A well-mannered dog makes for a rewarding and loyal companion. If you want a fun way to bond with your pooch, follow the lead of National Train Your Dog Month and teach your dog a few new tricks! Your dog will love doing fun new things with you, and you’ll also enjoy it.
If you got a new puppy over the holidays or just want a creative way to play with your older dog, we’re here with some tips and tricks for your next dog training session.
Why Should We Train Our Dogs?
Many people love their dogs and consider them a part of the family but don’t really know a lot about how to train a dog. It’s ok. We don’t all have to be dog trainers and dog behavior specialists to get down a few techniques and teach our dogs a few manners. A well-behaved dog actually lives a happier and safer life.
When you invest your time in your pet, the rewards are many. Trained pets are less likely to run away or dart into traffic. They are more sociable and safer to be around other animals, your family members, and your friends. And a better-behaved pet will get into less trouble both in your home and when you take them out places like to the vet’s office, the dog park, or on vacation.
Dog Training – A Short History
Dog training in the way we know it today – with gentle encouragement and attention to the humane treatment of pets – is relatively new. In the 1950s, Blanche Saunders’ book, Training You to Train Your Dog, brought dog training from a position of ownership and servitude to one of partnership and love. From her early visions of “obedience training” (which helped make dogs more adaptable into the family unit rather than service animals), dog training has blossomed into a loving relationship that gives dogs a more complete, safer, and happier life.
Movements as recent as the last decade work to eliminate unsafe and painful training methods (such as spiked collars) and replace them with dog-friendly, loving, reward-based systems that are more effective and humane.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) started National Train Your Dog Month in 2010 and has led the way to puppy training and doggie paw “shaking” each year since. They encourage the LIMA method of dog training that incorporates a “least intrusive, minimally aversive” ideology. January is a great month for National Train Your Dog Month, reminding you to invest time in your dog’s training and kick the year off right.
Tips for Training Your Dog
Obedience training does take some time and commitment, but obedience training methods are widely available. There are resources, tutorials you can find online, and fun national holidays to keep you motivated and offer support. You can do it in your home with few supplies and minimal experience.
Train Your Dog with the Right Attitude
Remember that training your dog is for improving their quality of life and your relationship with your pet. It is not about making a show of force or dominance. A firm, patient, consistent attitude will go far to make your dog-training efforts a success. Your dog naturally wants to please you. Show them what pleases you and reward them when they choose to comply.
Teaching Your Dog Some Manners
Rewards-based systems are the best methods for training your dog to do anything from staying off the couch to controlling their reaction to stimuli and raising their reaction threshold. To begin, know your dog’s deepest motivation. What is the most rewarding thing your dog responds to?
- Food pieces or treats?
- Physical affection (petting their head or rubbing their back)?
- Toys (their favorite chew toy or ball)?
Once you have determined which of these (or a combination of these) most motivates your dog to pay attention and try new things, you’re all set! Gather up their favorite treats or ball, and get ready for a bit of fun learning. You can use treats, command words, or clickers to teach your dog all kinds of things, from basic household behavior to following commands or performing tricks.
Basic Obedience Training Commands
- Down, or lie down
- Leave it
Manners and General Behavior
- Potty training
- Minimize aggressive behaviors
- Socialize with other dogs and people
- Walk on a leash
- Minimize jumping, scratching, or “bolting” behaviors that could harm them or other people
- Stay out of the trash or off the furniture
- Don’t eat the plants or chase the cat
Dog Tricks to Teach
- Shake a paw
- Spin in a circle
- Bark on command
- Give a kiss
Rewards-based dog training is not super complicated, but you do need to understand when to offer a reward and when not to offer a reward. In his podcast, Al’s Dog Training Tips, Al Longoria, a professional dog trainer, and owner of Longoriahaus Dog Training in Houston, Texas, discusses this in detail. He gave a good example that explains it well:
- Your dog barks. (You want him to not bark.)
- You scold your dog for barking.
- Your dog stops barking.
- You immediately reward with praise.
The problem with this scenario is that the reward (verbal praise) comes too quickly after an unwanted behavior, which your dog will continue to do and receive a reward. Delay reward following unwanted behavior and make sure your dog is clear on what they are being rewarded for.
A better scenario would be to train your dog to resist unwanted behavior from the onset. Positive reinforcement training requires deliberate and simple actions on your part to encourage the desired behavior in your dog and offer a reward when they do the behavior.
Keep it simple by working on one activity at a time until they master the new action and be consistent with the reward. This type of training works well to desensitize your dog to things they find scary or to do things they normally wouldn’t want to do by associating the activity with something positive like a treat.
Teaching Your Dog New Tricks
It’s a lot of fun to teach your dog to do “tricks,” which is easier than you may think. Begin with a simple trick such as “sit.” Teaching your dog to sit is the first step to obedience training, and even if you’ve never trained a dog before, you can master this and other doggie tricks.
How to Teach Your Dog to Sit
- Sit or kneel in front of your dog with some treats in your hand.
- Once your dog sees you have treats, they will become interested and may circle about, but eventually will sit in front of you and wait to see if you are going to give them a treat.
- Wait patiently for your dog to sit.
- As soon as your dog sits, reward them with a treat!
- Stand and step back to encourage your dog to stand.
- Kneel again and repeat the process.
- Begin using the word “sit” as your dog sits. Eventually, your dog will associate the word “sit” with the action and the treat and will do this action on command.
Great follow-up tricks to teach are “stay” and “rollover.” When your dog learns these tricks and is eager to listen, tries to please you, and responds well to the treats, you may want to try something a bit more fun!
- Kiss on command
- Hide and seek
- Army crawl
- Spin in a circle
- Ring a bell (to go potty)
What if Your Dog Is Having Trouble with Training?
If your dog is particularly antsy, anxious, or exhibiting a lack of focus, you can offer them a CBD doggie treat before you begin the training. CBD treats can help your dog feel more calm and alert for training sessions. (Remember, CBD treats are for dogs over a year of age.) You can buy CBD treats for your dog, or you can make your own. Use regular dog treats for the rewards you offer them while training, so you don’t go over the suggested daily serving amounts for their CBD treats.
Keep training sessions short and simple so your dog does not get overwhelmed. Never yell, hit, or punish your dog while training; this can create trauma in your pet or hurt them. These behaviors will do more harm than good to your partnership with your pet and may actually cause more unwanted behaviors in your dog.
Training Your Dog Is Easy and Fun!
Training your dog can be fun, easy, and very rewarding for both you and your furry pal. National Train Your Dog Month (and any day, really!) is a great time to teach your beloved friend a few new tricks. You learn a lot and become more in tune with your companion, which means you can take them to more places and do more fun things with them!
Check out our blog for more fun tips for pet parenting!