No one likes an unruly, undisciplined, and impolite dog. Not only do people have to suffer the indiscretions of the dog, but many times they also have to deal with the owner’s incompetent shouting, shoving, and annoying excuses or apologies. And the fact is, dogs are happier when they have boundaries and know what’s expected of them. Otherwise, they’re always walking on eggshells, not knowing what’s going to set you off next. This confusion can result in anxiety and fear, and fearful dogs can be dangerous dogs.
Obedience training is essential for your dog, period. It makes life much easier for both of you, because your dog knows what’s expected of him and usually won’t engage in behaviors he knows he’s not supposed to (at least, not when you’re looking!)
When your dog is well trained, you won’t have to chase him around the house to get your prized Star Wars action figure out of his mouth, and you won’t have to constantly shout at him to “Stop barking!” or “Quit jumping!” or “Get off the bed, you big furball!” And those commands never seem to work anyway, because guess what? Your dog doesn’t speak English, and although it’s perfectly obvious to you that dogs shouldn’t bark every time a doorbell rings on TV, it’s not perfectly obvious to your dog. To your dog, you’re just a two-legged beast that randomly uses your mouth to direct loud noises at him, and that worries him a little bit. Dogs don’t like unpredictable animals, including humans.
If you’ve never obedience trained a dog before, you might want to consider joining an obedience class or engaging the services of a professional trainer, who will train both you and your dog. If you decide to try your hand at it, just remember: It’s not rocket science, and the simpler you make it, the more success you’ll have.
Here are ten other important dog obedience training tips you should keep in mind when training your dog:
1. Obedience training is all about assigning consequences to behaviors.
Reward behaviors you like. Don’t reward behaviors you don’t like. Rewards are things your dog likes, and the two things dogs like best are treats and affection. Fill your pocket with tasty treats, and when your dog is exhibiting behaviors you like, such as lying calmly by your side, offer him one. When your dog is jumping on you, turn your back and walk away. You dog will soon learn that jumping leads to nothing good, and he’ll stop.
2. Understand how dogs learn.
Dogs live in the here and now. If you come home from work to find that your dog has pooped on the kitchen floor, you will never be able to get her to connect that pile of poo to any kind of punishment you mete out. Dogs learn through immediate consequences. You have to catch them in the act and address the behavior immediately.
3. Speaking of punishment, don’t even consider violence.
Violence and shouting are positively the worst ways to try to get your dog to do what you want him to do. Violence instills fear in your dog, and shouting makes you appear out of control and unpredictable, a time bomb waiting to go off. It can’t be stressed enough that a fearful dog can be a dangerous dog.
4. Keep the commands short and consistent.
One day you say, “Fido! Get off the couch! Get down!” and he hears “Bado! Ip blah la ouch! Op! Ow!” Now, we all talk to our dogs in complete sentences, but when you’re issuing a command, it should be one word, two at the max: Sit, stay, heel, down, off.
5. Keep the consequences consistent as well.
Until your dog is fully trained, you need to issue consequences every time he performs a good or bad behavior, and the consequences need to be consistent within the household.
If you ignore the dog when he jumps on you, but your spouse thinks its adorable and gives him the affection he’s looking for, you may as well throw in the towel, because he won’t learn associate the consequences (no lovin’) with the behavior (jumping,) since the consequences are different every time. He may not jump on you, but he’ll jump on everyone else.
6. Focus on teaching specific skills.
Teaching your dog the basics will go a long way toward preventing other undesirable behaviors. If she sits and stays, you can tell her to sit and stay when the doorbell rings or when someone comes into the house, precluding the need to teach her not to flip out when the doorbell rings or jump on visitors.
7. Keep the training sessions short and sweet.
Make it fun! Having a dog is fun, and training a dog is fun. If you go much over 15 minutes a session, your dog’s attention is going to wane and you’re going to get frustrated. Each training session, focus on one or two skills. Repetition is king when it comes to training, so go through several paces for one skill, then switch to another, and keep alternating until the time is up or your dog gets bored.
8. Be a firm but loving leader.
If your dog doesn’t think you can lead the pack, she’ll try to step in and take the alpha role. Behaviors like shouting and hitting show your dog that you don’t have what it takes to lead. Always be calm with your dog, but firm and unshakeable in your expectations of her. You can only control your dog through consequences for behaviors, but the energy with which you dole out consequences tells your dog more about your abilities to lead than the consequences themselves.
9. Practice, practice, patience, patience!
It takes a lot of repetition and practice to teach your dog new skills. Some dogs take longer to learn than others, and some are more resistant to authority than others. The key is consistency and time. Keep up the pace, and don’t slack off once your dog seems to be “getting” it.
10. Know your breed.
Before you start training your dog, read up on his breed, which can tell you a lot about how easy or difficult he may be to train. A resource page for the breed can offer specific training tips for optimizing your sessions so that you can get the best results in a shorter time.