Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
There are many products and/or methods that claim to "train" dogs. In reality, the best way to change any dog's behavior is by teaching them what we would like them to do instead. This can be done without using force, intimidation or fear.
Our top 10 training tips are:
1. Consistency - This is vital to the success of training. Your dog needs repetition and consistency from you in order to change a behavior. It's not enough for a dog to "learn" a new behavior. It must be repeated in order for it to truly become ingrained in their brain. Many dogs are happy to repeat behaviors and when the reward is something they love, they will be willing to follow a consistent schedule. A good rule of thumb is to practice a new behavior for 5-10 minutes a session at least 4-5 days per week. Once your dog truly understands it, you can taper down to less (1 x per week), to be sure they remember.
2. Patience - You must have patience when training your dog. Dogs are smart, but each has their own way of learning and needs time to understand and practice a new behavior. If you are getting frustrated with your dog, it's time for a break. A dog will not learn from a frustrated trainer as the signals are too confusing. Focus on enjoying your time with your dog and celebrate each accomplishment (no matter how small).
3. Rewards - It's important to choose rewards that YOUR dog loves for a few reasons:
5. Body language - No matter what behavior you are working on, be sure you are confident in both your mind and body. Your body language says SO much about how you are feeling about the training. Be sure if you are using a leash, you are walking confidently with your shoulders back, head up and facing forward. If you reward your dog, do it quickly, with great confidence and move on.
6. Mindset - Your mindset is key to training your dog. Always go into every training session with a positive attitude, knowing that you can train your dog. Let go of past frustrations.
7. Time - Set aside time for training your dog. Be sure you are not feeling tired, irritable or anxious. It's best to train when you are fresh and relaxed.
8. Energy - Your dog's energy level is something to consider. If you have a high energy dog, it is important to burn off some energy BEFORE training. A 10-15 minute play session should help a lot. For dogs with low energy, keep training sessions focused and short. If your dog is showing signs of boredom (ignoring you; yawning), it may be time to end the training session. If the signs of boredom start immediately, you may need to show more enthusiasm and excitement.
9. Kindness - I trust you have a dog because you enjoy the companionship and company. Treat your dog with kindness and they will respond the same way. There is no need to jerk, choke, or shock your dog - this teaches them that you are unpredictable instead of trustworthy. Gain their trust and you can teach them anything.
10. Judgement - I have heard it all - "my dog's a jerk, an idiot, stupid', you name it. But, by the time our first training session is over, the tone changes to "Wow, what a smart dog!" "I love him!". Sometimes people think that because a dog doesn't do what they want, they are dumb. This is incorrect and we need to work with the dog on their level, not ours. The results are always amazing, 100% of the time. Let go of your human judgement of your dog and know that they are smart and willing to learn.