How To Dog Train: Simple Steps To Take
A lot of us take pride in how well behaved and trained our dogs can be. However, dog training doesn’t only give you bragging rights, but it’s also an excellent way to strengthen your bond with your pooch and spend some quality time together, especially if you approach their training with a positive reinforcement mindset!
If you want to know how to dog train in simple steps, you’ve come to the right place!
In today’s guide, I’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide that walks you through various tricks and essentials that you teach your dog, especially an older puppy or a recently mature one. Let’s check them out!
Important Tips While Training Your Dog
One of the cornerstones of a successful dog training session is to lay a foundation of principles that you have to apply regardless of what you’re trying to teach your dog.
Understanding these essential principles doesn’t only improve the efficiency of dog training sessions but also helps you understand how to train your dog to do or stop doing anything.
In this section, I’ll discuss some of the most important tips that anyone should keep in mind while training their dogs.
1. Understand How Dogs Perceive Training
The first thing you need to keep in mind while training a dog is that dogs perceive training as an action and reward game, and while they can associate certain actions with rewards, they don’t necessarily understand the cause.
For that reason, when dogs are trained positively, you should reward them immediately upon their success, either verbally or with treats.
In some cases, late rewards are worse than not rewarding them at all because it can confuse them on what exactly to do to get rewarded.
The general idea while training your dog to do any certain action is to alert them that there is going to be a reward every time they do the right thing. Consistency will always be the key to helping your dogs learn any trick or avoid any unwanted action.
2. Keep Variations and Inconsistencies in Mind
While dogs may share various characteristics, they can vary significantly depending on a wide range of aspects.
Different breeds respond to training differently, which usually depends on the breed’s genetic tendency to do the opposite.
For example, if you’re training a beagle not to bark loudly, you should expect the training to take much longer than some other dogs, as they’re known for being the most generally vocal breed out there.
Additionally, age is a critical factor for the success of the training. Ideally, a puppy will learn certain behaviors much quicker than an adult dog from the same breed because younger dogs have a larger capacity to engrave the information in their brains.
However, puppies have a very low attention span, so they can be easily distracted while training. In fact, some dogs will lose the capacity to learn certain behaviors or tricks if they don’t have the proper foundation for it during their puppy-hood.
3. Don’t Rely Solely on Treats
Using treats is, by far, the most popular method to train your dog to do any certain trick, as they’re a simple and delicious way to trigger reward centers in your dog’s brain and alert them that they’re doing what they should.
However, one of the major mistakes that some inexperienced dog owners make when they try to train their dogs is “over-treating” their dogs. This comes with many problems that can make training sessions more challenging moving forward, such as:
- Treats are among the highest level of reward your dog can have, so relying solely on treats makes any other forms of reward a little obsolete.
- Showering your dog with treats while training will make your dog extremely frustrated when they’re denied treats during training. This can make your dog whine loudly and stop responding to training altogether.
For that reason, the right way to approach a reward system with your dog should include different forms of rewards.
For example, you should consider using different types of treats, leaving the highest quality one only for the most difficult training sessions. This makes it more lucrative for your dog to obey and do the right thing.
Additionally, you should consider using verbal praise as an instant and quick alternative to treats for simple and repetitive tasks, such as “good boy” or “good girl”, especially when used in a high pitched tone and combined with enthusiasm.
You should also reward your dog for being calm, which happens by putting a treat between the dog’s paws when they’re well behaved and extra calm. This encourages your dog to keep its cool and resist the temptation of whining for treats.
In addition to praises, you can also use clickers to reward your dog. To associate the click sound with rewards, you should use the clicker once and give your dog a treat every time your dog does the right thing.
After that, start using the clicker without giving a treat randomly to reward your dog. With time, the click sound, even without treats, is going to be a reward itself.
4. Never Scold Your Dog for an Unsuccessful Training Session
You should also keep in mind that some sessions may not turn out exactly as you expected them to be.
After all, your dog might be a little stubborn, exhausted that day, or frustrated about any events that happened earlier.
In that case, you shouldn’t scold or punish your dog because this will only make things more difficult for your dogs as they start to be discouraged to trust you, which can hurt future training sessions.
It’s quite critical to always start new training sessions with a smile on your face and keep your expectations realistic.
5. Start Training with As Little Distractions As Possible
Dogs are inquisitive by nature, so they’ll always be looking around for anything that might stimulate them or pique their interest.
While it’s always a good thing to train your dog to adapt to training anywhere, starting with a noisy or visually distracting spot can make sessions less productive.
Since we always want the training sessions to be short, you should make sure that they’re free from unnecessary distractions that may prevent your dog from being fully focused on you.
It’s also good to associate a certain spot with training (at first) because once they’re there, their brain will become much easier to enter focus mode.
While picking a good spot for training your dog you should consider a location that is relatively quiet with decent lighting and space so that nothing is in the way.
You should also remove any unnecessary toys or gadgets from that spot, especially when training behavior for the first time.
As time moves forward, you can then shift the training to rooms with a little more distraction in them or even outdoors, which can passively train your furry friend to avoid the temptation of getting distracted.
How to Train Dogs to Come When Called
The first thing you need to teach your dog is to respond to a certain cue or to their name. This command will come in handy in a wide range of situations and even older dogs can still learn it easily.
Of course, the younger your dog is, the easier this training will be. But in general, it shouldn’t take a lot of time before your dog picks it up.
Here’s how to do it:
- Take your dog to a quiet training room with as little noise as possible to make the command easy to hear.
- Allow your dog to roam around the room freely while you sit somewhere a few feet away in the room.
- Use your cue of choice, whether it’s “come”, a certain whistle, or your dog’s name, and give your dog another treat when the dog looks towards you.
- Repeat the same action a few times and make sure that the treats are a little closer to you every time, regardless of the dog’s location.
- If your dog stays close to you, get up and sit somewhere else. Wait until your dog is a few feet away, then repeat the cue.
- Start calling your dog when they’re not looking at you without tossing a treat. As soon as they look at you, toss them a treat, and give them another when they come to you. If they don’t come, simply toss another treat right in front of you so they’re within arms reach, then feed them another treat by hand.
- Keep building up the training until your dog comes to you every time you call them while you’re sitting in various places and by increasing the distance between you and the dog.
- Next, start calling your dog while standing and moving around so that your dog understands that it should come to you regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.
- Keep calling your dog from various areas around the house and giving them a treat or praise as they come.
- Advance the training by calling your dog across rooms before taking the training to secure outdoors.
Remember to never grab or punish your dog when they come, especially if they’re puppies because they’ll get scared and may not come to you when you call them again.
You want them to come when called knowing that they’re getting rewarded and not going to get hurt or scared.
How to Train Your Dog to Socialize with Humans
Whether you want your dog to socialize with other humans or with dogs, you need to start from an early age. Puppies are much more open to dealing with others than older dogs, especially if you adopted a dog that suffered from traumatic experiences.
In some cases, training alone may not be enough to help your dog socialize with other humans or dogs, so you might consider counseling and seeking the help of a professional.
Here’s how to introduce your dogs to the idea of communicating with other humans:
- The key to socializing with others is to make it a worthy experience for your dog, so make sure that you start by exposing your dog to those who will make your dog feel safe. This includes your close friends and family members.
- When your dog looks secure around others in the house, start taking your dog on daily walks in a controlled area, such as around your block or in parks, but always keep your dog on a leash (more about that in the following sections).
- Give your dogs a lot of praise and treats when they’re sitting calm while mentioning the word “calm”. This way, they’ll associate the word with being quiet.
How to Train Your Dog to Socialize with Other Dogs
Although dogs have their way of communicating with each other, getting your dog to socialize with others can be a bit tricky, here’s how to do it the right way:
- Start by exposing your dog to a single dog that is known for being gentle and easy-going around other dogs.
- Allow your dog to observe the other dog, and give your dog a treat if it remains calm around it to create a positive association with getting close to calm dogs.
- Start approaching the other dog slowly if your dog seems calm, but walk away if your dog starts acting aggressively.
- Avoid comforting your dog if it starts to act aggressively towards other dogs, and take a few steps back without tugging your dog’s leash.
- Remove your dog immediately if other dogs start acting aggressively towards them.
- When your dog is calm around individual dogs, consider taking them to a dog park or dog class to meet new dogs.
How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Walking on a leash is very important for the safety of your dog and others. While it’s pretty easy to train a pup to walk on a leash, training an older dog can be a little more difficult but manageable.
For starters, it’s recommended that you buy a good quality leash that is comfortable and has about 3 to 4 feet of length. Ideally, I prefer a leash with a harness because it’s more gentle on your dog and doesn’t freak them out when pulled accidentally. Here’s how to get your dog to walk on a leash:
- Start by buying a suitable sized leash and harness for your dog, and allow your dog to sniff them in order to feel safe around them.
- Put the harness loosely on your dog but avoid making it too loose that it falls off. Allow your dog some time to get used to the harness attached to them.
- Once your dog is fully settled in the harness, praise them in order to associate good things with wearing a harness.
- Attach the leash to the harness and let your dog roam freely inside the house with it, and give them a treat as soon as they’re calm around the leash.
- Once your dog is comfortable around the leash, adjust the harness so that it’s secure on your dog.
- Pick a side that you want your dog to walk by, and fill that side’s pocket with treats, then hold the leash and keep your dog around you without walking just yet.
- When your dog is calm, take one step forward with the leash, then give it a treat from that side.
- Continue walking slowly and don’t mind the dog’s whining and signs of frustration as you walk.
- Don’t stop and comfort your dog because this will only encourage them to act out even more. Once your dog starts walking along in the same direction, stop and feed your dog some treats.
- Continue building up more distance by adding a few more steps of walking properly before stopping and treating/praising.
- Never pull hard or scold your dog if it walks in other directions. Instead, you should just ignore your dog and continue walking slowly in your direction without giving any treats, then reward them as soon as your dog corrects its path.
- Take the training outdoors gradually by walking across rooms, then switching to a confined area outdoors.
How to Train Your Dog to Sit and Wait
Sitting patiently is one of the most sought-after behaviors for dogs. Luckily, with this technique, your dog will master the waiting exercise. Here’s how to do it:
- First, you need to teach your dog to sit. For that, you’ll need to stand in front of your dog while holding treats.
- Put the treats above your dog’s nose, and move your hand forwards until your dog sits down.
- As soon as your dog sits, praise them and say “yes!”, and let them eat the treat.
- Repeat this exercise a couple of times until your dog quickly assumes the sitting position for the treat
- Start incorporating the “sit” command by saying it immediately as your dogs sit down for a treat.
- Start adding a release cue for when you let your dog stand up and move around, such as “Go!”. To incorporate it, simply say the word as soon as you give them the treat, and another treat as they move around.
- Repeat this step until your puppy associates the command with sitting before seeing the treat.
- Start building up time between sitting and getting the treat by holding out the treat for longer and then by placing your hand above the puppy’s head without a treat.
- If the dog starts whining, avoid encouraging them to go louder by ignoring the whines. Instead, try to stretch out the training on more sessions and take a step back if your dog starts moving around.
- Take the waiting a little further by leaving the room while your dog is waiting. You may also use the command “wait” before leaving to separate the two commands.
How to Train Your Dog to Leave and Drop Things
If your dog tugs on things, you can easily train your dog to leave and drop things on command.
Here’s how to do it:
- Give your dog a command to sit and wait.
- Get a new toy that your dog didn’t see before and place it in front of your dog.
- Give your dog a “Go!” command.
- Once your dog bites on the toy, tell your dog “Drop” without pulling on the toy. Instead, hold out the treat and wait until your dog drops the toy, then give it the treat as soon as your dog drops the toy.
- Repeat the exercise until your dog immediately drops the toy on command.
- Start using different toys and items to associate the drop command with just about any item.
Keep in mind that some dogs are extra mouthy or destructive, which can be due to psychological issues, such as separation anxiety. In that case, your dog will require psychological counseling to solve the problem.
How to Teach Your Dog to Pee in a Specific Spot
Proper bathroom rules are one of the most important aspects of training for a new dog. However, you can still teach your dog to go to the bathroom in one spot even if the dog is relatively old.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by creating a proper schedule around the bathroom time of your dog. Ideally, most dogs will go to the bathroom after activities. For example, as soon as they wake up, after meals, after naps, etc.
- Around these times, take your dog on a leash to the spot outside where they should go, and leave them there until they go. You may also say a cue word to associate it with potty time in the future.
- As soon as your dog goes, give your dog a treat, then take it back inside.
- Return back to the same spot with your dog on a leash to the exact spot and say the cue word, then wait until your dog goes.
- Give your dog its treat immediately and get back inside.
- Continue on this schedule.
What Are The Easiest Dog Breeds to Train?
As previously mentioned, not all dogs are created equal, as some dog breeds are generally prized for their natural ability to learn tricks and adapt to training quickly.
Ideally, if your dog is among the following breeds, you’re in luck because these breeds are among the easiest to teach new tricks:
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Welsh Corgi
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Shepherd
However, even among these breeds, your dog’s character and temperament can vary greatly, which can be a major factor in your dog’s openness to learning new tricks and response to behavioral training in general.
In addition to the breed of your dog, other factors will also play a significant role in training, such as your approach, your dog’s age, and the type of training or tricks you want your dog to learn.
Regardless of your dog’s breed, you’ll always need to spend some time in order to help your dog figure out the trick and what they’re supposed to do.
Moreover, even if your dog’s breed isn’t on that list, that doesn’t mean that your dog won’t learn the previously mentioned behaviors and tricks.
At the end of the day, all dogs that are treated nicely will want to please their owners, so they’ll eventually follow all your instructions if you’re patient and consistent enough.
This wraps it up for today’s guide that walks you through brief guides to train your dog with simple steps. As you can see, training your dog can be surprisingly easy if you understand the basics of training a dog.
Dogs are intelligent creatures who like their owners and would do anything to make them happy. That’s why positive reinforcement, combined with patience and realistic expectations, is the best way to train your dog!