Whether you have a new puppy, a new rescue dog, or are simply boarding an animal for a shelter, training your dog is a vital part of responsible pet ownership. Training dogs makes them behave in public, but also ensures the dog is attentive around strangers. While some try to train dogs by punishing them for failing to do a command, positive reinforcement training is the most effective way. Many people think training a dog is harder than it is. Simply by understanding how dogs perceive our actions, training can be easier, faster, and more effective. Following these five critical universal steps will make training your dog a breeze.
1. Illustrate Your Command
The first step in training any dog is to make it clear what you’re asking. Dogs don’t understand language inherently, so you need to illustrate to the dog what the command means. For example, if you’re asking your dog to sit, give the command, then gently nudge the dogs bottom to the ground. As silly as it sounds, it’s also usually helpful to have a second person go on their hands and knees and imitate what a dog would do when given that command. Give the command to the human (who illustrates it successfully) and give them a piece of fruit. Then, give the command to the dog, and the dog should catch on in a few tries.
2. Show Off The Treat
The next step in training a dog using positive reinforcement, is to make it clear that the dog will receive a treat. Use something the dog loves, and something the dog doesn’t have every day. In order for the dog to get excited about training, it needs to be excited about the treat. When you give the command, make the treat very clear to your dog. As hard as it is, don’t give in to puppy dog eyes and give the treat when the dog hasn’t done the command.
3. Get Excited
As soon as your dog understands what you’re asking them to do, get overwhelmingly excited the first few times the dog is successful. It’s more than ok to go a pretty crazy over your adorable little pup. If you make training rewards the most enjoyable ones, your dog will be eager to complete new commands. Training with positive reinforcement is only successful if you make the reinforcement extraordinarily positive. Rub their head, give them treats, and shower your pup with love, and your dog will soon understand the learning process.
4. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
The next step in training a dog with positive reinforcement is to repeat the command over and over. Still reward with positive reinforcement, but the dog needs to hear this new word enough times to instantly recognize it. Repeating the command is also crucial to let the dog know they will be rewarded every time. When your dog starts doing the command immediately after you give it, you’re on the right track.
5. Gradually Decrease Attention
After the first 10 or 15 times, slowly decrease your enthusiasm every time your dog successfully completes the command. It’s okay to give your dog a treat still, but eventually get to the point where you’re giving a forceful “good boy/girl”. Still let your dog know that they’re doing an excellent job, just make it less of a celebration. After a while, it will be clear that when you give the command, it is an expectation. Once your dog has mastered the first command, start from the beginning again with a new one. In no time at all, your new puppy will be more obedient then Lassie.
Featured photo credit: Latteda via flickr.com