Dogs are a true joy, especially when they are well-behaved and polite. But, every dog owner knows that a well-mannered pooch requires time, dedication, and deliberate training. Whether you are hoping to teach your puppy basic commands, or to help your older pet become more calm and confident, training your pet is not only a great idea, but also an important part of being a responsible dog owner. A variety of specific training programs and techniques are available, and while no one training program is better than another, there are some common themes, outlined below. 

Do give your pet positive reinforcement

When you use positive reinforcement in your pet’s training program, you focus on rewarding her for good behavior rather than punishing her for bad behavior. This practice not only encourages your dog to perform desired behaviors, but may also boost her self-esteem and attitude. Clicker training is a popular positive-reinforcement method, and involves a simple tool, such as a whistle or actual clicker, that is used to immediately signal and reward the desired behavior. Many trainers find that when timed correctly, clickers help dogs better understand what they did right. For instance, you tell your dog to lie down, she does so, but then immediately pops back up—if you still give her a treat, she may not fully understand why she was rewarded. You can start clicker training with your dog by first helping her understand that a click—or whistle—results in a reward. 

Don’t punish your dog

Punishing your pet for bad behavior is essentially the opposite of using positive reinforcement for good behavior. While negative attention may help deter certain unwanted behaviors, it can also make your dog unnecessarily stressed and anxious. Products that provide such negative reinforcement if your dog behaves badly include collars that shock her with electricity, or a spray of citronella. This training style may have a place with professional trainers, but it is not recommended for novice pet owners, who may overuse the devices. 

Do be consistent with your dog

Whether your goal is to housetrain your puppy, or to teach basic commands to an adult dog, perhaps one of the most important aspects of training is consistency. Try not to miss an opportunity to reward your pet, and reward her often, when she behaves well. If she urinates in the house or jumps on a visitor, decide how you will correct her, and do it every single time. The more often she receives your feedback, the quicker she will learn. 

Don’t rush your pet

Training your pet requires an abundance of patience, and while some dogs are easier to train than others, no pet should be rushed through a training regimen. This is a learning process for both you and your pet, who needs your calm guidance. Remember, your pet wants only to please you, so give her the opportunity to do so, and grant her the patience and consistency she deserves. 

Do get the family involved in pet training

The more people who teach your pet commands, the more apt she will be at taking direction from others. This becomes important in situations such as kennels and day-care facilities, or when she is under someone else’s care. Teach your family and friends your training methods so they know what to do when your pet performs a certain behavior. 

Don’t forget to practice with your dog

Your pet is only as well-behaved as she’s been taught, so provide her with enough time and the circumstances to learn. Practice commands and other training techniques outside the home, and with distractions, to accustom your pet to other surroundings. Allowing her to frequently socialize with other dogs will also help her learn socially acceptable behaviors. If you use every moment with your dog as an opportunity to teach and shape her, you will get the greatest reward—a well-mannered, happy canine companion. 

If you have questions regarding dog training, or would like a referral for a dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist, contact our team.