The Ultimate Dog Training Guide!
To download the guide, click this link, or read below!
Here at PawRamp, we are a community of dog owners and dog lovers dedicated to helping others provide their pups with the happiest and healthiest lives possible.
We hope you find the following guide useful and easy to follow! If done correctly, training your dog can be a fun, enjoyable, and bonding experience for you and your fur baby. Enjoy!
Why Should I Train My Dog?
Training a new puppy, or even an older dog, is one of the most important aspects of owning a pet. There are countless reasons why a good training routine is important, but here are just a few:
- Peace of Mind. Knowing your dog won’t act destructively at home, in public places, or at the dog park allows you to enjoy your time together much more. Bad habits such as jumping up on people, biting, and barking uncontrollably can be limited or even stopped entirely with patience and consistency.
- Training Helps You Communicate With Your Dog. When your dog learns a new command, such as “sit” or “stay”, it is opening up a line of communication between the two of you. Since they can’t speak, it’s very important that you teach them a few words they can understand, which will lead to a happier relationship overall.
- It Provides Mental Stimulation. Dogs are incredibly intelligent. Smart minds need to be challenged. Dog training gives your dog the opportunities to be challenged mentally and physically by focusing on the task at hand and be rewarded when he succeeds. The mental exercise that training provides is just as important as physical exercise!
When Should I Start Training My Dog?
According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, puppies can start socialization classes as early as seven or eight weeks old, after getting at least one set of vaccine prior to socializing with other dogs or puppies. However, given their very young age and short attention span, it isn’t recommended to start formal training before 6 months old.
If you are interested in training your older dog, don’t fear! Although it might be best to teach a younger puppy, dogs can learn commands and tricks at any stage life!
Training Methods and Starting Tips
The two main practices used to train a dog are the use of a reward, such as their favorite treat or toy, or a clicker. When either methods are used, it lets your dog understand that the task has been accomplished.
Reward and Consequence
A dog lives in the present; reward and consequence need to happen immediately in order for your dog to understand what consequence or reward comes from which action. If he doesn’t perform as expected, take the reward away. If he does successfully execute the task at hand, praise him and reward him immediately, so that he associates the reward to the successful action.
Keep it short
The younger the dog, the shorter the attention span. Keep training sessions short (about 15 minutes) to keep your dog entertained and maintain focus. If you start to see signs that your dog is getting frustrated or tired, end the session and try again later. If the training session is too long, your dog could start to develop negative associations with training.
Take it slow
It’s important to start with the most basic commands. Just as a human can’t learn to do something as complex as ballet without learning the basic feet and hand positions first, your dog will not be able to understand more complex tasks without breaking them down in the beginning.
For example, when learning the command ‘Stay’, you would first need to teach him to “Sit”, as “Sit” is a crucial aspect of the command. He is learning position first, then distance.
If you see your dog struggle with a command, take it back a few steps; chances are, he simply missed a step!
What Simple Commands Can I Teach My Dog?
“Sit” is probably the easiest command for your dog to learn. Follow these simple steps:
- While holding a treat or a favorite toy, move your hand towards your dog’s nose, then move your hand in an Upward motion. As your dog is following your hand up with the reward, he will naturally lower his bottom to the ground and sit down.
- The moment his rear end touches the ground, say “Sit”, give him the reward and praise him for his good work!
- Repeat until your dog is confident with the command!
- If you say “Sit”, and your dog does the command on his own without the guidance of your hand, say “Yes!” And continue to reward him.
Note: Never use physical force to make your dog perform a command.
“Down” is a great commend to teach your dog once he has mastered “Sit”. Follow these simple steps:
- Once your dog is in the seated position, take the reward, and now slowly lower it to the ground. As your hand goes lower and your dog’s nose naturally follows it, he will go into a down position.
- The moment his elbows are on the floor, say “Down” and give him a reward and verbal praise!
- After a few tries, say the command “Lay Down” as he is seated, and if he successfully lays on the ground, say “Yes!” And continue to reward him.
“Stay” is a very useful and important command for teaching your dog self control. It is important to teach your dog how to “Sit” first before continuing with this more complex behavior.
- First, ask your dog to “Sit”.
- Put your hand out in front of you and say “Stay”, while taking a step back. If your dog waits, say “Yes!” and give him a reward and praise. If your dog does not wait and follows you, say “No”, and go back to the start.
- With repetition, your dog will eventually figure out what you are asking of him. Each time, take another step back, until you can even be across the room and they will wait until you give them the “Yes!” Or “Ok!”.
“Come” is an incredibly useful command. If your dog is getting into something they shouldn’t, is at an off leash dog park, or accidentally gets off the leash during a walk, the peace of mind that he will come to you when called is so valuable.
- Put a collar and loose leash on your dog so you have control.
- Go down to his level and gently pull it towards you. Say “come”, and reward him with a treat when he walks towards you. Repeat.
- Once he comes to you without needing your guidance, remove the leash and practice in a safe and enclosed area.
“Leave It” might save you (and your dog!) from a situation where his curiosity gets the best of him and he needs to retract from a situation. It might be sniffing a food he isn’t supposed to eat, or playing with something he isn’t supposed to touch.
- Get to your dog’s level and place a treat in both hands.
- Show him the treat in one hand to let him know you have it, then put your hand in a closed fist. Let him sniff it, lick it, but do not make any gesture and ignore his behaviors, until he stops trying to get it. Say, “Leave it.”
- Once he stops attempting to get the treat from your closed fist, give him the treat from the other hand and say “Yes!”.
- Repeat. Continue to reinforce the term “Leave It”, and only give him the treat only when he stops attempting to get the treat and patiently looks at you.
- Once he understands the exercise with the fists closed, repeat it by putting the bait treat on the floor and covering it with your hand. Say “leave it” until he stops focusing on this treat and looks at you. Repeat until you don’t have to hide the treat on the floor with your hand.
Heel/loose leash training
“Heel” is a command that teaches your dog to walk at your pace on your left side, and to stop when you stop. This helps a lot to prevent leash pulling, and to maintain self control on the leash. Although the competition obedience training uses the word “heel”, owners can also use “Let’s Go” or “forward”. Whatever word you choose, stay consistent to not send mix signals to your dog!
- Start with your dog on a leash and hold the leash loosely.
- Stand next to your dog, ask him to “sit” and give him a reward for staying by your foot.
- Take one step and encourage him to follow you and give him a treat if he stays by your side. Repeat by taking more steps and giving him a treat every few steps, until eventually the rewards are given further apart.
- Allow your dog to smell around his environment, and say “Heel” to tell him to move forward with you, rewarding him when he gets back to his position at the left of your leg.
- If your dog gets ahead of you or starts to pull on the leash, start the process over again until he accomplishes the command.
Final Training Tips
Play Time and Exercise Should Come First!
You should try to save training sessions for after play time and/or exercise. Your dog can focus and learn his best when he doesn’t have a lot of pent up energy. Try starting a training session with a game of fetch, tug-o-war, or a long walk around the block. Even running around in the backyard is a great way to let out energy before a training session begins!
Your Dog Will Learn at His Own Pace
Not all dogs are the same; some might catch on very quickly to commands, others might need more time and attention. Don’t be discouraged! Your dog is doing his best and will eventually get to where he needs to be. Ask the advice of your vet or a dog training instructor to get specific tips to apply to your dog’s specific needs.
End Training Sessions on a Positive Note
Never make training sessions feel like a chore for you OR your dog. It’s important that you both end the session on a positive note, so neither of you feel discouraged. Your dog will pick up on any negative energy and it will make the whole process much harder. Keep the sessions short and always make sure to reward positive behaviors. It is better to end while your dog is ahead than exhaust him and wait for him to mess up and get frustrated.