If you’re a new dog owner who assumes obedience classes are going to cover all your bases, you’re in for a big surprise. Puppies are like kids: They don’t stop learning once they get home from school. It’s going to take more than a few training sessions to solidify commands and get consistent results. But don’t give up when things get tough. Consult this list for tips every new dog owner needs to know.
1. Create a Designated Area
Pick a spot in your home or yard that your dog can begin to associate with training time. It should be a relatively distraction-free zone with enough room for your pup to move freely.
2. Use a Firm, Positive Voice
Reward-based training is largely accepted as the most effective and animal-friendly method out there. This means you’ve got to be firm and commanding (you’re the boss) while remaining positive and reassuring (your dog has to feel safe). Since dogs aren’t fluent in human languages beyond simple commands and names, your tone of voice largely communicates your intentions. If you sound angry or frustrated during training, this begins a negative association with learning skills.
3. Set a Timer
Dogs are dogs. By this we mean that they can only focus on a task for so long before getting bored or anxious. For maximum retention and engagement, set a timer for anywhere from five to 15 minutes. This is how long each training session should be. Repeat these sessions a few times throughout the day to remind your pup of what you covered earlier.
4. Start with the Most Important Stuff
According to VetStreet, the very first commands you teach your dog will be his favorite—the ones he does when he doesn’t understand new tricks or feels uncomfortable. Start with important behavior controls like “down” to prevent him from jumping on visitors and “come” to prevent him from running into the street.
5. Be Consistent
Along the same lines, don’t change the rules every couple of months. A photo shoot with your new Great Dane puppy on the leather couch is awesome. But now he thinks he’s allowed to sit there. As an adult Great Dane, he’ll be confused if you suddenly get angry when he plops down next to you. As soon as you see your dog behaving in a way he’s been trained not to, correct the behavior right away. Similarly, reward good behavior with a healthy treat as soon as you notice him catching on. He’ll be sure to keep up the good work.
6. Remember: Short and Sweet
Single words work best when it comes to commands. Pick one and stick to it. For instance, some pet parents might use “Go to your spot” to mean “Get in your crate,” while others simply say “crate.” Short and sweet wins here.
7. Incorporate a Crate
Speaking of crates, they are super helpful, especially for young puppies or older dogs coming into a new home. Not only does a crate serve as a safe space should your dog feel scared or tired but it is also effective during housebreaking. Sleeping in a crate at night teaches your dog to hold his bladder for an extended period of time. Pro tip: Be sure there isn’t enough room in the crate for him to eliminate on one side and completely avoid sitting in it on the other side. He has to know how not fun it is to have an accident in his favorite spot for this kind of housebreaking to work. Another risk: Turning the crate into a dunce corner. Your dog should enjoy his crate and not see time inside it as punishment, so don’t send him there only when he’s naughty.
8. Make a Schedule
Dogs appreciate knowing what to expect. It alleviates apprehension and teaches them to trust you. Therefore, a food and walk schedule is a great idea. Not only will your pup learn when to anticipate meal times but he’ll develop good bladder and bowel control between walks.
9. Be Patient
Reminder: Dogs are dogs. Some breeds, like collies, learn faster than others because they are intelligent and love making their parents proud. Others, like beagles, tend to let their noses do the thinking for them and are easily distracted during training. Be patient and persistent. Reward jobs well done and correct mistakes as soon as they happen, remembering to avoid angry tirades.