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Learning how to train a dog properly is essential if you want to be a happy, responsible dog owner.
Unfortunately, training is something that too few dog owners think about before they buy a dog.
As a result, they end up struggling to deal with problem behaviors after they have already developed.
When it comes to learning how to train your dog, you will find yourself essentially doing two different things.
On one hand, you will be laying a strong foundation of basic commands to ensure you have control over your dog in all situations. On the other hand, you will be preventing or dealing with problem behaviors.
In this article we will delve into a broad range of general dog training techniques to give you an overview of the entire process of dog training.
Then we will focus in on some specific commands you can use to make your dog more obedient.
Dog Training Techniques
When it comes to learning dog training, it is important that you understand the underlying techniques and principles of what you are doing.
Let us begin by looking at one of the most key tools you will use in learning how to train a dog: treats.
Dog Training Treats
Treats play a very important role in learning how to train a dog, because dog training in general is based on rewards and punishment which either encourage or discourage certain behavior.
In positive dog training, rewards are the focus and punishment-based training is avoided as much as possible. We will talk about that more in a moment.
When it comes to dog training treats, you want to use something that really motivates your dog.
Food treats work best for most dogs, although you can also use toys.
You can buy pre-packaged training treats from a pet shop, but for most dogs, small pieces of sausage or little cubes of cheese work wonders.
Be careful if you use cheese though – keep the quantity small, as too much can give a dog constipation.
How to Give Treats
One of the subtle factors of successful dog training you need to understand is the timing of your treats.
You are aiming to give the dog the treat as quickly as possible after she performs the behavior you want.
For example, if you are teaching your dog to sit on command, you want to reward her as soon as possible after her bottom hits the floor.
This is because what you are trying to do is create an association between the reward and the movement (in this case, her bottom hitting the floor).
By making sure you time the treat right, there will not be any confusion about which movement you are rewarding her for.
So always aim to give the treat just after she performs the action you want to reinforce.
Clicker Dog Training
While clickers are not a necessary part of dog training, they can help speed things up, add an additional level of accuracy to your training, and are very useful for teaching advanced moves.
A clicker is simply a little device that makes a ‘click’ noise when you push a button.
Its purpose is to ‘mark’ behaviors.
So instead of saying something like ‘Good dog’ when your dog does something you want, you simply click and then give a treat.
This is particularly useful when you are teaching tricks that require several moves, such as spinning around.
You will see clickers used regularly by professional dog trainers and owners who enroll their pets in obedience competitions.
Positive Dog Training
Positive dog training is a popular term these days which you will hear as you learn how to train a dog, but many people are unclear on what it means.
As it is commonly used nowadays it simply refers to a style of dog training which focuses on rewards over punishment.
The theory is that dogs learn better when they are being rewarded for good behaviors rather than being punished for bad behaviors.
So, when you are trying to train out a problem behavior, the positive dog training approach is to create a situation in which the dog can choose to display the right kind of problem behavior instead of the bad behavior.
Then you can offer a reward.
In older models of dog training, the tendency was to punish a dog every time a problem behavior occurred.
Is positive dog training effective, and is it worth dedicating yourself to this practice?
Positive dog training certainly works, although it can require a bit of patience.
But there are several reasons why it is more effective than training through punishment.
For starters, when you try to train a dog with punishment, it can sometimes lead to the dog hiding behaviors from you.
In other words, the problem behaviors do not stop – the dog just starts doing them when you are not around to punish her.
This can make it harder to stop problem behaviors in the long run.
On the other hand, punishment-based training can be very damaging to the relationship you have with your dog.
Maintaining a positive relationship is an important part of creating obedience.
Your dog’s decision to be obedient to you is based on how she thinks and feels about you and how she relates to you as part of a ‘dog pack’ structure.
If you punish her excessively, she will come to be afraid of you.
You will eventually hit a wall where she does not respond to training and starts exhibiting fear-based behaviors, such as submissive urination or fear-related aggression.
By focusing on positive training, you learn how to train a dog while still maintaining a strong positive bond.
Now, this is not to say you can never use punishment in training. But it should always be a last resort and should be as mild as possible.
Often punishment is not necessary – simply a distraction will do the trick.
For instance, a tap on the nose can help stop a puppy from biting. The tap is not supposed to inflict pain on the puppy, but simply distract her away from the biting behavior she is currently engaged in.