Dog training takes time and patience, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. With a step-by-step approach, you can teach dogs behaviours that are essential for their safety and wellbeing. In this guide, we’ll look at some common dog training methods to put your dog on the path to success.
Why is dog training important?
First and foremost, training is important for your dog’s safety. Dogs need to be trained so they can interact safely with other dogs and humans (especially children). Although your dog might not seem like the aggressive type, they could still lash out in situations where they feel threatened.
Training is essential for the overall wellbeing of your dog, because all dogs appreciate structure. Training exercises will also keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated.
Teaching your dog simple commands will make them easier to control during walks and at the dog park. A well-trained dog is less likely to run away or aggravate other people’s dogs. Ultimately, it’s in your dog’s best interests to make sure they are properly trained.
Best of all, your training sessions will deepen the bond you have with your dog. It’s highly rewarding to see your dog learn and thrive – plus it can be fun!
How much training does a dog need?
The most useful basic commands a dog can learn are ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’ and ‘drop it’. It’s best to start training dogs when they’re young, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train an adult dog. Dogs are lifetime learners and will benefit from training exercises at any age.
‘Puppy school’ is a great option for young dogs, however there are many commands that you can teach your dog at home without needing to book a class. We recommend starting with the command ‘sit’ and working your way up from there. Once you’ve established a training routine that your dog associates with praise and rewards, it will be easier to teach more complex commands.
How to get started training your dog
Having looked at why training is important, let’s now talk about how. Dog training sessions are best kept short: about 15 minutes or so. This is because dogs have an attention span similar to a 2 year-old child. The key to success is to keep your sessions short and focused on only one trick at a time.
If you’re wondering how to train dog commands effectively, we recommend using positive reinforcement such as praise and treats. You want to reinforce good behaviour by providing a reward when they do the right thing. Yelling at your dog will only stress and confuse them.
How to train a dog to sit
This is a method for teaching the ‘sit’ command using dog treats:
- Take out a treat and show it to your dog: they will become interested and try to reach for it.
- Hold the treat above your dog’s head so he looks up, then quickly move it just behind his nose – he will move backwards to reach it, and (hopefully) put his bottom on the ground.
- The moment his bottom touches the floor, give him the treat and say ‘sit!’
- Repeat this process to build a positive association between the action and the command. You can also introduce a hand gesture to provide a visual cue as well.
- After a while, you can try saying ‘sit!’ without holding the treat – your dog should get the idea. Continue to praise. Eventually you should be able to give the command without needing to provide a treat every time.
Most training experts recommend starting training with the ‘sit’ command, as it’s one of the easiest tricks for dogs to learn. Once your dog has mastered this, they will be primed to learn more difficult tricks.
How to dog train with clicker
There are two ways you can train your dog using positive reinforcement: treats, and a clicker.
A clicker is a hand-operated device that makes a clicking sound. When you sound the clicker at the same time as giving your dog a treat, they will come to associate the sound with a reward. Eventually, the click sound will become its own reward, and you won’t need to use treats anymore.
It’s up to you whether you want to use a clicker to train your dog. Some trainers swear by them, while others prefer to use verbal reinforcements like ‘good dog!’ instead.
You might like to try using both treats and a clicker to reward your dog, to see which works best. Some find the clicker to be a bit fiddly while others enjoy the precision it affords – since a click can be sounded at exactly the moment when your dog does the right thing. Clickers are also good if you want to avoid feeding your dog too many treats.
How to dog train for leash
Puppies can be trained for walking on a leash from around 12 weeks of age – check with your vet if you’re not sure. It’s best to get your puppy accustomed to their harness while they’re inside the house before you actually start to walk them. You can provide a treat whenever the harness appears so they associate it with good things.
Keep your first walks short, because puppies don’t have as much stamina as adult dogs. Never yank or drag your dog: just be patient and take your time. At the end of your session, reward your dog and make sure to provide plenty of fresh water for them to drink.
A stimulated dog is a happy dog!
Dog training takes time and dedication, but the rewards are worth it. It’s in the interests of your dog’s safety as well as the safety of others. Dogs love learning, and training keeps them stimulated and happy. If you’re new to dog training, don’t worry: just be patient, and you’ll start to see results. Best of all, you will enjoy a deeper and stronger bond with your dog.