Dog training is really about communication. It provides a way for dogs and owners to understand each other, it also helps dogs learn how to live in a human world. Owners who invest time and effort in training can expect to experience less problem behaviours and have a better relationship with their dog.
My dogs accompany me on television and at public appearances, so it’s essential they are always well behaved. I find training to be not only useful, but also fun. I especially love teaching my dogs tricks, but by far the best thing about training is the way it helps me and my dogs understand each other, enhancing a very special bond.
Training doesn’t have to be a chore, here are my ten top tips to help you enjoy fun and successful training sessions with you dog.
It’s never too soon to start
You can start training your puppy from the minute you bring them home. Puppies need a lot of guidance from their owners, be patient and set clear and consistent boundaries about what behaviour is acceptable.
Consistency is the key
All members of the household must agree to the same rules and use the same key words and hand signals.
Set your dog up for success
Think about the way your dog behaves, try to anticipate the easiest way to get the result you’re after. For example, when teaching your dog to recall, start somewhere secure and quiet with no distractions (like other dogs) and use plenty of treats. Your dog is far more likely to come back to you when called if there aren’t more interesting options available.
Keep training sessions short
Dogs have a short attention span so keep training sessions to 5 minutes, two or three times a day.
Training must be a positive experience
Don’t train your dog if you are in a bad mood or distracted. Becoming frustrated and losing your temper will only make your dog scared of you.
When using food treats
It’s fine to simply use a proportion of your dog’s everyday dry food. However, if there are distractions, or if you really want to get your dog to focus when you’re teaching something new, you might need to up the ante with “high value” treats such as chicken, cabanossi or cheese.
Buy yourself a bum bag or treat pouch
This will free up both your hands and treats will be easily accessible for a quick reward.
Try attending training classes
Training has come a long way from the days of obedience classes with check trains. Positive reward-based pet dog training classes are now popular. They not only teach basic obedience, but also incorporate behaviours that are important to the dog and owner in everyday life, such as doggy social skills.
Always let your dog know when they have finished training
Use a ‘release word’ such as “ok” and end on a happy note by having a quick game or giving them their favourite toy.
Always have fun
Training provides mental stimulation for your dog and enhances your bond and trust. The more fun you have, the more engaged your dog will be, the better the outcome.