Adding a new pet to the family is exciting, but it also means taking on big responsibilities. No matter which breed you decide is best for your family; you'll need to train them properly. "Always teach the basic commands and obedience to your dog," says Gail Miller Bisher, a handler, trainer, and judge, and the resident expert for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Although teaching your pet, especially if they're a puppy, the basic commands such as sit, stay, come, down, and walk, can sound difficult, it's actually not too daunting of a task. (Even if you're not a pro.) "Dogs really want to learn," Bisher explains. "Most dogs really take to training. It gives them something to think about." Plus, most dogs know that obedience will please their owners, and your pup will want to make you happy, she adds.
Depending on the breed, you can start teaching your puppy basic commands at three or four months, Bisher says. There's no age limit on when they can learn, but the earlier you start, the better off you'll both be. Here, Bisher recommends three easy tips to help you and your dog on your obedience journey.
1. Stay Consistent
One of the most common mistakes that Bisher sees is that everyone in the family isn't using the same command. For example, if you're teaching them "down," someone else might be saying "get off." "That's a problem, and it's hard to overcome," Bisher says. "It's too confusing, and they won't learn." Before you start training, make sure to go over the terms you're going to be using for each command, and ensure everyone in your home sticks with them.
2. Know Your Pup
After your pup successfully completes a command, it's important to reward them, but you need to do it in a way they'll enjoy, Bisher says. "Some dogs are really food-driven, and they care about a treat," she explains. "Other dogs couldn't care less [about food], but they want a toy or just want to play with you." Simply figure out what your pup is interested in and "what makes them tick," she adds.
3. Keep It Short and Sweet
"People spend too long on a training session," Bisher says. The best thing to do is have short but frequent sessions, so your dog doesn't get bored. "And always end on a high note," Bisher says. "If 'sit' is their really strong command, end on that and make it a big deal, so your dog doesn't get discouraged."