Start Training your Dog

When you take your dog out in public and he walks confidently by your side, it’s confidently by your side, it’s impressive. When he sits and stays on command, strangers will admire him and you will feel proud to be his owner. It’s much easier for you, too, if your dog can take a trip to be groomed, boarded or to receive medical care all in his stride, and he can pass other dogs along the side-walk without causing a commotion. You want a dog you can enjoy, and a confident, well-behaved dog is a lot of fun. On the other hand, a dog that constantly disturbs the peach and nearly knocks you over can be a challenge to live with.

It would be nice if all dogs well-behaved right from the start. But dogs need to learn what you want them to do and not do. They need to be trained, and that’s your job.

The rules for good canine manners are simple. Dogs should be quiet and not bark or howl at the neighbors. They should wait patiently, instead of jumping all over guests who come to visit. Respecting your possessions by not chewing them up is a good thing, too. A well behaved dog will stay put when asked and come to you call his name. If the front door swings opens, he will watch the world go by, instead of running to catch it. At the dinner table, he will know to lie low instead of begging for leftovers.

Training is easy and rewarding – no fancy tricks or superdog intelligence are required. Just make a point to work with your dog on a regular basis, and don’t give up until he does exactly what you want him to do.

When to Start:
It’s good to teach your new dog the rules of your new dog the rules of your house before he starts as soon as his paws first paddle through your door. If you bring home an adult dog, he may already know the basic commands of sit and stay. But he is not a mind reader and you will need to tell him when you expect him to do these things. This is what you can teach him as soon as he joins the household. If you want, you can also train your dog to obey more advanced commands, such as to retrieve, sit up, and walk through an obstacle course.

Most puppies go to their new homes at between seven and eight weeks of age and they, too, should be trained right away. Why wait until they are older, when you can prevent a bad habit from forming? While you can’t expect a puppy a learn the advanced stuff right away, you can begin to lay the foundations.

How often should you train?
Be consistent and spend some time training your dog every day, even if you have only a few minutes. Some people think that a dog will get tired and bored if you train him every day. That won’t happen if you make training sessions short and fun, and give him plenty of praise and rewards when he performs correctly.
A daily training routine builds good learning habits and gives him a chance to practice and perfect what he’s learned earlier. As well as specific training sessions, find opportunities throughout the day to incorporate what he’s learned. For example, once he understands “Sit,” make him sit before you feed him or put his leash on when you take him for a walk.

By reinforcing the training in this way, his new behavior will soon become a habit. Your dog will be eager for opportunities to practice what he’s learned because he wants to show off what you taught him the day before and get his treat.

How Long Should a Session Last?
Keep your training sessions short and sweet. Sessions that last between 10 and 20 minutes will work better than drilling out commands that go on and on. For a puppy, the training times should be shorter, say sessions of 3 to 5 minutes spaced throughout the day, with at least a half hour break in between.

“The more often you can do it for shorter period of time, the better the results,” says Dan Estep, Ph.D., an animal behaviorist in Littleton, Colorado. “Three hours one day a week doesn’t work as well because your dog gets tired and bored after just 30 minutes.”

Shorter but more frequent training sessions will also fit in better with your schedule. If you suddenly find you have a spare ten minutes, you can use this time to work in an extra training sessions with your dog.

Because different dogs learn at different speeds, one session might be all you need to teach your dog one command. You can use other sessions that day to review what your dog has already learned, then go on to something new. Since there are five basic commands for your dog to learn, you won’t run out of activities. Or it may be that he needs the same lesson repeated three or four times a day the same lesson repeated three or four times a day until he gets the idea. Just remember to stay flexible and remain upbeat. You want your dog to enjoy his training times, not to dread them.

Where to Train:
Just as you wouldn’t be able to concentrate in noisy room if you were trying to understand a math lesson, your dog won’t be able to learn under distracting circumstances, either. When teaching commands such as “Sit” and down,” start your instruction in a quiet environment. Choose an area of the house where no other family members will be wandering in and out and a time when you won’t be interrupted.
When you start teaching him to walk on a leash, you will need more space, so move to an outside area that has few distractions, such as your backyard or a quiet street or park.

“In the beginning, try and make things as easy as possible, then gradually add new and busier surroundings,” says Dr. Estep. Once your dog obeys your

commands in the house, take him to new and interesting areas, such as your garage or a neighbor’s house, to work with him.

“These diversions are a good test,” says Dr. Estep. But don’t be surprised if at first he acts as if he’s forgotten everything. It may take a few tries before he can ignore what is going on around him, but he will. And once he follows your commands, put him through his paces in even more challenging places, such as a shopping center, schoolyard or on a crowded sidewalk.

Who Should Train?
When you ride in a car, only one person at a time can sit behind the wheel. The same is true when training a dog. The person who will be spending the most time with the dog, and therefore needs to be in control of him the most, should be given the primary responsibility for training him, recommends Dr. Estep. That person can then show other members of the family what the dog is learning and how they can get him to respond to their commands.

If he’s spending equal time with everyone, the whole family can be involved in the training process, but only one member at a time will be able to “steer” his leash. Children can take part in the training process, but they should be supervised by an adult at all times. A well-trained dog will know that the member of his family who is handling him at the time is the leader.