Caring for your dog is a big responsibility, and learning how to be a responsible pet owner takes a little time. At Florida Animal Friend, one of the best tips for pet owners we have is to train your dog. Your dog depends on you for food, shelter, love and affection, and just like humans, their behavior can be influenced by how they’re cared for and trained in childhood. From proper behavior and learning to listen to you to just being able to safely travel, whether to the park, the vet or even a longer trip, training can go a long way. Read on to discover training tips for new dog owners that help make successful dog training a breeze.
Patience and Positivity Go A Long Way
Just like us, animals make mistakes. They have different abilities, and it can take time for them to learn new tricks and behaviors. In order to successfully train your dog or cat, a great tip for pet owners is that you’ll need to have patience and understand that training will take time. Providing clear instructions on what you want, and repeating these instructions frequently and regularly, will help them to understand what you want them to do.
It’s also important to keep a positive outlook and frame of mind when training your dog. Positive reinforcement and tones are much more beneficial than negativity. Your dog wants to please you, and making sure they know when they’re doing a good job is key.
Learning Methods and Commands Is the First Step to Successful Dog Training
Never assume your dog will know what you want. The first step is for you to learn the best methods for training and to use the most effective commands. Start with finding a reputable dog trainer who will train you in the use of positive reinforcement. Some trainers offer group classes in addition to private training. Group classes also provide socialization for your dog and are usually cost effective. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers provides a search directory to locate certified trainers in your area.
Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple and it is! But to practice the technique effectively, you need to follow some basic guidelines.
Timing is everything
When using positive reinforcement, timing is everything and the reward must happen within seconds of desired behavior. If not, your pet may not associate it with the correct action. For example: if you have them sit but then wait to give your feedback after your dog stands back up again, they could associate the treat with standing up instead of sitting down.
Keep it short
When training your dog, use short commands instead of sentences. Dogs also learn from our body language so it can help to encourage them to sit before introducing the word “sit.” YOu can hold a treat in your hand above and sightly behind your dog’s head, which will make them need to sit in order to see it. Once they’re seated, you can lower the hand with the treat closer to the ground to encourage them to lay down. Then give them the treat at floor level. Keep using the commands in a positive manner and calm voice, though try to only repeat the word once time for each command request.
The most commonly used verbal cues are:
- watch (when you want your dog to look at you)
- down (to lay down)
- off (whether getting off of you or another person, or off of furniture)
- up (to stand up)
- come (to you)
- heel (to walk closely at your side)
- leave it (to not touch or pick up something from the ground)
- drop or give (to use when trading something in their mouth for a treat or toy)
Consistency is key
Make sure everyone in your family uses the same commands or your dog may become confused. Also, be sure to only reward positive behavior and not undesired behavior.
Use Rewards and Avoid Punishment
Rewarding your dog when they do a good job helps immensely with training and keeps the positivity going. When you reward good behavior (or the fact that they performed the training well) with a treat, your pet will understand that they did a good job. The hope of another treat when they do the same thing again will keep them going in the beginning. Praise and positivity while training, and during everyday life, will reinforce to your pet that you love what they’re doing.
Conversely, avoiding punishment is also key. If they do something wrong or revert back to old ways, simply try again. Using punishment during training or when your pet misbehaves will lead to fear of you and fear or repercussions, and can lead to behavioral problems down the road.
Keep It Short & Be Consistent
A great training tip for new dog owners is that pets have short attention spans, so shorter training sessions several times weekly work best. Keep them short and sweet, with a maximum of about 15 minutes, though shorter is fine, too. Focus on just one behavior or task you want them to learn, and reward each positive outcome with a treat. If they get it wrong, try again. End the training session on a successful outcome and reward again with a treat. Keep the short, positive training sessions going, being consistent with your directions and focusing on the one skill until your pet gets the new behavior and can incorporate it into everyday life. Once this happens, it’s time to move onto the next behavior you’d like to train.
Tip: Avoid Distractions While Training
One of the biggest things that can derail a training session is an outside distraction. On top of their short attention spans, pets are easily distracted. Turn off the TV and music, and really focus on your pet during the training session. Make eye contact and don’t let other things distract you. Your dog’s attention will attune to yours, making them more receptive to your needs (in this case, a positive outcome for a particular behavior).
Training your dog is a major part of being a responsible pet owner. Remember to have fun and enjoy being with your pet. Training may be necessary, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. In turn, your dog will reward you with a lifetime of love and affection. Start your training and have fun!