No matter how difficult, it’s essential to train your dog.
With many methods out there, it can be hard to know which to follow.
Here’s some easy training hacks to get you started.
#1 Hand Gestures Before Words
One of the first and most useful training hacks I’ve learned is to always begin by teaching the hand gesture FIRST. You can’t expect your dog to know what “sit” means. He doesn’t even speak English. However, pairing the trick/behavior with a hand gesture is more effective. For example, perhaps a closed fist or pointing to the floor means “sit.” Choose a different hand gesture for every trick. As he begins to learn it, you can start incorporating
#2 Be Specific with Commands
Some trainers tell you use the words “no” or “stop.” Although this may work for some dogs, this is thought of as an outdated training method. Using generic words in multiple scenarios can confuse your dog. For example, some say “no” whenever the dog is doing unwanted behaviors, whether it be chewing on your shoe or jumping up on people. Instead, it’s better to be specific. For example, “drop it” or “down” have separate meanings and you’re more likely to get results.
#3 Use Training Treats
Dogs respond well to rewards. Giving him a treat after he’s accomplished the trick will solidify in his mind that it was correct. Since a training session can involve many treats (especially if your dog is doing well), use training treats specifically. These are much smaller than normal snacks and will allow you to train your dog without overfeeding him.
#4 Consistency is Key
Be prepared to put some time aside each day for a training session. Even if your dog does really well one day, if he doesn’t practice, he’s likely to forget. It’s the same as children, right? You can’t expect a child to learn the alphabet once, never practice it and know it forever. Aim for a few minutes a few times a day.
#5 Reinforce Even When It’s Inconvenient
Another part of consistency is reinforcing training whenever a triggering event occurs. For example, say you’re trying to train your dog to stay off of a sofa (I think dogs should be allowed on everything, but I know other people are different). The command you’ve chosen is “off” and you use it whenever your dog jumps on to the sofa. However, maybe you have company over. You’re busy and you’d rather let it slide this time than interrupt a conversation for a mini training session. No big deal, right? Wrong. Your dog will be confused why it’s okay one time and not another. Even when it’s inconvenient, reinforce.
#6 Tell the Family the Training Plan
To really hammer in the training, your family members or roommates should use the same methods, gestures and commands. For example, if your dog jumps up on someone and you say “down” while your husband says “off,” that’s going to be a little confusing for the doggo. If it helps, write down the list of commands and gestures you’re using and post it on the fridge for everyone to refer to.
#7 Nip Bad Behaviours with Entertainment
Giving your dog something fun to do when he’s being bad sounds counterintuitive. Why would you reward your dog for bad behavior? Well, often dogs do things (such as ripping up cushions or chewing on shoes) because they’re bored and need to burn energy. Just like children, dogs need to be mentally stimulated. If not, they will find something to do—and you probably won’t like it. Before putting together a massive training plan to nip the behavior in the bud, try an easier method: Giving him something to do. A good toy, a treat toy, a dog puzzle or a run to burn energy could do the trick.
#8 Calm Your Energy
Dogs are smarter than most of us think. They can be even better than humans at picking up emotions. That means if you’re trying to train your dog while angry and out of patience, he’ll probably know and results won’t be the best. Instead, try to keep your cool, even if it’s taking your dog awhile to get the hang of something. This can help clear his mind, allowing new information to penetrate. If you feel yourself losing patience, take a short break.
#9 Do Something Fun Before Training
We’re not talking about your dog here, we’re talking about you! Similar to the tip above, dogs can read energy and it effects how they perform. If you’ve had a bad day at work yet still want to keep your training schedule consistent, take a few moments to cool down first. Watch a cute dog video, watch a funny prank, sing a song to yourself or even meditate. When you’ve regained your happy (or at least happier) self, begin the session.
#10 Trust is Earned
If you have a new puppy, it can be tempting to allow him to wander all over the house and let him explore himself. It’s exhausting trying to keep him in one area, but that’s exactly what you need to do in the beginning. When I got my puppy, I quickly learned that he needed to earn my trust. If I gave him the run of the apartment, there would be a TON of surprises each time I’d walk into a new room. As your pup gets better at peeing and pooping outside and learns the difference between toys and valuables, slowly allow him to have access to more spaces. You can keep doors closed, use baby gates, crate train or keep him in the same room as you.
#11 Choose an Appropriate Training Spot
When you’re ready for a training session, choose a spot that’s quiet and won’t distract your dog. For example, training your dog in your living room or bedroom each night could make him associate the space with learning. Bringing him to a park sounds like a good way to enjoy nature while training, but your dog will probably get distracted by other dogs and squirrels. You’ll get nothing done. Similarly, if your living room is usually full with family or roommates talking, that’s not a good space either. Your dog may get distracted by their actions and conversation and his attention will wander. As your dog gets better at avoiding distractions, then you can take him out to public places for sessions. This will teach him how to maintain composure even among other people.
#12 Praise, praise, praise
Praise makes your dog feel good—and it’s always free. When rewarding your dog with a treat, also make sure to give him a heart full of praise. Saying “good boy” in a happy voice will reinforce that it’s a job well done. Research also suggests that dogs can read facial expressions, so smiling when you’re giving the praise is also a great idea.
#13 Keep Treats Everywhere Your Dog Goes
You never know when a training opportunity may arise. Perhaps you’re on a walk and you need to teach your dog to sit instead of jumping up on strangers. Or maybe he has some destructive car behaviors that you need to untrain. If you keep training treats in your pocket, purse or glovebox, you’ll always be prepared for a mini session.
#14 Don’t Command in an Angry Tone
You’ve probably heard that dog parents should be assertive when training. That’s true. However, some people think that part of being assertive is commanding their dog in deep, stern, harsh tones. You may think your tone of voice signals you as “leader of the pack” but it’s actually more likely to scare or confuse your dog. Use a normal voice instead.
#15 Stop Jump Ups by Ignoring Him
You come home from work and your puppy is so excited to see you, so he jumps up to give you a big kiss. It’s okay to give him some love back, right? Wrong. Although it’s hard, if he jumps up, simply turn your back and ignore him. You can say hello once he’s settled down. This will let him know that when he jumps up, he doesn’t get attention. That will make him less likely to do it to strangers or others who enter your home. Instead of training him to STOP jumping up, try to avoid teaching him the bad behavior in the first place.
At-Home Training for Even Noobie Dog Owners