If you are new to dog training, realize that there are some basics he needs to know. Here are the top ten, along with information about when to introduce them into the training schedule. After the list is the perfect guide for the busy trainer to work with each of these commands, as well as stages to follow for reinforcement.
- Your dog’s name
- “Good dog”
- Walk on a leash properly
- Crate time
Here are the details about how and when to introduce each of these to your puppy.
Your Dog’s Name
By far this will be one of the cutest training sessions you have with your dog. Decide on your dog’s name. This can be based on his personality, a loved one, a name you like or just a random name that your breeder gave the pup. Whatever it is, keep it separate from commands. For example, some trainers use the dog’s name to mean “come here.” This isn’t always a good idea, as it is better to keep “come here” separate. Your dog’s name should be merely a method of getting his attention when you want it. After you decide on your dog’s name, it’s time to let him know what it is.
Let’s say you have a female dog named “Rita.” You want to get into the right training session, meaning you want to limit distractions. Get your puppy to focus on you with quiet. As you get further into training, your dog will learn when it is time to train based on the setting. Say your dog’s name and immediately give her a treat. Do this a few times. Your dog will quickly learn that when the name “Rita” is spoken, she must focus on you because if she does she’ll get a treat. Soon, she’ll realize that the name is what you use to get her attention. You can gradually ease her off the treats, but using treats during the first few training sessions is the ideal way to get your point across. You’ll love seeing your dog’s call to attention when you say her name. It won’t take long because you will likely reinforce this time and time again. Soon Rita will be coming when called with no problems at all. She’ll understand that you have “named” her this sound and that when you say it, you want her full attention.
Once you teach your dog his name, you will want phrases like “good dog” to be standard in training. Praising your dog will be one of the most important things you do with your pet. You’ll learn how much more effective positive words are than negative ones. Not only does negative talk harm a human relationship and connection, it does the same for a pet connection. Remember, the beginning of your relationship with your dog is critical. This is the time when you want to not only train, but build a true connection of trust. This bond will make the relationship truly a familial one that is mutually beneficial. Using the most positive words and tones can fast-forward the process. What you have to work with is the fact that your dog wants to please you. Once a dog is taken out of his pack—whether that is the litter or another home—he immediately starts looking for a new leader. You gain this role by earning it through one-on-one time, positive praise, working with him through training and feeding him. Once you are the leader, your dog will look to you to set the cues of the day. He will soon learn that when your alarm clock goes off, it is time for him to get up and go outside. When he comes back in, it is time for him to eat. When he eats, it is time for him to pee again after 20 or 30 minutes. After that, he goes to his crate and you leave. You, or someone else designated to care for him, come back after a few hours to let him out and he repeats the going-out process. Later in the day, you come home to feed him and engage in a formal training session. Since you keep praising good behaviors, he keeps performing them. The good mood of the training session makes him look forward to spending more time with you and learning more.
This is another very important command, one that is surprisingly easy to teach. Get your puppy’s attention during training. Say “sit” in a pleasant but firm tone. The easiest thing to do is to hold the treat right at his nose. He’ll immediately sniff and try to lick it. Before you let him lick, move your hand over the top of his head without raising your hand too high. You’re working with your dog’s natural response to the treat—he wants to eat it. If you move the treat, his nose will follow. As his nose moves backward and you don’t raise the treat, his butt moves closer and closer to the floor. When it hits the floor, give him the treat and say “good boy” (or “good girl”). Lots of praise is needed here. You’ll find that you’ll have to do this only a few times. Remember that your puppy will follow that treat no matter where you put it. Treats are fantastic tools, especially for a dog new to your pack. Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t “get it” right away. Many do, but some don’t. It just depends—again, your dog is like a child. He naturally takes to some training right away and must work hard at other things. With commands, if you can train with your dog’s natural movement, this will help. For example, using “come” when you put your dog’s food down is a great way to teach him the command. He is already rushing to you for a meal, so why not take the opportunity to turn it into a training session? Learn to work with your dog’s tendencies—not only will it make your training easier, it will make training more effective for the busy dog owner.
You will inevitably want to train your dog to understand the “no” command. When it comes to this command your tone says a lot. In fact, as you train your dog, the use of different tones is very important. For example, when you say your dog’s name, use a pleasant tone. When you are praising your pet for something well done, use an exaggeratedly happy tone. A lot of communication—especially at first—will happen with tones and body language rather than the words you use. Your dog will learn how to rely on both as he deciphers what you’re saying and what you want. When it comes to “no,” be firm and clear. Never accompany “no” with a mixed message. For example, if your dog is not allowed to chew a plant and you say “no,” you must either remove the plant from your dog’s reach or say “no” every time he approaches it. The worst thing you can do for your dog is enforce a rule once, forget about it three times, try to enforce it again and then get lax with it for the next few times. You will never get the results you want if you lack consistency. It will only confuse your pet and you will have a hard time getting results. You’ll realize quickly that you have two choices with behaviors you don’t want: either consistently train your dog to not do them or remove them from his environment completely. An example is the plant mentioned above. If your dog keeps chewing one particular plant, you must either vigilantly watch the plant and correct your dog every time or move it somewhere he can’t reach it. Of course, you can spray it with bitter apple, but you may find that your pet doesn’t mind or that you must apply the spray repeatedly.
This is a great command to work on, and it’s another command you won’t have a difficult time training if you have the right tools. Again, get out your delicious treats! Your dog will naturally want to come to you, especially if he sees you as his leader. You always want to be the most inviting thing in the space. How do you do this? With love, enthusiastic tones and treats! During training, move to one corner of the room, away from your dog. First call his name, then say “come.” (Some people like to snap their fingers or use a clicker here. Whether you do this is up to you. A general rule is to use the basics—your voice and training—first. If you have a hard time getting the results you want, move to alternative tools to help you.) If your dog comes, praise him and give him a treat. If your dog starts getting distracted along the way, make some noise. This can include patting the floor and saying “come” again. Do whatever you must do to get your pup’s attention. Likely this won’t take long for your pup to get. What you want to do is up the ante as you train. For example, when your puppy is two to four months old, do the “come” exercise at home. If your pup masters it, move him to the yard. If your pup masters it here, move him to the park. The goal is for your pup to learn to come regardless of what setting he is in. Whether there are other dogs, cars, children, people, etc., you want your dog to listen for a command and respond. It is important to escalate training to different environments so that your dog realizes his job is to listen to you no matter where you are.