Basic Dog Training Guide - Everything You Need To Know
Being a responsible dog owner means caring for your dog at all times. Basic dog training is part of the whole caring process and can never be ignored. Besides having a very well-behaved dog, you will also get to create an unbreakable bond with your pup.
When you first think about it, dog training may seem like a very difficult process, especially if we’re talking about your first contact with it. Without a doubt, it requires a lot of patience and consistency, but it’s not something to be stressed about. In time, you will realise that everything is a lot simpler than you may have thought and everyone can actually train dogs.
It’s also important to note that if you ever get stuck, you can always ask for a professional for advice.
Training doesn’t just happen. It’s a constant effort from both of you. Dogs, just as humans, can forget a command if they didn’t use it in a while or training was incomplete.
When Should You Start Training?
The short answer is “as soon as possible!” The moment your dog gets home, be it a puppy or an adult dog, you need to start setting your schedules and boundaries. Of course, you won’t start teaching your two months old puppy to carry his bottle of water, but you can start the housebreaking and crating process.
There are a lot of myths roaming around, either saying that you can’t train a puppy until he is at least six months old, or that an adult dog can’t be trained. What you really need to know is that dogs, no matter how young or old they are, can be conditioned with the right reinforcer.
See what he prefers, see if he is comfortable and start establishing yourself as the alpha of the pack.
When you first start looking into training, things may seem a little confusing. You hear about positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and different training methods, such as the Koehler method, clicker training, electronic training, etc. But what do they mean?
Well, any training method is based on one reinforcement style, but of course, for the best results you can’t only stick to one.
If you take them separately, you may come to the realisation that the process is longer than it should and your dog gets confused often. For example, positive reinforcement says that you shouldn’t use any kinds of corrections, but then what do you do when your dog is chaotically running into the street? And the same stands for negative reinforcement. Some dogs are very stubborn and may not listen at all when you’re telling them that they should sit before giving them their food.
The method you choose needs to be a balanced one. Use treats to encourage the pup, but dare to say a simple ‘no’ if he is misbehaving.
Positive reinforcement is based on a simple principle. Praise your dog if he is doing something right, and ignore him if he is misbehaving. In general, this is a very good principle, but a new owner can make mistakes. If your dog is barking for attention for example, and you look at him for a second, he will feel acknowledged and learn that this is how he gets your attention.
In this type of reinforcement, there are no corrections involved whatsoever and it can sometimes be hard to get the dog to listen to you. The good part is that every member of the family can use this method, including children. So if your whole family wants to get involved in the process, this is a great choice.
Negative reinforcement is sometimes viewed as a very bad thing to do. The misconceptions believe that it’s all about violence, but that is completely false. It’s based on removing or avoiding a negative stimulus.
In dog training, it is considered negative reinforcement to keep your dog’s food bowl up until he decides to sit or saying ‘no’ when he is misbehaving because these are corrections. You don’t ignore the negative behaviour, you try to correct in instead.
Clicker training is without a doubt, the best training method for all dogs. It’s much easier for both the dog and owner to learn how to use it and brings fast results, of course, if used correctly.
The best part is that people have been studying it for decades and they used it to train a lot of animals, such as dolphins, monkeys, horses and chickens. From this, it’s safe to say that dogs and clicker training really click.
How To Train With A Clicker
In general, using clicker training is very easy. The only thing you need to be very careful about is timing because you need to click as soon as the dog is starting the behaviour and not a second after. This has a very rational explanation. When the dog is performing a command, he will think about it when he starts to execute it. This usually takes a couple of seconds, and then he will focus on something different, such as the treat in your hand. If you don’t click at the right time, you may accidentally enforce a completely different behaviour.
Let’s see how to train with a clicker
1. Charge the clicker
Your dog needs to understand what the clicker is for and this is called ‘charging the clicker.’ You do it by calling out your dog’s name so he pays attention to you. Then, you simply click and give him a treat. After a few exercises, he will learn that for every click, he gets a treat. This way, he will want to convince you to click again and again. In general, charging the clicker doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes, but if your dog doesn’t seem to understand, you can have more sessions.
It’s important that you use the right treats for your dog. Low-value treats won’t motivate him. Instead, use high-quality treats that mean something to your dog. It doesn’t work if you’re offering him dog kibble. It needs to be something he really loves. After he really starts to learn the commands, you can praise him with his favourite toy. Of course, most dogs won’t be motivated by toys, so you may need to stick to the treats.
2. Learn when to click
As mentioned, you need to get the timing right. If you don’t click the moment your dog starts performing the behaviour, you can completely miss it. The click ends the command, and then you can give him the treat at any time. The primary reinforcer is the clicker, as later on, you can completely remove the treats.
You can click anytime your dog starts doing something you like, such as sitting, waiting and coming when you call his name. This is how it begins and he will get to love the clicker in no time.
3. Don’t click more than once
Sometimes, owners make the mistake of over clicking when they feel excited about a behaviour. That’s one of the biggest errors you can make and will confuse the dog. He starts to learn that the click, in and out, is what motivates him. The moment he hears five clicks one after another, he won’t know exactly what you’re enforcing.
4. Keep it short
Your dog won’t be able to stay focused on training for more than 15 minutes at a time. Instead of having a two-hour training session every week, you can have a daily 15 minutes session. It keeps your dog focused and consistent.
5. Don’t wait for the whole behaviour
Sometimes your dog will make a move taking him closer to the complete behaviour. You can click for that to let him know he’s on the right track. If, for example, he is turning his head when he’s learning the ‘roll’ command, then you can click so he knows that something is right.
6. Raise the criteria
As you progress, your dog will start to keep the behaviours going for a longer time. If you start by asking him to sit for one second, you will eventually get him to sit for 10 seconds, and then raise the criteria, meaning adding something new.
When you first start training with a clicker, you don’t use any words. You let the dog understand that the click means the behaviour. As soon as you manage to get him to maintain the command for longer, you can start introducing words, which are markers. When he is performing the behaviour, you will click and say the command at the same time, then treat.
7. Keep it fun and fair
Dogs like to have fun, so the training sessions need to be interactive for him. It’s not just about clicking and treating, but about creating a bond with him. Give him a pat on the head from time to time and tell him how a good boy he is. Even though it may not seem like much, your dog will understand that you’re happy with him.
What Are The 7 Basic Dog Training Commands
The 7 basic dog training commands refer to the core of dog training. Without these, it’s going to be very hard to teach your dog more.
The sit command is probably the first your dog will learn and the easiest to train. You will use it whenever you’re feeding your dog and when he has to wait for you to put on his leash before a walk.
If you decide to use clicker training for your dog, you will need to click every time he sits by himself. In a short time, he will figure out that he’s getting a click and a treat for that action and will try to do it as much as possible.
Teaching your dog the down command can seem a little tricky at first. You can either wait for him to engage in the action or lead him in the ‘down’ position with a treat and then click.
You will need your pup to know this command for every time you go to the park and you need him to take a break, and even go to a cafe where you don’t want him bothering all the other customers.
You want your dog to ‘stay’ in a lot of situations. When you go to answer the door, when you need to leave him outside and get into a store and when you’re getting ready for a walk.
In general, you will teach the ‘stay’ command after you went through ‘sit’ and ‘down’ because that’s one of the positions your dog will stay in. Start by asking him to stay for two seconds at a time and gradually increase that period. With perseverance, you can teach your dog to wait for up to 30 minutes. Remember to always release him from the command.
The ‘come’ command is one of the most important ones, as it can save your dog’s life. When your dog gets scared and runs away, or when you see a possibly aggressive dog in the distance, your dog needs to know to come to you on command.
This one may be tricky to teach, and you need to click for the moment he starts running towards you. In the beginning, you can lure him to you with a treat for extra motivation.
The ‘off’ command is usually used to tell your dog that he’s not supposed to jump on people or furniture, but it’s sometimes confused with ‘down.’
In order to teach the ‘off’ command, you should click when your dog is not jumping and has all four legs on the ground. As it can be a confusing command, you should start training it after your dog already knows the other four very well.
6. Leave it
You know when you’re walking through the park and your dog notices something that may seem tasty for him? Well, it happens to all of us, but we have a command for it. The ‘leave it’ or ‘don’t touch’ or whatever marker you choose for it, will save you in those moments.
This command is meant to protect your pup from any possibly dangerous items he may encounter.
You can teach this command by keeping two treats of different values in each hand. First, show him the low-value treat and say ‘leave it.’ If he is backing off after sniffing, click and reward him with the high-value treat from your other hand. After a while, when you say ‘leave it,’ he won’t even try to sniff it anymore and wait patiently.
The ‘heel’ command is meant to teach your dog that he should walk by your side and sit when you stop walking. Even though you shouldn’t take your dog out for a walk without a leash and harness, this command is quite useful, as you don’t want him pulling on the leash when you’re both trying to relax.
Besides the basic commands, you can teach your dog to do a million other things. Some owners will want their dogs to walk their puppies, carry their toy to the park or bring them stuff from around the house.
Dogs have an amazing thinking capacity and it’s not hard to actually teach them to perform a lot of tricks and commands.
1. Leash Training
Leash training is not just about teaching your dog to walk by your side, but about making him love the least and want to go for a walk every time. You should start leash training as soon as your dog gets home and slowly turn in into a daily activity. Give your dog the time to get used to the leash and harness for a while and practice inside.
You will also need to teach your dog a cue for the leash. You can use anything that you find comfortable, but make sure the dog can’t confuse it with other command or his name. A very good method to convince your pup to follow you is to carry treats around and call his name while holding the leash. When he starts coming to you, click and treat. After a short while, he will start following you for more treats.
As soon as you complete that first step, you should start taking a few steps and see if your dog follows you. What you need to keep in mind is the fact that your dog may not walk with you for a long time, especially when he is a puppy. This happens because of his short attention span. The training sessions should be short and you should give him the time to learn all the steps.
When your dog is ready, you can start taking him outside on a leash. It will be difficult at first because there will also be distractions outside. As mentioned earlier, you will raise the criteria, by adding the distractions.
No one wants their dog soiling all over the house, so in order to avoid that, we need to housebreak our dogs. The most common method is to use a crate. Crating a dog means that he will have a well-defined space to stay in while you’re away, so he doesn’t try to find a soiling space in the house.
Crating means that your dog will have a set schedule for eating, playing, walks and training. If your dog learns that he will eventually get to spend time with you, this process will be much easier and actually pleasant for the dog.
3. Any Command
After you get to understand how clicker training works, it’s going to be much easier to teach your dog any command. By clicking and treating every time he’s close to performing your desired command, he will slowly learn that by listening to you, only good things happen.
In the end, basic dog training is not something to be afraid of. It’s necessary and beneficial for the whole family. Your dog needs to be your best friend and this can only be achieved through training.
As usual, there’s one big secret when it comes to dog training. The value of the treats. A dog won’t be motivated by low-value treats, and that’s perfectly understandable. In order to have success every time, you need something really good for your pup. We have the training treats that are perfect for training, they are low in calories because they are so high in protein. All of our dogs absolutely love these so give them a try!
Good luck with your training!