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Dog training is a huge part of owning a dog – a trained dog is a pleasure to be with and quickly becomes a valuable member of the family! Dogs do not naturally ‘know’ how to behave in a way that is acceptable in our society, so we must teach them. It is a skill that both owner and dog learn together. Our dogs are keen to please us – so if they are not doing as you ask, you may not be using language and commands they understand. Once trained, walking and playing with a dog that is controlled can provide us with a lot of enjoyment.
When should I start training my dog?
Training your dog should begin as soon as they arrive, whether it be a puppy or an adult dog. You must decide the ground rules beforehand and stick to them. It is much better to prevent behaviour problems than to have to deal with them later on. For puppies, you should attend a puppy socialisation class taught by experienced, qualified trainers. Puppies are socialised which is very important for their development and owners are taught basic dog training tips. For a dog of any age it can be very helpful to join a training class for guidance, support and socialisation.
What is the most important training?
Some basic skills that teach your dog appropriate behaviours are:
What is the best training method?
Reward-Based Positive Reinforcement Training is the best way to train a dog. When they associate their good behaviour with praise and a reward they are more likely to keep doing it. The reward must occur immediately after the event (within a few seconds), as they only associate the behaviour and the reward if it is immediate. The reward can be praise, such as saying ‘Good Dog’, offering a food treat or their favourite toy. Positive training is more fun for both of you and strengthens your bond. Therefore you must ignore any unwanted behaviour, such as jumping up or barking excessively. Your dog learns that unwanted behaviour does not give them any attention.
How long will the training take?
For dogs of all ages, each training session should be no longer than 10–15 minutes per day. Always start off in a quiet area with no distractions. Once your dog is performing the task reliably, you try it in a ‘real’ situation. Dogs can be trained to perform almost any task if you use clear commands and a suitable reward. Training should be continued throughout their life so it is reinforced. To modify existing problem behaviour, you should first rule out a medical problem with your vet.
Should I be the only trainer in my household?
It is vital to the success of your dog’s training, that everyone in the household is involved. If everyone is consistent with training your dog will learn much more quickly. Consistency is the key to your success. You also need to have realistic expectations of your dog. Training takes time and it must be reinforced constantly. Especially if you are removing “normal” dog behaviour such as barking, digging and jumping that your dog has practised for a long time. It is never too late to change their behaviour but the longer it has been there the longer it will take to remove.