your dog and it will prevent them from accidentally choking themselves. Also, when choosing a leash, make sure you choose a short, sturdy leash as opposed to a retractable one.
Then, once you’re ready to begin the training, there are two things you need to remember:
- Always reward behaviors you like.
- Never reward behaviors you don’t like.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Those two tips are crucial because positive reinforcement training is the most effective method. This training type means that whenever your dog behaves how they’re supposed to, you praise and reward them. Many dog parents also use a clicker for training. A clicker is a button that makes a sound when you press it. When you start training, you’ll press the clicker every time you reward your dog with a treat. That way, they can associate it with a positive response. Then, eventually, you can remove the treats and only use the clicker as praise. This can prevent your dog from gaining extra weight from too many treats.
The reason positive reinforcement is so crucial is because dogs respond well to it. Dogs often desire food and love, so they’ll be happy whenever you let them know they’re doing a good job. If your dog won’t listen, it can be tempting to yell at them or scold them, but that often makes training more difficult. Your dog will learn to fear you, which might make them more skittish and less trusting around you. Training should help you form a bond with your dog, not steer them away from you.
Instead of scolding, you should use a command to correct the behavior or you can ignore the bad behavior. For example, if your dog is jumping up on you, ignore them, which should cause them to lose interest. Otherwise, you can teach them a command, such as “down” and reward them when they stop jumping. Both of these methods are more effective than scolding.
Which Commands Should You Focus on?
When it comes to dog obedience training, you might get upset if your dog doesn’t learn all the commands right away. But training a dog takes a lot of time, patience, and consistency. So, you need to stay calm and not let any frustration show while training them.
The best way to start obedience training is to teach your dog a few simple commands at a time, and then move onto more complex commands once they seem ready. Here are some basic commands to start with.
Sit is one of the first commands that every dog learns. It’s a great starting point for every other command too. It can help keep your dog in place when they’re getting overly excited or it can help you lead them into other commands. Either way, it’s a great way for you and your dog to get a feel for obedience training.
The best way to do this is to hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Then, slowly lift it up higher until they sit. As they sit, say “sit” and give them a treat. Repeat these steps over and over again until your dog understands what the word “sit” means.
If your dog ever escapes their leash or tries to run away from you, “come” can be a beneficial command. This can help keep them out of trouble, especially outside.
The easiest way to teach this command is starting with a leash and harness. Squat down to your dog’s level while holding the leash. Gently tug on their leash as you say “come.” Praise them once they reach you. After practicing that way a few times, you can try removing their leash. Eventually, you can even practice in an area with lots of distractions.
Teaching your dog to stay is just as important as teaching them to come. Staying is another way to keep your dog out of trouble. If they try to chase another dog or if they’re walking toward something dangerous, telling them to stay can keep them much safer. This is a harder command to learn because they often have to hold it for long periods of time.
First, tell your dog to sit. Then, say “stay,” and take a few steps backward. If your dog waits, make sure you praise them. If they don’t stay, try again. Eventually, you can start making bigger distances between you and your dog when you tell them to stay.
With this command, you’ll also want to have a release command, such as “okay.” This lets your dog know that it’s okay for them to stop staying in that one spot. So, after your dog successfully stays, you can say the release command and praise them. But remember, you’ll have to be extra patient with this one.
Down is another command that can be a little tricky. When a dog is on the floor, they’re often more vulnerable and less alert, so many dogs dislike that. However, you can use this command to stop your dog from jumping or to relax them if you’re sitting still and enjoying a picnic.
Teaching “down” is similar to teaching sit. In fact, it can sometimes be beneficial to start in the “sit” position. Then, hold the treat to their nose and slowly bring it to the floor. Then, slide the treat on the floor to encourage your dog to follow with their body. If they successfully lay down, reward them with the treat. If your dog doesn’t listen, you should quickly move the treat away and try again. While it might seem like a simple command, this is another one that takes a lot of patience.
Walks are exciting for dogs, and many dogs end up getting a little too excited. So, if a dog knows “heel,” then they’re more likely to behave on walks. Heel refers to when a dog walks right beside you without pulling on the leash or trying to chase other animals. You’ll need a quality harness and leash for this command.
You’ll want to start with your dog standing beside you on their leash. Hold the leash in one hand and have a treat or toy in the other hand. As you step forward, encourage your dog to look at the reward in your other hand. They will likely follow you to get the treat or toy. Keep walking and hold their attention on the reward.
You should praise your dog when they look up at you while they’re walking. Once they give you 20 to 30 seconds of undivided attention, reward them. Repeating these actions should help teach your dog to walk nicely beside you.
Scheduling Training Sessions
Your dog probably has a short attention span, so obedience training should be kept to short sessions only. Work on a command for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, and do that about two or three times every day. This will help keep your dog focused and will prevent them from getting bored in the middle of training.
Consistency is key for dog obedience training. So, if you struggle to find time to train your dog every day, you might want to schedule training sessions. Choose a specific time each day to practice the commands in depth. If you need to set an alarm, that could be beneficial too. That way, you can ensure that your dog isn’t missing out on any valuable training time.
Know When to Get Professional Help
If you have a difficult dog, you might need to turn to a professional for help. But if you do, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be giving up on your at-home training completely. You can have private training sessions with a trainer or you can sign up for an obedience class. These resources can help you train your dog more effectively.
Some dogs will benefit more from a professional than they will from DIY training. This includes dogs with aggression or anxiety. A professional dog trainer can help you get to the root of these behavioral problems so you can accurately find a solution. Dogs with behavioral problems might take more time and patience when it comes to training, but they can still be taught.
No dog is perfect, so every pup could benefit from some type of training. Whether you bring home a young puppy or a senior dog, you should work on basic obedience training with them. Start with simple commands like “sit” and work your way up from there. Not every dog will be willing to learn elaborate tricks, but at least you can help show them how to behave better.