Golden Rules For Dog Training

  1. Be consistent Rules and commands are etched in stone, they do not change. “Sit” as opposed to “sit-down,” “down” as opposed to “lay-down”. Not on the furniture means always not on the furniture. It does not mean: don’t get on the furniture, accept on Wednesdays between noon and 4PM. – it’s OK then. Puppy confusion comes from rule changes.
  2. Preventing mistakes is easier than curing wrongs Educating and managing your dog is much easier, and more fun, than un-learning bad habits.
  3. Communicate clearly to your dog Audible voice, clear articulation: if they can’t hear or understand you, it’s tough for them to learn.
  4. It takes as many times as it takes. If it is 10,000? So be it. Never let the dog out-will you or discourage you when a training objective is set. Be patient. Have an iron resolve and focus. Avoid saying: I give up teaching this dog to (fill in command here). Let’s take sit for example. The scenario could sound like this: Sit Fido….sit ….Fido…SIT!….SIT…..SIT!!!…..SIT FIDO!!…Sit!!. I give up, he won’t sit. Don’t let this be you. Give the command, if Fido does not sit, show Fido what “sit” means by gently pulling up on Fido’s collar while firmly, and gently, pushing his rear end down. Repeating a command out of frustration could possibly habituate the dog to the command and soon the command will just be meaningless noise.
  5. Keep your dog’s attention at all times This develops focus on you and helps eliminate distractions for your dog.
  6. Avoid training if you are not in a good mood or agitated Ever meet someone while you are not in the best frame of mind and get asked: everything OK? Your dog can tell too. If you do lose patience, who bears the brunt of the anger outpouring? Your dog. This is a negative event for your dog and will not take them long to tune you out all together thus making you even more frustrated.
  7. Patience and perseverance leads to success If at first you don’t succeed…… try again…and again…and again – if necessary – and always with a smile:)
  8. Repetition helps learning – be mindful of boredom How many times can you listen to the same song, the same story or eat the same meal before boredom sets in? Before you want to do or try something else?
  9. Each dog is different: breed, temperament intelligence It is generally easier to teach a Labrador Retriever than a Mastiff to play fetch.
  10. Avoid using your dog’s name when giving a command Saying dogs name then command is associating of the dog’s name with something the dog may not want to do. Look at your dog, give the command once, then show your dog what you want them to do if the command is not executed on first request. This is called “finishing the command”. Provide ample reward for executing command, verbal, physical and food (treat) even if you help your dog what the command (request) is.
  11. 11: Ample and enthusiastic praise for the good, ignore the unwanted Good dog, you’re so smart, good boy/girl, you’re such a good hunter, you’re such a fast runner – anything positive in a happy and enthusiastic voice tone. Rub on ribs, scratch/rub back.
  12. Train in different locations with different distraction levels Gradually increase distraction levels of your training area; this helps your dog focus level, build up from no or low distraction location to higher level distraction areas.
  13. Use three distinct tones when educating your dog:
    FIRM – to give commands
    HARSH – for corrections
    HAPPY – for praise
  14. Use distractions on review work, avoid distraction when learning new material When we teach sit, concentrate on sit. Avoid being in a high distraction location where there might be : cats, squirrels, bikes, joggers, for example.
  15. Avoid practicing “sit and stay” & “down and stay” together This could cause confusion in a puppy brain. Remember: clarity is key in communicating with your dog.
  16. All learning experiences are a two-way street Educating and managing your dog is a great way to get to know yourself and your dog. It’s a great way for your dog to get to know you too!
  17. Human enter and exit entry-ways first. Human up and or downstairs stairs first. This includes all door-ways (home, friend’s house, apartments, stores, park gates, elevators, escalators, or any passage-way. Human leads, every time. Not only does this practice help establish human/owner as the leader, but it also helps with safety. You do not want your dog nudging you on a stairway when you are carrying a load of laundry, or a baby.
  18. Always remain calm, cool and collected when in the house. In the house is like in a yoga studio. Calmness and serenity prevail. No playing ball, fetch, tug-o-war, Frisbee in the house. This is play for outdoors. Teaching dogs to be calm, cool and collected in the house will have systemic benefits throughout the training process.
  19. Training should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. Training should be fun for the owner(s) and the dog. Have several training sessions during the day – there is no limit to the amount of training sessions for you and your dog in the run of a day. Show your dog and lots of enthusiasm during the training session – smiles everybody…smiles! . Be invested, interested and engaged in the training process. This will benefit owner and dog and help foster a strong bond between human and dog.
  20. Training is a process. Some processes take longer than others. It is a long and involved process to become a doctor. It is a short process to order a pizza. Training a dog is somewhere in between. Regardless of how long the training process is, enjoy it.
  21. Pick the dog you need, not the dog you want.  When asked: What made you get (fill in breed of dog here) – most people (90-95%) respond: “I just love the way they look”, or a variation of this. Completely understandable, who doesn’t want what they believe to be a beautiful dog? If you run 10k five days a week, maybe a Dalmatian, Vizla or beagle would be a good fit. If you are not so active, maybe a Mastiff or Great Dane would work. Highly active and energetic people could consider a Border Collie or German Shepherd. Think about this: you have a spouse and two active kids. You need a new vehicle. Likely not on the list: Ferrari, Miata, Beatle. Vehicles that might be a better fit: any mini-van, Ford F-150, maybe an SUV.
  22. Tension creates tension. If your dog is pulling on the leash, for whatever reason, the more the human pull south, the more your dog will pull north. Your objective is to have no leash tension at any time. To do this your dog needs to be cool, calm and collected in various situations. So do you.

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