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The Definitive Guide on Dog Training

Dog Dog Crate Training Housebreaking Puppy Training

dog training

The Most Effective Dog Training Methods

Training a dog is a lot like teaching a child.  Every dog, like every child, is unique.  Both have their distinct personalities, so what makes one tick might send another into a complete tailspin.  That is why one training does not fit all.  Find out what method, or combination of methods, best suits your pooch with this definitive guide on dog training. 

Praise Training

Fido has finally found out the answer to the question - “who’s a good boy?”  It’s HIM!  You can bet - he’s pretty darn proud of himself. 

By nature, most dogs want to please.  It’s in their genes, stemming back to their primal roots.  So there’s scientific proof to back it all up.

Recent research from an Emory University dog behavior study revealed that just the scent of humans, in general, activated the caudate nucleus section of the brain which has to do with his reward system.  Just imagine if the smell of any human is so rewarding to him how much more so when it is your scent, the one he loves more than anything.  Add in some vocal praising, and you can’t lose.  You’ve got a student who is in love with his teacher - the perfect setting for praise training.  He will eat it up!

Many authorities on the treatment and well-being of animals, like the Humane Society of the United States, highly acclaim praise training.  Praise training, as the name implies, is offering verbal approval and admiration as a reward for your dog doing what you want him to do.  The exchange is a very effective one since most dogs are suckers for human praise which makes it a powerful and positive method of dog training.

Positive Strokes

Like Fido, once your dog catches on to the fact that he is the “good boy” and that being that “good boy” gets him tons of positive attention, he’ll be on a roll, literally.  He will crave more and more of the praise, making it easy to train him to be a “good boy” (otherwise known as obedience training).  Once his obedience lessons are going smoothly, you’ll be ready to take his practice to the next level by teaching him tricks too.

How is praise training done?  It’s super simple, for both you and your pup.  Just ask him to perform (or not perform) an action. When he obeys, lavish him with praise, pats and lots of love.  Good tries should get a little recognition but save the best appreciation for jobs well done.

Make sure the tone in your voice reflects how pleased you are with him and remember that repetition is imperative, so he knows in no uncertain terms that it is HIM who is “the good boy.”

Treat Training

Dogs love food, especially yummy treats so using treats to motivate your dog during training makes delicious sense - especially for him.  One of the main advantages is that he can visually see the treat.  He can almost taste it but, he knows he must do something to earn it.  He becomes the perfect student, willing to do anything for the luscious goody at hand.

The concept of treat training stems from the same part of the brain praise training does - the caudate nucleus.  The caudate nucleus is stimulated by dopamine neurons that send out a rewarding “feel good” message to the body.  In treat training, the primal desire to be rewarded through feeling good is coupled with another favorite thing - the taste of a beloved treat.  This sets the scene for possibly the easiest type of dog training in existence.

On the downside, there are a few negatives where treat training is concerned.  First and foremost, you don’t want your pup only to obey you if you have a treat in hand for him.  If a car is coming and he has dashed out on the road, you need him to follow your instructions to get out of the street, even if you don’t have a tasty treat. 

Another drawback is that some dogs tend to gain weight quickly.  It’s as bad for dogs to be overweight is it is for people to be so...that’s a problem.  For that reason, if you are going to implement treat training, you might want to consider using small, healthy treats that are also low in calories.

Simple Suggestions

Here are some tips for treat training by dog training expert, Cesar Millan:

  1. Only reward your dog when is in a state of calm submissiveness. If he is hyper, wait until he settles down to give him his treat.
  2. Never bribe him with a treat. Although early on in his training, treats may be the number one motivator, you can transition him to praise training at least for part of the time.  Even when using treats to train, focus on the action he is to do rather than the treat.  For instance, you don’t want to have to stick the treat in his face to gain his cooperation.
  3. Fading out the treat will help prevent bribing. Initially, it is advantageous for your dog to see (and smell) the treat in your hand to gain his interest and full cooperation.  Once he has performed the desired action a time or two, you can pretend you have the treat in your hand.  When he completes what you have asked him to do, give him a treat with the opposite hand.  Eventually, you can leave treats out of the equation altogether, if desired.  Or, you can give him a treat now and then just as a bonus.
  4. Reward steps toward the goal. Don’t overwhelm your dog if the action you are trying to show him is a complicated one.  Rewarding him for each stride he makes is recommended.  If you are attempting to teach him to roll over and he has accomplished laying on his back, reward his progress.  Soon he’ll catch on to the entire performance.
  5. Delete distractions. As much as possible, remove your dog from distractions like neighborhood cats, scampering squirrels and noisy traffic while you are trying to train him so he can focus better.   
  6. Trade out treats. Some dogs do not respond to the idea of treat training, so you might want to be sure he likes the treats you are using.  Switching the variety of treats up a bit will help keep his interest.
  7. Chewing time. Small treats work best for treat training because they don’t take as much time to chew.  You don’t want your dog’s training time momentum to be hampered by treats that require forever to munch down.

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 Crate Training

Dogs are den animals by nature.  Wild dogs sleep, hide from harm and raise their young in dens.  Even domesticated dogs like to feel safe and secure within the perimeters of a cozy spot. 

Crate training utilizes your dog’s den-dwelling instincts.  Dogs (even puppies) don’t like to “go” in their dens, so crates, which serve as a surrogate den, can make housetraining easy.  Having a crate will also give him a refuge when he gets overwhelmed with noisy children or household chaos.  It’s a good place for him to be while you’re away too so he doesn’t get into mischief.  If you take your pooch along in the car, the crate provides him with a safe way to travel.

The American Kennel Club has some excellent crate housetraining suggestions such as:

  1. Never ever send your dog to his crate for punishment. Doing so will most likely to cause him to fear and hate it which will make crate training difficult if not impossible.
  2. Don’t keep your pup in the crate for too long of a period of time. If he spends too much time in it, he won’t be getting an adequate amount of exercise or stimulation. 
  3. Three to four hours per day is long enough of a time to leave puppies under six months old in a crate because they aren’t able to hold their bladders any longer. Older dogs can last longer, however. 
  4. Crating your dog to prevent him from destroying your house is a good thing to do but once he learns not to, the crate should become a spot he recedes to on his own free will.
  5. Be sure your crate is the appropriate size for your dog. It’s imperative that he has room to stand up and to turn around.  You can check the size your breed needs here.

 Reasons for Crate Training

Housebreaking is one of the main reasons crate training is implemented but there are other purposes it serves too.  If your dog is unruly, chewing shoes, sofas and whatever else he can sink his teeth into or is acting out in other ways, properly crating him will help discipline him.  It also provides a safe place for him to be in when you are away and at night time.

Training Tips

When housetraining your dog using the crate method, the dog information site, DogTime, suggests for you to let him out frequently, immediately showing him to the place you wish for him to do his business at.  It’s a good idea to have some blankets or a towel in the crate so your dog is comfortable and snug in his domain but know that doing so does pose the possibility that if he has an accident, the covers will get wet or soiled and will need to be changed out right away. 

It’s not wise to line your dog’s crate with newspaper.  You want to discourage, not encourage, his “going” in the crate.  Another tip is to have a phrase you use when taking him out, like “time to potty”.  Repeat the chosen phrase when he is doing his business so he begins to associate the phrase and the action.  Let him know you are proud of him by rewarding him with praise, playtime or a treat.

Consistency and persistence are both keys to success.  Set up a routine and stick to it.  Go in and out the same door to get to the outside potty area.  Say the same phrase.  Always reward him.

Crate Training Troubleshooting 101

Crate training doesn’t happen overnight.  Sometimes, if you don’t work out the kinks, it doesn’t happen at all.  Depending on the temperament, age, and background of your pooch, crate training can happen very quickly or...it can take some weeks or even months.

Here are some pointers for addressing issues that you may encounter:

  • If you find your dog is not cooperating with the idea of being in a crate, try to make him fonder of it by tossing some treats to him when he is in it and giving him his favorite toy as well.
  • Feeding your dog in his crate can help him warm up to the idea of it being his special place - a positive spot to feel safe in.
  • Allow your dog to go in and out of the crate by leaving the door open at times but luring him in it with treats, toys, and food.
  • Build up to longer crate times by starting out slow.
  • Be very “matter of fact” when crating him and also be casual about your departure and return. Your mood will spill over to influence his.
  • Crating your pup at night will keep him from relieving himself on the floor while you are sleeping. Sleeping in his “safe place” a good habit for him to get into.
  • In the event that your dog is crying or whining to get out of the crate, use the phrase you have chosen for him “going”. See if he gets excited or changes his demeanor.  If so, take him out to do his business.  If he produces, reward him then put him back in the crate.  If he doesn’t go but continues to whine, you may just have to do your best to ignore him just as you would a baby crying himself to sleep.

 Respect Training

Respect training entails more than just teaching your dog who’s in charge, it requires action from you as well.  In order to convince him that you are the pack leader, you will need to step up to the plate and actually become one. 

In an article on respect training on the YourPureBredPuppy.com website, it’s laid on the line that if you don’t establish yourself as the leader, he will assume that he is.  You must be the one who makes and enforces the rules.  That is what leaders do.  In turn, you will earn your dog’s respect.

What Respect Really Means

Respect is a posture.  It is the act of admiring someone very deeply for their qualities, abilities or achievements.  If you admire someone, you are more than willing to take their advice and to follow their lead.  You are convinced that they have it together enough to be in charge. 

Your dog depends on you.  You earn the respect of being his leader by caring for him.  That means that you are in a position to take charge of him.  If he needs to get his vaccinations, you take him in.  If he needs a tick removed or is due for a bath, you tend to it.  There should never be a question of if he will “let” you.  You set the rules and define the limitations.  You are...in charge.  Or, you should be, at least.

When you establish yourself as the leader, it is a relief for your dog.  He can feel safe and secure in your care like children do when their parents lovingly lead.  It also sets the scene for respect training which means your dog obeys you because you are the boss. 

The Leader of the Pack

Dogs are pack creatures by nature.  As defined by the informative dog website, canidae.com, dogs are, by design, social animals.  Their pack hierarchy is well resolved.  Within the pack, there is a leader who sets the boundaries and establishes the rules.  The rest of the pack must follow...or else.  If the pack didn’t have such a defined set-up, chaos would surely abound. 

The same is true when you bring one or more dogs into your home.  You must be the leader or there will always be trouble lurking.  No matter how many dogs you have, you must be the alpha, the “top dog”. 

Just as the pack leader trains the rest of the pack to follow the rules, such as who will eat first, you can train your dog to follow your instructions.

Cesar Millan has some great tips on how to be the pack leader.  Below are a few of his suggestions:

  • Be calm and assertive when leading. Projecting nervous energy only projects weakness.  You must be totally confident and in control in order to establish your position.
  • It is up to you to set the boundaries. You must let your dog know that you own the space in which he resides.  It is your sofa, your bed, and your home.  He is privileged to be there.  When done in a loving way, establishing boundaries is very healthy for both dog and man.
  • Pack leadership is a working relationship. It is a good thing to ask your dog to be obedient, to work, to even to do extra things like tricks.  When he successfully does what you are asking of him, he will be pleased with himself and will love knowing that you are pleased with him as well.
  • Timing is important. Waiting is part of being in a pack.  The least of the pack, from puppies on up, wait their turn to eat when in the wild.  Although your dog is domesticated, it is good when displaying your leadership to have him wait.  He can wait to eat, wait for his walk and wait for a treat.  The wait doesn’t have to be a long one but you will make a psychological statement by having him wait some length of time.
  • Know your dog. Become familiar with what makes him tick.  Like any relationship, spending time together helps you form an unbreakable bond.  Not only do you want to set your position as his leader but as his provider too.  Find out his needs and his wants so you can serve him and he will do the same for you.

How to Respect Train

According to Michele Welton, author of “Teach Your Dog 100 English Words”, respect training is about teaching your dog more than just to mind or do tricks.  It is about schooling them in such areas as listening to you, following directions you give them and paying complete attention to you.  It’s about capturing their whole heart and their will...then, everything else following suit.

In a nutshell, respect training your dog may be more about training yourself.  Once you take charge and become assertive (yet calm), cool and collective as his loving leader, you can ask anything of him and he will most likely oblige.

Leash Training 

When’s the last time your dog took you for a walk?  The last time should be exactly that...the LAST time!  If your dog doesn’t know how to walk on a leash, there’s a reason why - you haven’t properly trained him to do so.  But, in order to train him, you must be trained first.

It seems like a no-brainer.  You put a leash on your pooch and the two of you stroll happily down the sidewalk like they do in the movies.  The fact of the matter, however, is that it isn’t as simple as it looks.  Here are some step-by-step instructions from the American Kennel Club that will teach you how to leash train your pup:

  1. Let him get acquainted with his collar (or harness) and his leash. Put yourself in your pup’s place and imagine if someone put a collar around your neck and expected you to go for a walk without balking.  That’s asking a little much.  The best way to introduce him to the new concept is to let him have his collar on for short time periods.  During the time he has it on, be sure he is doing things he enjoys like playing and eating.  You can add the leash into the mix and lead him gently around for a bit of the time too.  Wearing his collar should be associated with fun and enjoyment.
  2. Cue him in. While he is wearing his collar, establish a sound or word which you will use to have him come to you.  You may want to hold a treat in your hand to encourage him to do so or implement your respect training or praise training techniques.  However, if it is your choice to do it, have him come to you.  Then, reward him for doing so.
  3. Set the pace. Once your pup comes to you, take a few steps while you are holding his leash.  If your dog is still young, remember his attention span will be quite short.  If he is older, you can take more steps with him.
  4. Focus on focusing. There will be so many distractions outdoors with all the neighborhood cats and kids and traffic noises, teaching him the ropes inside first is best.  Practice leading him from room to room, doing your best to get him to focus fully.  Reward him appropriately.
  5. Taking it outdoors. Now, you are ready to take him outside so he can try out his newfound skills.  There are sure to be distractions so reward him for paying attention and doing well.  Be sure that you go out the door first.  It is good to have him wait before he goes through. Be sure that he follows you and also ensure that once you start the actual walk, he walks slightly behind you, never in front of you.  This sets the pack leader pattern and instills the fact that you are the alpha.

Treat Focused Leash Training

Especially if your dog is a puppy, you may want to employ the use of treats to help him catch on to leash walking.  According to an article by Karen Pryor (author and behavioral psychologist as well as one of the founders of clicker training), here’s how treat-focused leash training works:

Before implementing the full-scale treat training, you will want to do these things:

  • Place the leash on your dog and stand, motionless. Each time he lets up on the leash’s tension, tease him by showing him a treat that is cupped in your hand.  Then, place the treat on the outside of your left foot, on the floor.  Allow him to eat the treat when he releases the tension on the leash.  Take a step and once again, place the treat by your left foot and when he lets the tension release, allow him to take the treat.  If you are clicker training, you can click the device when he releases which will trigger his brain to realize what he has done to be rewarded.
  • Now stand where your dog is looking to you while you are just standing. He will most likely give you those “puppy dog eyes”, wanting more treats.  Toss a treat just past his nose where it lands around three feet away from where the two of you are standing.  Let him have the treats.  When he returns, place a treat to the outside of your left foot again, then reward him by letting him have the treat.  Click if you are using the click method.
  • Toss the treat right past his nose again. Let him eat the treat and then come back to you but as he does, turn and walk a few steps.  As he catches up to you (but before he passes your leg), click and treat.  Continue to repeat this step until he begins to “get it.”

Moving On in Treat Leash Training

Now that you have done the steps above to get your dog familiar with the concept of the leash and what is expected of him, you can work on the full exercise.  Turn from him and begin to walk.  He should follow you.  When he begins to catch up and is walking up beside you, show him the treat in your hand.  Then, drop the treat by your left foot and stop.  When he finishes the treat, repeat.  Be sure the treat always lands where it is not in front of your body but beside you, near your left foot.

Pick up the pace and increase the number of steps you take before “treating” him.  If he gets ahead of you, pivot and do not reward him until he is properly positioned and paced. 

As you forged ahead, you can walk a good distance without giving him a treat.  Soon, he will become used to walking on a leash and will not even need food to bribe him.  The walk will be “treat” enough. 

Tips for Troubleshooting

If your pup is tripping up your walk, here are a few pointers to keep in mind: 

Pulling:  If your pooch begins to pull in a different direction, freeze.  Just stand motionless until he comes back.  Be sure not to jerk or pull him.  If the problem persists, you may want to consider a harness that is made to discourage pulling and tugging.

Lunging:  You never want to allow your dog to go after something (or someone) while on a walk.  Squirrels, cats, and kids on bikes can be very tempting, but you must nip the action in the bud.  Herding dogs can be quite stubborn and persistent so be prepared and be proactive.  Attempt to distract him from his distraction but if that fails, be in charge and do not let him get by with lunging of any degree.  If you see trouble is lurking ahead (like another dog or a small animal), take a turn or turn around.

Barking:  Certain dogs are barkers by nature.  Some bark at people.  Some bark at other dogs.  Some bark at everything and everyone.  Excessive barking is obnoxious to you and neighbors as well. Refuse to tolerate it.  The mental and physical stimulation of a good, brisk walk will help detour him from barking so much, but you will need to make sure he doesn’t bark much during the walk as well.  Reward him for NOT barking or for stopping when you tell him to.

“Watering” the trees.  Especially if you have a male dog, he will probably want to pee on every tree and fire hydrant along the way.  Leash walking is designed to walk at a steady pace, not for him to sniff out critters and pee on trees.  Allowing him to do so not only defeats the purpose, but it also lets him be in control.  Do be sure he can relieve himself if he needs to but not on every tree and bush he encounters.

Loose Leash

When your dog walks in properly without lunging or pulling, you can loosen his leash for a more enjoyable time for both you and him.  Loose leash walking is a reward he will earn when he learns to follow your lead.  Be sure he doesn’t stop to smell the roses (or pee on trees) though.  Loose leash walking is to be carried out with him by your side or slightly behind you.  If he strays from the rules, you may have to tighten up the activity, literally.

Walking the Walk

Leash walking is an excellent way to bond with your dog.  It reinforces your position as his leader while enabling you to spend quality with him while getting exercise and enjoying the adventures of the great outdoors.  With a little practice, the two of you are sure to have a bright future of many tail-wagging walks together.

Clicker Training - Training in a Snap

Author Karen Pryor is a pro when it comes to clicker training your dog, and rightly so, she is one of the founders of the trusty device.   Clicker training can be used for any type of dog training - housebreaking, obedience training, trick training, leash training and so on.

Clicker training is done with a small metal noise-making device that sounds a lot like a cricket.  It is implemented to mark the precise desired behavior you want from your dog.  When you click it at the right time, it helps your dog know exactly what he did right so he can do it again. 

The results of the clicker training method have been astounding since the invention of the device.  The concept had been used on humans before but Karen, a marine biologist, and behavioral psychologist developed a specific device for use with dogs and even cats.

Clicker training works in the cognitive area of the dog (or human’s) brain which deals with knowledge and learning.  The object of the game is to let the dog know exactly what he did well at exactly the time he does it which when done quickly enough, becomes instilled in his brain as a cognitive action that is readily remembered.

When the clicker is sounded, a clear and immediate message is sent to your dog’s brain by way of neurotransmitters.  It creates new pathways which tell your pup he did a good thing.  In turn, he begins to make decisions on his own based upon the new pathways that have been created.  The whole process is nothing short of amazing.

Some of the advantages of clicker training are:

  • It can be done without relying on the physical strength of the trainer.
  • Children can even clicker train their dogs.
  • It is excellent for busy families to use because it doesn’t require a set schedule or much time.
  • It can be used in conjunction with other types of training like treat training or reward training.
  • It gently instills the fact that you are the leader without any need to “prove it.”
  • It is positive.

How to Clicker Train Your Dog

WikiHow has some simple steps lined out that will help you clicker train your pup.  They are as follows:

  1. Learn to use the device. You can purchase a clicker device online or at a pet store.  The clicker is designed to be a signal to your dog that a reward is coming.  It lets him know exactly what he did to deserve the upcoming reward.  Learning to operate the device is easy, but you will want to practice so you can sound it off at the precise time he does the deed that is to be rewarded.
  2. Help your dog get familiar with the clicker. If your dog is too curious or fearful of the clicker device, you’ll have trouble training him by it.  The best way to introduce him to it is to have a handful of treats.  Let him see them in your hand.  If he wants to sniff them, let him but keep your hand closed so he cannot get to them.  Then, press the clicker once to initiate the noise.  When your dog shows interest and turns to the noise, give him a treat.
  3. Check out his response to the device. You will know, if you pay attention, how your dog feels toward the clicker.  Is he fearful of it?  Is he curious about it?  Being sensitive to his reaction to it will help you tailor training accordingly.  If he is afraid of it, try sounding it softer.
  4. Pick a quiet place to work with him. Be sure to take your dog to a quiet, distraction-free location when you begin working with the clicker.  You may try it inside your house first and then take it to the backyard and then graduate to the park or lake.
  5. Click it to nip it. Nip good behavior in the bud to mark the moment your pup did something good.  Throw him a treat right away too or, if you are using praise training techniques, praise him immediately.  The act is called “catching” and should be done as immediate as possible when he obeys, learns a new trick or otherwise exemplifies good behavior.  Repeating the scenario will help yield excellent results.
  6. Step-by-step rewarding is important. It is doubtful your pup will become a pro over-night.  Reward each of his baby steps, and you are sure to see great strides.
  7. Add a verbal cue to the routine. You may not always have your clicker handy, so you want to blend in some verbal cues.  He will pick right up on them and associate them with the entire process.

The clicker method is an excellent way to gain your dog’s cooperation and to make sure he understands what the object of the game is.  Immediately rewarding him will set permanent patterns in his brain which is priceless beyond measure.

Housetraining 101 - The Scoop on the Poop

Now that you have the different methods of dog training at your fingertips, it’s time to decide which one you’ll use for housebreaking your new pup - or, perhaps your older dog hasn’t quite got it down yet, and he needs a refresher course. 

Whatever the case may be, housetraining your pooch is imperative.  Even if you have an outside dog, you will want him to “go” in a designated spot so you can fall back on these priceless training techniques.  If one doesn’t fit the individual needs of your dog, try a different one or a combination of several.

No matter which method you use, there are some important things to remember.  Here are a few that WebMD suggests:

  • Consistency and patience are vital to achieve the goal and to instill a great bond with your dog.
  • Positively reinforcing your puppy will help him develop good habits, successful potty training, and a delightful disposition.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Typical training can take up to four, maybe even six weeks.  There are pups who even take up to one full year to become house broken.
  • Know the size and ability of your dog’s bladder. Small dogs have smaller bladders and cannot hold their urine as long, not to mention other duties.
  • Some dogs who have medical conditions or have been spayed cannot hold their bladders very long.
  • If your pup seems to be having trouble holding his bladder more than you feel he should, it’s time to see a veterinarian. He may have a medical issue like a bladder or kidney infection.

When Should Housebreaking Begin?

Experts usually recommend that pet parents begin to housetrain when he is somewhere in the vicinity of 12 weeks of age to 16 weeks of age.  Until then, he cannot control his bowel movements or bladder very well which will only lead to frustration for you both.

Step-by-Step Housetraining Instructions

  1. Keep your dog in a small area - a crate, room or a leash initially. Doing so will help him learn when he needs to pee or poop.
  2. Establish and keep a routine with his feeding. This will help his body set regular bowel movement times.
  3. Take him outside to a designated spot regularly. If you can, taking him out every half hour or so is about par for a small dog or little pup.  Larger or older dogs can sometimes wait longer.  Also, take him out after each meal or when he has lapped up a good bit of water.
  4. Consistency is key. Take him to the same place to do his business because he will smell his scent which will motivate him to “go” again.
  5. Be present. Housetraining your puppy is hands-on.  Stay with him while he does his thing so you can offer a reward of praise, treats or play time.

With these suggestions and a reward system intact, your dog should be making positive strides forward in no time and eventually be successfully potty trained.

Trick Training

When it comes to trick training, dog training gets fun and challenging too.  The dog website, DoggyBuddy, has fifty-two great tricks that you can teach your dog.  Before you get started, here are some top tips from Petfinder you should know about trick training your dog:

  • Listen up when it comes to what your dog is saying. Check out his body language and everything else concerning his demeanor.  If he seems to be uncomfortable with the training, ease up a notch.
  • Lavish affection. He IS the good boy so make sure he knows it.  Be certain he knows you love him regardless of it he catches on to a trick or not.  A self-assured dog is a good dog.
  • Does he enjoy training? If your dog isn’t into training, it will be difficult to train him.   Try to engage him by gearing things to his interest.  If he likes to run, challenge him with tricks that involve running.  If he likes to interact with humans, teach him to shake.
  • Be clear in what it is you want him to do. A clicker is one of the best ways to let him know exactly what you want your dog to do but even if you are not using one, you can make sure he is clear on what the task at hand is.
  • Be very consistent. Dogs are creatures of habit.  Be sure you do the same thing each time.  It will make him feel secure and self-confident to know what to expect next.
  • Be realistic with your expectations of him. Don’t push him beyond what he is comfortable with.  You don’t want to hurt his feelings or frustrate him or yourself.
  • Reward rather than bribe. There is a fine line between rewarding your pooch and bribing him.  The goal is for him to do ask you ask of him without coaxing him but then, reward him for doing so.
  • Never discount or underestimate the nutritional needs of your dog. To perform, your dog must be receiving good fuel.  High-quality dog food is imperative.  Check with your vet to find the best kind for your particular dog.

Tricks of the Trade

There are tons of tricks you can teach your dog to do like fetch, shake, sit, roll over and play dead.  He will be so proud of himself and the attention he will get once he learns a few that it will motivate him to learn even more of them.

The DoggyBuddy website has a page that lists fifty-two awesome tricks and has step-by-step instructions on how to teach each one of them to your dog.  When you make trick time both fun and rewarding, the sky is the limit. 

To teach your dog “down,” simply take your dog to a quiet area where he has a bit of space, and you have a nice treat in your hand.  You might give him a tease of the treat to get his undivided attention.  Take your clicker and click it when he naturally lays down.  Then immediately give him a treat.  When he gets up and lays down again, repeat the action.  He will most likely begin to catch on, lying down more often.  Click and treat each time he does so.  Then, add the verbal cue, “down.”  Click and reward accordingly.  Before long, he will have “down” down.

The above trick and other tricks like it can be done using the clicker, praise alone, treats alone or by a combination.  You can try one way and if it fails, try another.

Brain games for dogs is a nice way to challenge your dog mentally since many dogs get very bored if not stimulated physically and mentally.  You can have the smartest dog on the block after just a class or two.  It’s a great way for the two of you to bond in a whole new way.

Breed Matters

Each breed of dog comes with its list of positive and negative traits.  Some are easier to train than others.  Some respond well to praise training while others may require a treat, at least initially.  All dogs are trainable.  If yours proves to be too much for you, there is always the option to take him to training classes where you will be guided through lessons with him, or you can hire a trainer who will work with him...then with you and him.

The easiest breeds to train, according to CultureCheatSheet are:

  • Bernese Mountain Dog: This friendly and cooperative working dog is quite simple to train because of his mild temperament and love for outdoor activities.  Since they love interacting with people, they tend to readily and willingly follow most any command or request you give them.
  • Havanese: Eager to please his pet parents, this pup is intelligent and ready to learn both tricks and obedience commands.  Novice dog owners usually do quite well with the Havanese breed.  One word of warning though - they love to clown around during class.
  • Border Collie: While the Border Collie might not be a perfect match with a first-time dog trainer, he is an excellent dog when it comes to learning.  His downfall is he is bounding with energy but his intellect and desire to please makes him a good student in the long haul.  Agility is usually his favorite type of training.
  • Miniature Schnauzer: Learning new things is a cinch for the Miniature Schnauzer.  He craves human acceptance and attention which is his saving grace because he is such a high-energy dog, it is difficult to keep him occupied.  Spunky and very alert, he’ll be a prime student if you can get him to focus.  Taking him for a walk or engaging him in exercise before class time is ideal so he can pay closer attention without too much extra energy distracting him.
  • Border Terrier: Considered to be very trainable, the Border Terrier is pretty chill for a terrier type but he is smart too and eager to please so he’s a great candidate for training. The Border Terrier is a working dog and is said to be tough as nails so don’t let his good nature and relaxed demeanor fool you.  He’ll be up for most any challenge you present him with.
  • Boxer: Boxers are highly active.  They enjoy mental and physical challenges are get quite bored without any so be sure to engage your Boxer in plenty of training time.  They are playful and upbeat so training them is fun for all.
  • Doberman Pinscher: Dobermans are a breed of dog that calls for an experienced trainer or owner.  It is imperative to keep your Doberman Pinscher well-exercised and to implement training so that he doesn’t become bored and aggressive or destructive.  They are athletes and are very intelligent, so they are considered a very trainable breed.  Dobermans make great service or therapy dogs when properly trained.
  • German Shepherd: Eager to please his human and ready to work at any given moment, the German Shepherd is smart and loyal.  He is amazingly easy to train at all levels of difficulty.  German Shepherd puppies can be trained as early as eight weeks of age.

Some dog breeds aren’t known for being the easiest to train and for different reasons.  It is said that the Rottweiler is difficult simply due to his massive size.  American Pit Bull Terriers sometimes have a rebellious streak that can present issues when training.  Siberian Huskies, Bullmastiffs, Chinese Shar-Pei, Afghan Hounds, Beagles and Basset Hounds have reputations as being challenging students as well.

Tailor your training to the skills your breed possesses.  If he is a jumper, put his skills to good use.  If he is intelligent, train him to be even more so.  Every dog has star qualities.  It’s up to you to find out what they are and to help him shine.

All dogs are trainable.  That bears repeating.  However, the time, energy and patience it will require of you to do so may vary as greatly as the temperament of the breed you are training.

Which Type of Training Works Best?

There is no one training that works best.  Taking your dog’s personality into account is the best rule of thumb.  What does your pup like or dislike?  What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?  Take your personality into account too.  Then, you can determine the best method of training for you and your dog.

According to Dog Time, there are many popular dog training techniques that work well.  Which you chose should be a matter of personal preference.  They are as follows:

  1. Alpha Training (also known as Respect or Dominance Training): In this method, you are relying on your dog’s innate instinct of being a pack animal. You establish yourself as his master, and all else is to fall into place.  He will do what you ask of him because you are his leader.  In this particular method, you generally refrain from letting him up on the sofa or from allowing him to sleep in your bed with you.  You are the king of the castle, and he is...yours.  You ask your dog to wait calmly while you prepare his food and place it before him.  Only on your cue is he free to eat of it.
  2. Treat Training: When your dog does as you ask, you reward him with a treat.  It’s as simple as that.  While this is very easy to implement a way of training your pup, it can load him down with calories so be sure to choose healthy, low-calorie snacks that are small.  You may also want to combine another training method into the mix, so he doesn’t get too chubby.  Being overweight is not good for a dog.
  3. Positive Reinforcement Training: With this method, all the training is done with positivity.  Negative behavior is dealt with by taking away a toy or removing the dog from the situation only.  Treats or praise are generally added in for positive strokes and rewards.  Consistency is required for this method of training. 
  4. Mirror Training: This method allows you to show, not tell, your dog what you want from him.  It is very effective for certain owners and certain breeds but it useless with others.  The Mirror Training method employs a good model or a rival to compete for resources so that dogs can copy the behaviors.  Dogs or humans can be the models.  The dog observes the praise or rewards the model or rival gets and wants the same for himself.
  5. Electronic Training: This method of dog training is frowned upon in many circles.  It uses an electronic dog collar to deliver a shock when the dog is acting out negatively or does something dangerous such as going into the street.  It is most widely used at a distance when the use of a leash or fence is impossible or impractical.  It is considered to be inhumane by a good many dog lovers because it is unpleasant and is punishment based.
  6. Scientific Training: The science-based method of training constantly changes as more things are learned but it takes measures to understand and build upon the nature of dogs and their conditioning ability.  The effectiveness of punishments and rewards are also implemented.  Dog psychology plays a big role in Scientific Training.
  7. Clicker Training: This style of dog training uses a device that makes a clicking noise to let your dog know immediately when he has done something good.  A treat is given right away which reinforces his brain to do the same activity again.  The fact that this method works through neuron transmitters and the brain gives it a great success rate.  The drawback is you most likely won’t always have your clicker with you, so hopefully, if you are caught without it, he can take verbal commands or simply reacts appropriately on his own.
  8. Relationship-based Training: Several different types of training methods are combined in this type of dog training.  It focuses on the individual relationship between a dog and his parent. It is designed to meet the needs of both the owner and his dog.  Being aware of your dog’s body language and his overall personality is important for relationship-based training.  Positive reinforcement is key to promoting good and wanted behaviors and restricting negative ones.  If your dog usually obeys you but suddenly doesn’t, it is up to you to figure out why that is.  Is he hurt, sick or sad?  Maybe he’s distracted.  By knowing him fuller, this method is perfected.  Deep and meaningful bonds are usually created when implementing this style of training.

Training Camp

Training your dog is not optional.  If you are going to have a dog, you must train him.  Even if he is going to be outside all the time, he still needs to obey your rules and respect your boundaries.  Otherwise, he will be out of control which isn’t fair for you, him or your neighbors. 

Not training your dog also robs you both of some great opportunities.  He deserves to have the attention you will give him for learning new things.  You deserve a dog who behaves and does what you ask of him - be it going on a nice walk with your or doing a trick you’ve taught him.

No matter the method of training you choose for your dog, make training time fun and loving.  Training your dog is a special chance to get to know him and for him to get to know you.

Don’t worry about being the perfect teacher or about having the perfect student.  You will fail some and so will he.  When you do, dust off and keep plugging forward.

The process of training can be stressful for you and your pup. It doesn’t have to be though.  With the information and suggestions in this guide, it can be a time of unique bonding - a real treat for both of you. 



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