6 Principles of Successful Training
- Be Consistent: Apply the same rules and the same words all the time.
- Be Concise: Give your command just once. Repetition of commands teaches your dog to ignore them because it sounds like you don’t care if he obeys or not.
- Be Generous: Reward your dog for being right. Give him a treat, verbal praise, or an ear massage.
- Be Smart: Don’t give a command unless either you are confident that your dog understands and will respond to it correctly or you are in a position to help him get it right.
- Be Prepared: Have a leash handy in case your dog does not come to you when you call him.
- Be Happy: Because your dog is your friend and your training partner, keep your voice upbeat and smile at him. Dogs are sensitive to our tone of voice and body language, so use both to let him know that you will be so happy when he does what you ask him.
I tell my clients that the best time to train is when their dog is about to hit the “puppy spaz” hour—that time of day when he races around the house or yard for no apparent reason. I find that it is usually around the same time every day. This is the perfect time to do some training.
-Melanie Walker, Surprise, AZ
Keep a few clickers and treat bowls scattered around the house to make everyday training easier. Dry treats and a clicker can easily be hidden in a covered dish or in a desk drawer (just be sure that the treats are in a place not readily accessible to your dog) to make training easier.
-Dawn Antoniak -Mitchell, Esq. CPDT-KA, BonaFide Dog Academy LLC, Omaha, NE
Once a new behavior has been learned, incorporate it into your daily routine.
-Jamie Da Mato, CPDT-KA, Animalsense Canine Training and Behavior, Inc., Chicago, IL
Keep your training sessions short and fun! Have three or four training sessions each day, and keep them short—less than 15 minutes each session. If you find yourself getting frustrated, stop. Training should be fun for you and your dog.
-Jacquelyn England, A Dog’s Life, Sunnyvale, CA
A few short training repetitions can easily be snuck in before meals, at potty breaks, and other times throughout the day. It is easier for busy people to find a few minutes throughout the day to intentionally train than to find a big block of time daily.
-Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell, Esq. CPDT-KA, BonaFide Dog Academy LLC, Omaha, NE
I encourage people to work with their dogs outside of post offices and in front of storefronts. This helps with a dog’s socialization skills, as well as attention. Dogs can practice the sit for introductions, the leave it, and watch me commands, and stay and heel exercises.
-Marian Pott, Miramar Dog Training, Obedience, Herding, Behavior, Half Moon Bay, CA
Be unpredictable! Dogs are pretty good at figuring out when you have treats and when you don’t. To be unpredictable, have treats when you don’t look like you do. Don’t always use a bait bag and/or use things like sealed jars of baby food hidden in your pocket.
-Jacquelyn England, A Dog’s Life, Sunnyville, CA
Use training treats strategically. For behavior that your dog already knows (e.g., sit), use lower-value treats, like pieces of his kibble. When you want to encourage him to learn a new behavior, use higher-value treats. The reward should be commensurate with the difficulty of the task.
-Patricia Bentz, CPDT-KA, CDBC, K-9 Training & Behavioral Therapy, Philadelphia, PA
Be sure to reward your dog during periods when he is quiet and not performing any unacceptable behaviors. For example, if he is sitting quietly and not barking, this is a perfect opportunity to reward him with his favorite treat or a belly rub.
-Dawn Nargi-Ferren, CPDT-KA, Metropolitan Pets, New York City, NY