BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Dog Training Techniques: Methods To Consider for Proper Training

Dog trining obedience
John Walton
Written by John Walton

There are many people who can’t imagine life without their precious furry friends; however, they are also aware that dogs should be guided since they are puppies in order to make them well-mannered and safe. That is why you should know some dog training techniques in order to make your dog behave well around other people and animals. It is normal for dogs to bark, growl, chew and run around playfully, but you must teach them how and when this behavior can be proper.

Otherwise, your dog can make your life or the lives of others difficult; he can also put himself in danger.

Dogs used to be the wild animals that lived by the rules of the pack and nature. The instinct is still here however, if you want to keep your doggie with yourself, you must be the leader of the pack and teach him some basic manners and rules. Pet owners usually complain about their dog ‘not listening’.

Now imagine putting yourself in your pet’s shoes and listening to the annoying chattering or even worse, yelling. You need to teach your dog to learn through the consequences of his behavior, which means rewarding the behavior that you approve and do not reward the one you do not like.

Firstly, think about the goal of dog training. It should be to have a well-mannered dog who knows how to behave in the society and at home. The goal should never be to rob your doggies of his unique qualities and to turn him into a toy or object. Never beat or abuse the dog or employ physical dominance over your dog – it can only hurt him, not teach him anything.

Trained dogs

Additionally, if you think about the best age to begin training, it can be as early as three months. It will definitely be harder to teach a puppy; however, if you start with the basics as early as possible, it will be easier later on in life to teach him more and more. Puppies are not focused as older dogs, but he will learn quicker later on and you will make everything easier for both of you. If you want to learn how to get started, check out this great article on developing a puppy training schedule.

Dog training techniques that proved efficient

There are various dog training techniques, and you should choose the ones you find the most comfortable, keeping in mind your dog’s personality too. Most of these techniques use positive reinforcement which can be combined with correction. You should also keep in mind that different dog breeds usually have different needs, temperaments and they do not learn in the same way. This means that training a Yorkie and a Pit Bull cannot be the same since these dogs do not react in the same way to commands.

Top ten tips on dog training

It is important to remember that training should be fun and it is also a great opportunity to bond with your beloved friend even more. If you are frustrated or nervous, then it is for better to leave the training for another day. Imagine teaching a child – it is the same for your puppy or an adult dog, he also depends on you to teach him and make his life easier and filled with love.

In this article you can find out about the most popular techniques and methods for training your puppy or dog.

The traditional dog training

Barbara Woodhouse was a British dog trainer and she was famous for her catch phrases ‘walkies’ and ‘sit!’ and for her ‘no bad dogs’ philosophy. Her training was considered the modern version of the traditional training, which mostly resulted in punishment.

For example, her method consisted of using physical corrections. You tell your dog to sit, but if he continues to stand, you give him a gentle jerk on the collar and gently push down his rump until he sits. Then your reward him vocally by saying ‘good dog!’. This kind of method is considered outdated, however, you can still try it out, because your dog can respond to it positively.

The clicker training

This kind of training is based on behavioral psychology and it is introduced by Karen Pryor. It can be used for everything – from the basic training to the more complicated problems, such as excessive barking. When your dog is listening to you and you find his behavior desirable, then you use a ‘clicker’, which is a mechanical device that makes a short and distinct ‘click’ sound.

This sound is quick and consistent and that makes it an excellent marker for good behavior. You can find various types of this toy noisemaker in pet stores. This sound tells your dog that he is doing the right thing. It is completely safe and humane and it is usually combined with positive reinforcement.

If you’d like to learn more about this method, you should definitely check out this article on clicker training.

The reward training

The reward training is another technique related to positive reinforcement; however, the incentive is not the toy noisemaker and the click sound but the reward. This reward can be your dog’s favorite toy, a snack or anything that he loves. After providing your doggie with the reward, you should pet him and encourage him loudly. Enthusiasm can be always felt and you should make sure that your dog knows that you are pleased with his behavior.

The dog whispering

If you have ever head of the ‘Horse Whisperer’ then you probably know what this is about. Invented by Cesar Millan, this technique has been criticized and it is based on the connection between an owner and his dog. You must learn to understand your dog’s body language and to use your own language in order to teach him some commands.

This kind of technique almost always uses the correction, which is why it has been criticized by some people. For example, if your dog is too aggressive to another dog, you should correct him by mimicking him and putting your clawed hand to his neck.

Dog training basics – most popular commands

Every puppy and dog should know at least five basic commands, which include: ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’, ‘down’ and ‘heel’.

Sit and lie down infographic

Once you’ve taught your dog the basic important commands, then you can go on using some of the methods we have mentioned earlier or you can mix them in order to find the best way to teach your dog so he can be well-mannered and relaxed.

Stay

‘Stay!’ is probably one of the most important basics because it can save your pet’s life. You would not want your dog to run in front of the car or after the postman. When it comes to pups, they have the instinctive understanding of this and similar commands because they know when they are threatened and when they are told to stay. The practice is much needed though.

  • When the puppy or your older dog is in a ‘sit’ position, you should stand on her right side so that you are both facing the same direction. After that hold the collar and say ‘stay!’ while putting your hand in front of the dog’s face (without touching it though). If the dog stays and does not move, then reward him and pet him. If he gets up, then repeat the training.
  • You should do this for at least 15 seconds and praise the dog whenever he listens to you. After that repeat the training several times.
  • After your dog learns this technique, start to increase the length of training and each time move away further.
  • Each time try to increase the distance between you and your dog until you can go around during the stay and the dog does not move. Also do not forget to have a command such as ‘okay’ or ‘come’ so the dog learns when to move.

Down

‘Down’ is another very important command that can also save your dog’s life or simply keep him out of trouble. It is usually combined with ‘stay’, however, it is a bit stronger. If you would like to tell your dog to stop jumping around, then you should teach him to do just that.

  • Once again, the dog should be sitting and you should stand at his right side. Once you call out your dog’s name and say ‘down’, put your left hand above the dog’s head and with a treat in your right hand, slowly lower the left hand towards the floor and closely to the dog’s head.
  • When the dog’s elbows and the rear are on the floor, praise the dog and give him the treat. You should repeat this several times until you are sure that the dog understands.

Come

This command is probably the easiest, and most dogs do not need learning it because they willingly go to their master once they have been called out. However, if your little furry friend is too stubborn, then teaching him to come is very important, especially if he is in danger or you are in a hurry.

  • You should use some kind of treat and place it in front of you at the floor. Then each time you call for your doggie, you should point at the treat and say ‘come!’. After some time pointing at it will be unnecessary.
  • When the dog reaches you, you must praise him and say something like ‘good!’ and pet him. Your dog will remember that listening to you whenever you say ‘come’ will be rewarded with a delicious treat and your praise, so he will get familiar with this command.

Heel

This command is usually the most complicated one, however, if you are patient and consistent, the dog will learn quickly. It is normal for any dog to go wild in the nature or unfamiliar place, to sniff and run around, or if he is not shy, to run after other dogs and people. Teaching him to heel will not only save you from embarrassment but also from danger.

  • Put your dog in the ‘sit’ position beside your left leg and facing the same direction. This is known as the ‘place’ position and it is used in order to not confuse your dog.
  • After that say your dog name and ‘heel!’ and then step forward with your left foot. Do not forget that you should always start with your left foot. Give the dog a gentle pull and repeat the command if the dog resists the command or hurry past you.
  • Keep encouraging your dog by saying ‘no!’, ‘over here’, ‘keep with me’ etc. Always say the same phrase for one particular thing so you do not confuse him. Tug on the lead and you can use the command ‘sit’ until the dog calms downs.
  • Do not forget that you should always teach your dog to adjust to you, and not the other way round. If you do not do this, you will end up having your dog training you and you will be running after him. If the dog is too excited, stop him, place him at your left side, tell him to sit and then start over.

If your dog obeys your commands properly, then you can praise him and reward him, but do not distract him too much. Every dog is different and they all learn differently, so you should not push him or get nervous. Try to make the corrections with your voice and gesture, and use the lead only when the things get out of the hand or if the dog is not listening. You do not want any tension between you and the dog, otherwise he will resist you.

Keep in mind that this command is best taught while your dog is on a leash, and you can learn a lot more in our article on leash training your dog.

Sit

The ‘sit’ command is as important as everything else, and as we have already mentioned, you train the dog by putting him by your left side and saying his name and ‘sit’. By the constant repetitions your dog should learn that when you stop on your left foot and say ‘sit’, he should sit.

  • Once your dog has learnt the ‘heel’ command, you should start with the ‘sit’ command by using the verbal signals and gestures.
  • You should teach your dog to never start moving when you step off with your right foot, so if he does that, use the ‘stay’ command and start again. After some time start occasionally stepping off with the right foot, then with the left one and so on.

All of these techniques are part of the dog training basics. There are also the advanced commands such as: stop, back up, growl, shake, steady, stand, drop it, go to bed, leave it, take it, give, speak, roll over, attack, fetch, place, with me etc.

How to train your puppy

It is important to teach and train your puppy so he can understand that it is not okay to eliminate in your home. Puppies cannot be as focused as the older dogs, but they can learn quickly too and once they do, it will be easier to teach them in the future.

Dog training

You should keep in mind that puppies that are under 3 months of age haven’t developed their bladder or bowel control so it is almost impossible to teach them anything. This means that your little puppy is mentally capable and he understands that he must go out but he cannot do it because his body is not physically capable of doing that. Some puppies take longer to understand, some understand immediately but then regress. This is all normal, so you should never physically punish your puppy. Leaving him alone for more than 4 hours is cruel too.

Some more advices:

  • If you want to train your puppy to learn where to eliminate, then that can be accomplished by rewarding him when he eliminates outside the house and preventing him from doing it inside.
  • Do not forget that your puppy should always be kept on a consistent daily feeding schedule and you should always take him outside consistently – every hour.
  • If you cannot watch him every hour, you should confine him in a crate so he does not hurt himself or eliminate everywhere in the house.
  • Reward your puppy every time he eliminates outside and if you catch him eliminating in the house, try to startle him by clapping loudly, but do not scare him.
  • If you do not catch the puppy as he is eliminating but you find out about it later, do not do anything to the puppy because he cannot connect the act and the punishment.
  • Never rub your puppy’s nose in his waste and do not confine him alone to a crate for hours and hours. You should also use an enzymatic cleaner so the puppy does not come back to the same spot in order to waste.

Training tips

There are some tips that can be useful:

  • Having in mind that dogs do not have long attention spans, you must keep your training sessions short when you teach the dog new skills. An average training session should be about 15 minutes, more or less. If you would like to keep the sessions interesting, then try doing 4 to 14 repetitions of one skill and then switch to the others.
  • Make sure that when training your dog, you use only one word or phrase for one thing. Dogs do not understand the human language, and you will confuse them if you use 10 words for one thing. Syntax is something completely unfamiliar to them.
  • Always take baby steps and be patient. Every dog is different and they learn differently. Some take longer, some catch on early and so on. For example, if you teach your dog to stay, try to teach him to stay for only 3 seconds in the beginning, and then increase the length to 7 seconds, then to 15 seconds and so on. If you train your dog systematically, he will be able to learn faster.
  • If there happens to be any trouble, then you may have tried too hard and your dog cannot keep up, especially if the dog has not practiced that particular skill in awhile or it is a completely new skill. In that case, just try to refresh your doggie’s memory by making the steps easier and by going slower. Always go back to the step that is the source of the problem and repeat it until you are sure that you can go to the next level.
  • Be sure to reward your dog every time he learns a new skill or he completes the training sessions successfully. Also do not forget that the reward depends on the circumstances. If the dog has just eaten a huge meal, he won’t be so much interested in a snack. Try patting him or giving him a freedom to run around with his buddies. Additionally, you should practice everywhere – at your home, park, friend’s house, anywhere you take him. That is because the environment is different and he must adapt to it.

To sum up, training your dog is very important, because a well-mannered dog is safer. You do not want to worry all the time whether he will get hit by a car because he does not know how to stop, or whether he will get into trouble by jumping on a postman. You must be your dog’s best friend, but also a leader of the pack and teach him to behave.

Starting from an early age is a plus because your puppy can learn to be house-trained and to eliminate outside and not inside. The puppy will be also able to learn faster and you will make your life easier.

Puppy training

We have mentioned some of the most popular techniques, methods and commands for training your beloved pet. You can choose one or even better, combine them into one technique that will work the best for you and your dog, because after all, every dog is different and has a different personality and temperament.

All in all, the most important thing is to teach your dog how to behave in the society and at home, but not to turn him into a lifeless toy. Do not rob your dog of his unique and beautiful characteristics; it is better if you simply try to make all the good qualities pop out. Never physically punish your pet because that will only hurt him, teach him as you would any child – with patience and love.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Jem Stark

    I’m very aware of how positive training is important when training dogs. Although let’s be honest, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with this method, too. I do believe in positive reinforcement and how it helps both dog and human. I’m wondering, what kind of training do you use for your pet?

    • There’s no perfect training approach as they have their own share of advantages and disadvantages. However, positive reinforcement is still the way to go and the method that I’ll recommend pet parents because it is less stressful and definitely loaded with lots of fun!

  • Robin James

    You have not mentioned one more important detail: you have to be strict and never raise your voice. Dogs are very sensitive to your tone and can not listen too emotional guidance.

  • That’s correct, Robin! The tone of voice is very important to ensure that no traumatic association will be experienced by the dog.

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