How to Train Your Dog 101

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.

National Train Your Dog Month

January is all about training dogs because it’s National Train Your Dog Month!

National Train Your Dog month was started by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), who in 2010, felt it was crucial that the benefits of dog training were recognized. All month long, APDT is holding community events across the country so people can get involved and learn more about what it takes to train a dog. The events are designed to show dog owners that training needn’t be a long and arduous process. They also provide other important information on choosing a groomer and finding the right kennel for your dog.

So whether you’re welcoming a new puppy into your home, or have an old dog that needs to learn some new tricks, it’s always a good time to practice and reinforce proper training and obedience. National Train Your Dog Month is a great reminder of how important it is for your dog to have some form of training.

The Importance of Training, Obedience, and Socialization

When you train your dog, you help strengthen your bond with him, but you’re also giving him the tools he needs to get through day-to-day life. Well-trained dogs have better lives simply because they can still be themselves without causing problems. And when dogs aren’t stealing foodjumping on visitors, or barking incessantly at other dogs and people, they’re easier to live with, too.

Just like we should teach our children how to act and behave in public, we need to show our fur babies what’s right and wrong. Good obedience training can help change the way people view your dog — especially if you have a breed that is surrounded by a negative stereotype — and you’ll be proud of how well he gets along with everyone.

Socialization and training in dogs is a huge step to making sure your dog lives his best life, and APDT wanted people to be more aware of not only how important it is to a dog’s development, but also that it’s relatively easy. Many people have an incorrect opinion of obedience training, but if done correctly, dogs learn quickly and basic training doesn’t take a lot of time. That’s why APDT shares information for dog owners so they can see how fast they can teach their dogs good behavior.

Many dogs are put in shelters simply because they have behavior problems that their owners can’t handle, but ones that could be easily solved with good training. In an effort to see this number decline, APDT promotes their training resources on their website, offering dog owners an easy way to have access to tips and instructions for training in a fun and simple way.


National Train Your Dog Month Emphasizes Good Training Practices All Year Long

In terms of a timeline for training your dog, starting younger equals better results. How well your dog is trained will set the stage for the rest of his life, and if you put the time in when he is a puppy, it will only benefit him in the long run. National Train Your Dog Month stresses the importance of dog training so that more dogs can live better lives.

Training and socialization help your dog be a great canine citizen. Consider this situation: you’re taking your dog for a walk and you come across one of your neighbors. How do you expect your dog to react? If your dog is barking and jumping, it’s going to make for an uncomfortable situation. Your dog might be sweet and lovable when he’s with you at home, but if he doesn’t know how to act around new people and animals, it can reflect negatively on him and on you.

A well-trained dog is a friendly dog, and you won’t have to worry about how your dog is going to act in public or have to consider leaving him at home. Obedient dogs can experience so much more with their owners, because they’re able to come to public events and be more involved with the family. No one wants to have to shut their dog away when company comes over. If your dog is knows and understands good behavior, it won’t be a problem.

Training Adult Dogs — You’re Never Too Old to Learn

Some people say that training puppies is easy, if you know what you’re doing, but training adult dogs is nothing more than a lost cause.

Whatever they say about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, it is patently untrue. Old dogs may not learn as quickly as they did when they were young, but with time and patience, most older dogs can be taught to do anything that a young dog can.

Maybe the adage about age and learning was intended to be interpreted less literally. It certainly is true that dogs’ personalities don’t change much after puppyhood. Anxious or fearful dogs tend to remain that way. It’s hard to persuade them otherwise. And you can’t make a dominant dog super-submissive.

What you can do is teach such dogs how to behave in a particular situation, how to remain calm in a threatening situation, and whom to look up to and respect as a leader. If a dog’s personality is a hunk of wood, learning is a veneer superimposed upon it. Is the wood mutable? No! Can the veneer be changed? You bet — and at any age.

Here are some tips on training adult dogs.


There are several reasons why an adult dog might suddenly revert to soiling in the house. The cause may be medical, hormonal, managemental, or behavioral. The first order of business is to get your dog to a veterinarian. If the veterinarian can’t find anything physically wrong with your dog, the problem probably has something to do with mismanagement or the dog’s emotions.

The first step in re-training acceptable toilet habits is to observe your dog carefully in an attempt to establish a pattern to his/her behavior. Keep a diary of when and where accidents happen. Are you at home or away when the accidents occur? Also, keep a list of when your dog goes outside and what you were doing at the time. If you find a pattern to the behavior, for example, your dog seems to be going in the house only when you’re away for a long time, make sure you take him for a good walk before you go out and try not to leave him alone so often or for so long.

House-training an adult dog isn’t much different from house-training a puppy — in fact, your adult dog should be able to “hold it” for much longer than a puppy, making retraining an adult less labor intense. Dog crates can be useful for training adult dogs, because dogs generally will not soil in their immediate environment. However, if your dog has never been placed in a crate, take care to introduce him slowly. For some dogs that are crate-phobic or have been forced to soil in them in the past, crates will just not work.

Also, consider that your dog may define “home” differently than you do. To you, home may be a multi-story house, but your dog may see everything beyond the kitchen (which he has kept spotless) as “outside.” By restricting your dog to a smaller area for a while, and then gradually extending his home area, you can help him learn the ropes.

Keep Calm and Welcome Guests

Does your normally well-behaved dog lose his mind when guests come to your home? From your dog’s point of view, you can certainly understand it. Guests are a break in the normal routine. Depending on your dog, the guests might be perceived as friends or as trespassers, but in both cases they are a change; something different. In either case, it’s important to teach your dog what you want him to do. After all, your guests aren’t going to appreciate being jumped on or otherwise mistreated by your dog.

Your ultimate goal will be to have your dog sit at the door while you answer it. When you invite your guests in, he should not jump on them and, ideally, should greet them calmly.

First of all, if you haven’t been practicing your dog’s obedience skills, do some training. A tune-up will get the two of you working together again. Make sure you spend some time working on the sit command. Remember that the sit command means self-control, so spend some time practicing in different situations; especially at the front door.

The second step helps teach manners at the front door (or any door where guests enter your house). Practice teaching your dog not to dash through open doors as this will also help teach your dog to be calm at doors. Practice the “watch me” command also, so you can gain your dog’s attention when he’s distracted.

5 Benefits of Positive Behavior Reinforcement for Your Dog

There’s no doubt about it — positive behavior reinforcement provides an excellent foundation for the development of a well-mannered dog.

There are many steps that dog owners can take at home to help shape a dog’s behavior. The best approach to take is one that involves positively reinforcing a dog who engages in desirable behaviors. Training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog.

That being said, if you are not in the right mood for training, don’t even start. When you are ready, keep training sessions short (5-10 minutes) to maintain your dog’s motivation. If your dog doesn’t respond appropriately to a command after several attempts, don’t reward him. Resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command. Return to the more complex task later.

The benefits of positive behavior reinforcement are numerous and are well supported by scientific research.

Here’s a look at the key benefits of positive behavior reinforcement for your dog.

Key Elements of Positive Behavior Reinforcement for Your Dog

Positive behavior reinforcement involves the use of praise or a treat to reward a dog for exhibiting good or desirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement for a job well done is increasingly recommended over punishment or negative reinforcement to promote good behavior in both puppies and adult dogs. The underlying principle of positive behavior reinforcement is to steer your focus away from negatively responding to attention-seeking behaviors and toward the development of positive behaviors.

Top 5 Benefits of Positive Behavior Reinforcement

1. Scientific studies support the use of positive behavior reinforcement with dogs. Perhaps the best advantage of positive behavior reinforcement over other behavior shaping strategies is the many scientific studies that support the use of positive reinforcement. The field of animal behavior is constantly evolving and research is increasingly supporting the effectiveness of positive reinforcement in shaping the behavior of dogs.

2. Reinforcement of positive behaviors builds your dog’s confidence. Dogs that are repeatedly punished for misbehaving can develop poor confidence and can begin to suffer the effects of a broken spirit. This is especially the case if punishment repeatedly occurs without any positivity from the dog’s family. Positive behavior reinforcement gives your dog’s confidence a boost by making him feel good about learning new behaviors. The result is a happier, more spirited dog that approaches learning with eagerness as opposed to fear.

3. Everyone in your household can provide positive behavior reinforcement. The simplicity of positive behavior reinforcement enables your whole family to take part in rewarding your dog’s good behavior. Even small children can learn how to spot desirable behaviors and reward your dog with praise or treats. In fact, children can learn a lot about the importance of displaying good behaviors when they participate in positive behavior reinforcement strategies.


4. Positive behavior reinforcement helps prevent your dog from “freezing up” due to fear. Training methods that involve the use of punishment or negative reinforcement can cause your dog to freeze due to fear of engaging in a behavior that may be punished. This can ultimately delay a dog’s development and learning of positive behaviors. Because positive behavior reinforcement strategies only focus on rewarding your dog for exhibiting good behavior, the tendency to experience freezing or stage fright is eliminated.

5. Your dog will look forward to training sessions. Your dog will look forward to learning new commands and behaviors when positive behavior reinforcement is used in training. Whether the positive reinforcement arrives in the form of a treat, a click and/or verbal praise, your dog will approach the learning process with anticipation as opposed to trepidation.

Bonus: Check out these five great training tools that will help with your positive behavior reinforcement strategy.


Sit! Stay! Read! Our 5 Favorite Training Tools for Dogs

Is your dog unruly and obnoxious? Doesn’t listen to a word you say? Or, have you just adopted an adult dog that seems to have either forgotten previous training or missed out on training all together?

Don’t worry, you can change your disobedient dog into a well-mannered member of the family. Puppies are not the only ones who thrive on direction and guidance.

Depending on the breed, however, your dog might be more stubborn than others about following commands, and sometimes the same old tricks don’t work on every dog. But you surely can’t give up on training, or your dog will think he’s in charge and there’s no finer way to define chaos.

If you feel like you’ve tried every tip in the book, check out five of our favorite training tools that you will not only love, but will help to transform your misbehaving dog into an obedient little treasure.

PetSafe Treat Pouch Sport

A crucial part of training is the reward for positive behavior. When your dog is aware he’s going to get a healthy treat for listening, it enables you to teach him nearly any command, while shaping his overall behavior. The Treat Pouch Sport by PetSafe is an awesome accessory for on-the-go training. It comes with divided pockets that stay open, so you can train with different treats, and numerous clips and loops that allow you to hook other training mechanisms to the pouch. It even has a front pocket for your keys or phone!

Starmark Pro-Training Clicker

Training with a clicker means you’re using a “secondary re-enforcer” that signals that the primary re-enforcer (a treat) is due. Clickers are probably the best and most consistent way of marking the successful accomplishment of a behavior. The Pro-Training Clicker from Starmark is easy to hold, with a raised button to prevent missed clicks. It's stainless, so it won’t rust, and it comes with a step-by-step training guide. A deluxe model that features a wristband is also available.

Walk Your Dog With Love Harnesses

Do you walk your dog, or does your dog walk you? There are several ways to train your dog in the art of leash walking so that there’s no pulling, and one of the best ways this is accomplished is with a good harness. Walk Your Dog With Love Harnesses lead your dog from the front to give you better steering and control. Because it is not rear-attached (like a collar, choker, or old-fashioned harness), you don’t trigger your dog’s natural “dog sled team” pulling instinct. And, it’s not around your dog’s throat, so you don’t hurt your dog as you teach them.


Doctors Foster and Smith Cotton Web Leads

Want to train outdoors? Training on lead allows you to test your dog’s recall and work on the “stay” command without the worry that a squirrel, dog, or passerby will have your dog running off to play. Even if your dog is well trained and normally well behaved, he may still occasionally become distracted by outdoor goings on, forget his training, and wind up in a dangerous situation. In these cases, a leash (or lead) may be a better option than a harness. These leads from Doctors Foster and Smith are available in six lengths (6 feet, 12 feet, 15 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, or 50 feet), are durably stitched, and are made with a comfortable cotton web that resists chafing. They come in black, green, or red.

Belly Bands Housebreaking Bands

Without the right advice, owners can flounder around trying to house train their puppies for months and, in some cases, years. Besides having the right know-how, you have to have the right tools. Belly Bands are designed as a training aid to teach dogs not to mark in the house. Used with a disposable pad, they prevent your dog from leaving urine on carpets and furniture. Since dogs don’t like wetting in the bands, they are a constant reminder not to mark in the house. Belly Bands are also great for incontinent dogs. They have cool designs for male dogs, and sleek, stylish options for female dogs, and can also help control the mess associated with female dogs in heat.

How to Teach Your Dog to “Come”

Coming to you when called is one of the more important skills your dog can learn. Although we strive never to put our dogs in unsafe situations, the “come” (or “recall”) command can avert a car-dog collision, a deer chase, or other hazards. On a more mundane but practical level, the “come” command presents your dog with opportunities for freedom precisely because you know you can call her back – in the park, on hiking trails, or anywhere.

To train your dog, you have to convince her that you’re more attractive than even temporary freedom. Training sessions should be short and rewards should always be given. But teaching a dog to come reliably is more difficult than it sounds; most dogs learn quickly that they can run faster than you can – and that it’s much more fun to escape than to walk placidly by your side.

Ideally, your dog shouldn’t be given freedom until she has proven her dependability at coming when called. Until then, you might limit her off-lead (leash) experiences to places where you won’t find it necessary to call her back, such as a fenced backyard. Enclosed areas are ideal for training because there’s no risk of escape (or injury) if your dog doesn’t return when you call her.

Live Free or Eat

How can you convince your dog that coming to you is better than running free? Two concepts to keep in mind are restraint (avoid allowing your dog to learn about the rewards of absolute freedom) and positive reinforcement (teach your dog that coming back when she’s called earns rewards).

Restraint can take the form of a long, lightweight check-type lead – check leads up to 50 feet long are available commercially – or just a simple six-foot lead. You need some tool for “capturing” your dog should she choose to be a fugitive from authority.

Positive reinforcements – or rewards – are crucial in any kind of training. For the average dog, food is an ideal reinforcer. Offer an immediate reward – a few pieces of sweetened breakfast cereal or freeze-dried liver bits – every time your dog returns on command, initially, at least. When you feel she’s more reliable about coming to you, wean her back to a reward intermittently, every second or third time, and taper off from there. However, there should always be some form of reward or praise at the end of the recall rainbow.

One Step at a Time

Starting in a non-distracting environment – such as your living room or the backyard -get your dog’s attention and then back away a short distance. Kneeling on the ground, hold your arms away from your sides and cheerfully shout, “Suzie, COME!” It may also help to run backward a few feet. Remember to keep your voice high and light; no dog is interested in coming to a stern-voiced, glum owner. If this doesn’t work, try “Suzie, come, good girl,” praising her even before she comes so that she knows she’s not in trouble.

Reward her for coming and start over, increasing your distance slightly. Keep these sessions short and don’t expect too much for the first few days. If your dog seems to be losing interest, stop the session after an easy success. As a general rule of dog training, sessions should always be short (approximately five to 10 minutes) and they should always end on a positive note. Gradually increase your distance and, eventually, environmental distractions. When you feel your dog is doing well, try her out in the park or another new place. 

Don’t remove your dog’s lead unless you know she’ll return to you; if you’re uncertain, walk up to her rather than calling her to you. Any opportunity to misbehave will quickly teach her that freedom’s more fun.

Never Punish

One critical rule of training is that you never scold your dog after she comes to you. This is important even if she has just chewed your custom-made, cowboy boots; if she approaches when called, you must praise and reward her. (It’s permissible and encouraged, however, to grit your teeth and count slowly to 100 to calm your nerves.) When your dog is familiar with what’s expected, try calling “come” while she’s busy sniffing or playing – again, a clothesline or other long lead, can provide a gentle reminder and eliminate the chances that she’ll reward herself while ignoring you.

Teaching Your Dog to “Fetch”

Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you and your pet. It’s best if your dog knows and reliably responds to the basic obedience commands of sit, stay and down before teaching him to perform tricks. Most tricks are built on basic obedience work anyway and, also, in the process of being taught “the basics,” your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.

If your dog has an orthopedic problem, check with your veterinarian before proceeding with more advanced training. Even relatively simple tricks can place unnecessary stress on bones and joints that are in any way compromised.

Successful of training of your dog hinges on rewarding the desired behavioral response in a timely fashion. The most valued rewards differ from dog to dog: For some, food it is the most powerful reward, for others, praise or petting are what they crave. Some dogs will do whatever their owners want them to, just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn and stick with it. Work with your dog daily in 5 to 15 minute sessions. Keep training fun, and end sessions on a high note with reward for a job well done. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.

To teach your dog to fetch, start with the object he loves most. With your dog on a long leash, give your dog the command “sit.” Take the object and toss it a small distance from the dog. Give the command, “fetch,” and let your dog run after the toy. Once he has it in his mouth, gently draw him back to you by means of the lead. Show him a tasty food treat and give him the command, “release.” It is very important that your pet give the object to you willingly. This is not a tug-of-war. Retrieving breeds will learn this trick quickly, and may play for hours. Other dogs may not be so enthusiastic about surrendering their favorite toy, so make sure you reward success exuberantly, lavishing your dog with praise and treats.

Once your dog reliably brings the object back to you, remove the leash and have him fetch the object on his own. For a more advanced “fetch,” teach your dog the names of different objects. Once he understands the concept of “fetch,” work with one object at a time and call it by name until he can identify the object by name. For example, if you want your dog to get the morning newspaper, start by throwing a paper. Give the command “fetch paper.” Your dog should bring you only the paper to receive his reward. As your dog learns the names of different objects, give him some mental exercise by laying out 3 or 4 different objects and asking for them by name. See how smart your dog is.
Continue to practice this over and over. Always use a happy singsong voice and lots of positive reinforcement. Eventually, your dog will understand and will begin fetching all kinds of things.

The keys to success when teaching your dog tricks are patience, practice, praise, and persistence (the 4 P’s). Every step in the right direction should be rewarded as though your dog had just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – and learning how to do them should be fun, too.

Introducing a New Dog Into Your Household

Introducing a new dog into a household where there is already another pet, whether a dog, cat, bird or small mammal, can be quite tricky. How to accomplish this without squabbles or bloodshed is a question often posed to animal behaviorists. The character of any new dog you plan to integrate is an important factor. Where possible, you should take into account the sex, age, breed, and past experience of any dog you plan bring home before making a commitment.

The impact of obtaining a new dog can be strenuous on the other pets in the household. However, once the initial stress of introductions has passed, the new arrangement can turn out to be a happy one!

Dog to Dog Introductions

If the incumbent dog has lots of energy for playing, obtaining a puppy or young adult dog is appropriate. However, if your present dog is unlikely to tolerate the antics and energy of an adolescent dog, consider getting an older dog that will not be trying to compel your old faithful to play all the time.

It’s best to choose a dog of the opposite sex to add to your household. This will decrease the chance of aggression. Begin by reading books that give unbiased opinions of breeds to choose the one that has the best chance of getting along with your resident dog.

Avoid breeds known for aggression to other dogs as a breed characteristic (e.g. pit bull terriers). Don’t get upset when the resident dog tells the newcomer to “bug off.” This is how the new dog learns the house rules. A hierarchy will develop over the first few weeks, and in general, the older and incumbent dog will and should occupy the “alpha position.”

Here are some tips on how to introduce two dogs:

  • It may be possible to introduce the dogs in a relaxed manner by just letting them sniff and play – as long as both are known to be friendly with other dogs.
  • If you are not sure how the dogs will react, start off cautiously by taking them for a walk together on neutral territory (e.g. a park, not your yard). When they show friendly behavior toward each other or begin to ignore each other, move the exercise to your back yard. Finally, allow the dogs to be together in your home.
  • Be aware that wagging tails do not necessarily mean that dogs are happy to see each other. A straight up tail that wags stiffly is a dominant signal. Such a display might herald aggression. If one of the dog’s tails is tucked down between its legs, that dog is afraid and nervous. This calls for a gradual, well-supervised approach to avoid making the dog even more fearful. If a dog’s tail is horizontal and wagging in a relaxed fashion, it’s all systems go!
  • When the dogs eventually meet off-leash, one of them is going to need to establish dominance. This is a normal and necessary step in a dog-dog relationship, but sometimes the process can look and sound pretty scary. The dogs will maneuver around each other and may even scuffle to the point at which one dog ends up on his back, with the other dog standing over him. There may be some nipping and grabbing of the neck or throat. Try not to worry too much when this happens. It is normal for dogs to engage in such roughness. Once the dominant dog establishes himself, he probably won’t feel the need to repeat these maneuvers as long as the subordinate does not keep “trying it on.”
  • Once the dogs are together, make sure that you support one dog as dominant (this will probably be the resident dog). Show him he is number one. He should be fed first, petted first, given attention first, and should be given the favorite sleeping area. Don’t expect the dogs to share. Sharing isn’t normal for most dogs. Feed the dogs separately (across the room) and don’t give really delicious chew toys (rawhides, pigs’ ears) at first. Once the hierarchy is secure, you’ll probably be able to give the dogs all the chew toys they want.
  • Dog to Cat Introductions

    Age and sex of a dog are not major concerns when adding a dog to a household where there is a cat. However, a puppy will naturally be more inclined to want to play with the cat, so if your feline will not tolerate a pushy puppy, consider an older dog.

    There’s an advantage, however, to adding a puppy to a cat-dominated household: the puppy will learn to tolerate or even like cats as he grows up. 

    If you are obtaining an adult dog, find out whether the dog has a past history of living amicably with cats, or has been tested with cats. If you are looking to obtain a dog from a breed rescue or professional breeder, take special care when considering a breed that has a reputation for being aggressive to cats.

    How to Teach Your Dog to “Sit”

    The “sit” exercise is probably the most practical skill you can teach your dog. Whether you’re waiting at the curb of a crowded street or competing in an obedience trial, you’ll thank yourself (and your dog) for taking the time to master this exercise.

    Teaching a dog to “sit” also provides a kind of obedience gateway to all the other basic exercises, including: “sit-stay,” “down,” “down-stay,” “come” and “heel.” Training should be fun and relatively easy: Use a food lure and positive reinforcement. Short, training sessions will help your dog learn quickly – even young puppies will be eager to work if the reward is enticing enough.

    Using a Food Lure

    Find a quiet indoor environment with few distractions. Start by using a small piece of food to lure your dog’s nose to point upward (toward the treat) and move the treat backwards over his head so that he naturally lowers his haunches to a sitting position. Don’t hold the treat too high or he may jump up for it.

    Be prepared: As soon as he sits, give him the treat food. Repeat the exercise, adding the word “sit,” so the dog can learn quickly what you expect of him; rather than forcing his body into position, allow him to discover what is required on his own. (Note: If your dog jumps at the food, you’re probably holding it up too high). 

    Once this exercise has been learned, take it on the road. When your dog has mastered the skill in the quietness of your yard, try asking him to sit in other places like on the sidewalk or in the garage. Then “up the ante” by having him follow the instruction in a busy, distracting place, like a park, supermarket entrance or a crowded sidewalk. As your dog proves he has learned the meaning of the word “sit,” taper off his rewards so that he only gets a treat every third or fourth time he sits. The goal of any reinforcement program should be to graduate to supplying rewards intermittently and on a variable schedule. By rewarding your dog unpredictably – but always continuing to offer rewards at times – you can best maintain his interest in the exercise.

    Think Positively

    The key to successful training is patience and a positive attitude. Scolding and physical force will only turn your dog off to the fun of these exercises. Try to keep your sessions short, approximately five to 10 minutes once or twice daily. Work with him only at times when he seems enthusiastic and attentive and end each session on a positive note. The more successful he feels, the more rewarding your efforts will be.

    Obedience Training Philosophies: What Kind Is Best for Your Dog?

    Obedience training is basically an education in good manners. And, just as it’s more pleasant to be around well-mannered people, so a well-behaved dog is more warmly welcomed than his overactive, aggressive canine cousin.

    In fact, obedience training is critical in nurturing the most positive aspects of human-animal relationship. Its basic elements – sit, down, stay, come and heel – help shape a good canine citizen.

    Obedience-trained dogs have an easier life than their untrained peers. If they resist 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 dinner parties. So, instead of thinking of a training program as a series of empty rituals, think of an education that will assist your dog coping in the real world.

    Obedience Classes

    If you’re inexperienced with training, consider enrolling your dog in a formal class (puppies can join “kindergartens” or pre-novice classes).

    Most basic obedience classes – typically at the “novice” or “pre-novice” level – include the basic exercises: “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come” and “heel.” Each plays an important role in day-to-day communication between people and their dogs – improving pups’ manners even and their safety.

    An experienced instructor can help guide you through issues, such as the timing of rewards when your dog “listens” and the best way to respond when he doesn’t listen. Even your facial expressions or body posture can affect your dog’s performance – subtle influences that you may not be able to detect without the help of a trainer. 

    In some classes, time is also devoted to exercises and behaviors such as: jumping up, dropping objects on command, and controlled walking (without a formal “heel”). There may be socialization exercises and short lectures on relevant topics in addition to the training. 

    An interesting evolution in thinking often occurs when people join training classes. Though they may have signed up for just one class – typically eight weeks of training – they enjoy the experience so much that they often re-enroll for the next level of training, and then the next. 

    To teach your dog anything new, the successfully completed task must result in some kind of reward. It’s unrealistic to imagine that your dog will perform a task simply because it pleases you – though some do seem particularly keen to satisfy their owners. But petting a dog may not be enough for some critters, especially for those excited dogs who would rather cavort than be petted by you, their momentary obstacle.

    In order to convince your dog that training exercises are fun, consider what he’ll work hardest for. For many dogs, the most compelling reward is a small piece of delicious food, such as breakfast cereal or freeze-dried liver. Others work for petting or praise. 
    Applying What You’ve Both Learned 

    Remember to use and practice exercises after you’ve been taught them. Your dog may “stay” beautifully in class, but may “act deaf” in other environments. So, help him practice – in your home, the backyard, near playgrounds and crowded shopping plazas. If you keep after him, he’ll remember to apply the skills he’s mastered in any circumstance, and will become the companion you always knew he could be.