How to Train Your Dog 101

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Though obedience training provides your dog the necessary skills to be a good canine citizen, have you balked at the idea of formal obedience training? If so, perhaps it is because you feel that your pet is your precious companion, an important member of your family — a friend, rather than a creature to dominate and control. This sentiment, while admirable, should not inhibit well-meaning owners from pursuing training for their furry companions.

Obedience training is, in fact, critical when it comes to nurturing a healthy human-animal relationship and creating a socially compatible pet. The basic elements — sit, down, stay, come, and heel — help produce a good canine citizen. In a practical sense, obedience-trained dogs have an easier lives, and are easier to live with, than their untrained peers. If dogs desist from jumping up on strangers, sit or lie quietly when asked, and walk politely on lead, they’re bound to spend more time with their owners going to picnics, ballparks, and other public places, and will spend less time alone at home.

Dogs taught to lie down on the arrival of visitors — after barking a greeting or alarm — are more likely to be included in the dinner party and less likely to wind up isolated in the garage or basement. Obedience training is an education in good manners that, almost literally, opens many doors for otherwise confined dogs. Rather than thinking of obedience training as a series of pointless rituals, think of it as a tool to help dogs cope in the real world.

How to Train Your Dog With Different Training Methods

Some people seem to possess a natural affinity for training. Perhaps because of some innate gift of timing (of reward and punishment), perhaps through tone of voice or body language, or perhaps through some uncanny ability to know what the dog is thinking, these individuals can train a dog faster and better than most regular mortals. Trainers, whose unique abilities transcend species, are themselves a breed apart.

There are two completely different schools of thought for training dogs. One is referred to as “gentlemen’s training” and the other as “ladies training.”

In the past, for gentlemen wishing to train sporting dogs, the approach was more physical and coercive, entailing a significant amount of correction (punishment) for commands not followed. Punishment, though interspersed with praise, was nevertheless instrumental in the technique.

Ladies training, however, presumably for lap dogs and other purely companion dogs, entailed none of such brutish behavior and was based almost exclusively on what is now known as positive reinforcement (that is, reward-based training).

Click-and-treat training is not new. Discovered many years ago by psychologists, Breland and Breland, “clicker training” faded into obscurity for the best part of a century before being rediscovered by dolphin trainers who, for underwater acoustic reasons, often used a whistle rather than a clicker. As anyone who has been to a dolphin show will know, the tasks that dolphins perform during shows are complex, and they are executed with a high degree of accuracy. Look around the next time you go to such a show and you will not see a choke chain in sight.

Regardless of whether you implement formal obedience classes or opt for an independent training effort, there are a number of general rules to keep in mind. These include:

  • Training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog.
  • Every dog should be familiar with basic obedience commands.
  • Training should not involve any negative or punishment-based components.
  • Ensure that your dog’s motivation for reward is highest during a training session.
  • Make sure the reward you offer in training is the most powerful one for your dog.
  • Once training has been accomplished in a quiet area, you can gradually begin to practice in environments with more distractions.

How to Train Your Dog to Be a Good Canine Citizen

Ultimately, you can convert a disobedient dog into a well-mannered member of your family by utilizing effective training strategy, consistency, and persistence. Your dedication and discipline will rub off on your eager-to-please canine.

Start with consistently rewarding your dog with a small treat for eliminating outdoors in order to achieve house training, and with teaching your dog that his crate is his safe haven. After these fundamental techniques are in place, divert your attention to instilling basic commands by applying a similar rewards-based approach. With any luck, you’ll soon be able to tackle more exciting elements of training, such as teaching your dog to perform tricks.


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