Training your dog can seem a daunting task, especially when they’re a puppy and the world is a playground! However, training shouldn’t be seen a chore, but instead, an enriching challenge for both you and your dog.
Working with your dog to learn new tricks and habits is a great way to create a strong bond between owner and pet from the get-go. For example, turning training into a rewarding game will make it a fun experience for you and your dog, making them more likely to cooperate and learn! In addition, training is also mentally and physically stimulating for dogs as it gets their brains ticking and their body moving. Try introducing training into your daily schedule and see how much more satisfied and content your dog is afterwards – especially with those high-energy working breeds!
The main goal of training is to make your dog a better companion, while building confidence and independence for both parties. But for many owners, it can be difficult to know where to start, particularly with so much information available. That said, the team at GoWalkies have pulled together an initial guide to help get off on the right foot… or paw:
What are the different types of training?
Before starting to train your dog, you should pinpoint the type you want to focus on. Dog training can be split into three clear sectors. Obedience, behavioral and agility training.
Basic obedience training covers the most essential commands like teaching your dog to sit, stay or come. The basis of a well-behaved dog often stems from nailing these commands and working from there. For example, a dog that can stay will be able to apply that same restraint to more difficult commands such as leave or drop. When puppy training, this is always going to be the starting point.
Behavioral training is designed to overcome behavior issues or bad habits that you dog has developed. These can take longer to stamp out and can require a more complex system of monitoring and rewarding to really hit home. Some behaviors that owners will look to stamp out include resource guarding, potty training, jumping or barking.
Behavioral training can crop up as a necessity for any dog and equally, can be trained out of nearly any dog, even if they can be more challenging to enforce!
Finally, agility training is the fancy stuff. The Crufts agility courses are a masterclass in agility training often delivered by professional dog trainers, but don’t let that put you off! Whilst you may see a show-winning Border Collie taking the course at full flight, don’t think that your sleepy Pug can’t take part too. Agility training is a fantastic way of stimulating your dog mentally and physically, whilst also reinforcing that bond between dog and owner.
Now we know how important training is for you and your dog and what training you want to focus on, here is some key information for next time you’re putting your pup through their paces:
Choosing your dog’s name
For those starting training with a puppy, choosing a name is a hugely important aspect. A short name with a clear phonetic pattern that can be repeated is the ideal candidate. Failing to do so and picking a name that is easily mistaken or overly complex can leave your dog confused and unsure of when they’re being called upon.
Whether it’s Spot, Buddy or Bella, their name is the key to getting their attention, so should be chosen wisely!
Start with the basics
It might be tempting to jump in at the deep end and get your dog doing award winning tricks, but a lot of dog training is built off perfecting the simple stuff. A dog that can do the most impressive obedience and agility work is also a dog that has fantastic basic training.
Starting with the basics also means your dog won’t get frustrated with training and start to lose interest. Creating a clear progression path from one basic principle to another more advanced principle will help your dog to understand what you want from them and create a more rewarding experience for both!
Keep your sessions short
Many owners will want to go into a dog training session and come out the other side with a new behavior nailed on, no matter how long it takes. However, many dog attention spans can suffer if they aren’t getting anywhere with a command, and it will only get worse the longer they’re asked to do the same thing.
Keeping sessions short and concise will ensure that your dog is interested and attentive throughout allowing you to make lots more progress in a short space of time. Shorter sessions can be spread throughout the day or week, but it’s important not to overwork and add unnecessary stress to your dog by asking them to partake in long, arduous training sessions.
As dog training is very mentally and physically stimulating, remember to take this into account in other parts of their day. If you’ve done training sessions throughout the day, consider taking them on a shorter walk to avoid excessive fatigue, especially if you plan on doing more training after the walk.
Establish rules and boundaries
Particularly with dogs that are new to you, it’s important to set rules and boundaries as soon as possible. This quickly puts a hierarchy in place and lets the dog know that you are in charge, and not the other way round.
In training, establishing rules and boundaries helps the dog to understand what is being asked of them and that if they do what is asked of them, they will get a treat. Dogs that consider their owners to be the leader of the pack will be better suited to listening, learning and getting rewarded for their hard work.
Failing to establish rules and boundaries can lead to the dog assuming they’re in charge or that the training is optional!
Be smart with your rewards
For a dog, the main draw of training is hard work and rewards – where being clever with your rewards can elevate your training to new levels to give your dog a better incentive to work with you.
Firstly, using a range of rewards adds an element of surprise to the situation. Using a mixture of raw food, treats and dry kibble means that your dog may do a normal bit of training, but suddenly be rewarded with a delicious raw treat. Amazing! Now your dog is aware that whatever they do, there could be a tasty, unexpected treat hiding. Puppies love making everything a game, so adding mystery to training will only enhance the experience.
Introducing a clicker tool can also reduce reliance on treats for training [which is great for your wallet and your dog’s waistline]. A clicker is introduced alongside treats, and as the dog associates the clicker with rewards, you can phase out treats and begin to just reward good behavior with a click. A clicker tool can also be used when you praise your dog so that they learn that all good things come with a distinctive click!
Tone of voice
It may seem small, but the tone of your voice you use as a dog owner is hugely important when it comes to training. Dogs won’t be able to understand what you’re saying, so they’ll instead pick up on sounds, body language and tone. When you’re trying to train a habit out of a dog, having two clear tones for positive and negative reactions will help your dog better understand what they’re doing wrong and the desired behavior.
Maintaining your positive, higher pitched tone of voice for praise, cuddles and treat time will let your dog associate that tone of voice with good work and fun. Using this in training can reinforce good behavior! Alternatively, using a lower, more serious tone of voice in negative situations will create a clear divide between behaviors and desired outcomes.
Most of all, when it comes to training your dog, patience is key. Dogs can’t always understand what we want from them or why what they’re doing isn’t the right thing.
Taking the time to understand your specific dog, what they like and what they respond best to, will mean you’re in a better position to create effective habits. You also can’t expect your dog to be able to learn everything you want them to in one session or in one day. Spacing out sessions across weeks or even months will mean your training is more effective and more likely to be permanent. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but with patient, clever training, you can!
Whether it’s for behavioral issues, agility trials or basic training, it needs to be consistent, and based on positive reinforcement. A dog that is excited to learn and is surprised with new treats and training methods in short bursts will be more cooperative.
Long, repetitive sessions with confused messaging and dull treats won’t get your dog excited to learn, and most of all, it will make it harder to create a bond between the two of you if one of you isn’t happy to be there.
Remember, those who choose to invest in GoWalkies via Kickstarter can benefit from a range of rewards including training videos from the founder of GoWalkies and trained dog behavioural psychologist, Sonny D’Avola!