Every dog owner wants their pup to be as well behaved as possible and to be able to follow commands. But where do you even begin in teaching them?
Dog trainer Trish Godfrey from TPL TRAINING shares her top tips and advice.
Why is dog training important?
As a responsible dog owner in today’s society, it’s important to have a happy, well-behaved dog you can be proud to take everywhere. Dogs naturally want to please their owner and owners want a pet they can take out and be proud of.
But, even more important, you need to be sure your dog is socialised and can be trusted in any circumstances. Dogs can be put to sleep if they bite someone, or be given a doggie “asbo” (Community protection notice) and made to be muzzled when in public, so it makes sense to socialise your pup and train them from an early age.
When to start training your dog
You should start training as soon as possible. If it’s a puppy, as soon as your dog has had its second vaccination and if they’re a rescue dog, as soon as they have decompressed.
Dogs don’t know they are being trained – they think it’s a fun game. That said, try to limit training to shorter busts to ensure the dog doesn’t get bored or tired. Keep it fun and remember to give plenty of praise when they get it right. Look for puppy socialising classes or Kennel Club Good Citizen classes for training based on reward and praise.
Using positive rewards in training
This is vital. The view of being ‘pack leader;’ or ‘dominant’ are considered outdated now. You should never show anger or frustration if a dog doesn’t ‘get it’ straight away. When the dog does do what you ask it to do , then respond immediately with a happy tone “YES!’ and reward them straight away.
Never use punishment
Training is always based on building trust and a bond between you and your dog. If punishment is used that relationship will break down and he will be wary of you. Dogs should want to make you happy, and when they know they have done that because they get a treat and reward, then you can see them trying to do it again and again.
What are the training basics to teach your dog?
The first thing to teach your dog is to focus on you and what you are saying.
- Take a high-value reward (basically a treat you know they love), show it to the dog in your hand so they know it’s there.
- Then raise the treat and your hand to your face and when the dog makes eye contact say “Watch me, YES’ and give the reward.
The aim is for them to check your eyes and face for instruction. This is an essential part of their basic training and is invaluable for helping them focus on you when you need them to do something.
This is to teach your dog to wait for further instructions on what they are expected to do. It’s important because it allows you to stop them from doing things that might be natural to them (for example, eating anything they find on a walk, running off to chase a cat).
- Start by showing them a treat and get them to sit. Once they have sat down, get them to “watch me” for more instructions.
- Place the treat on the floor and give the command WAIT. Hold their collar if necessary. Get them to check in again with another watch me and say again WAIT.
- Once you are sure they are focused on you and your next instruction tell them “HAVE IT’ and that is the command to pick up the treat.
- Lots of fuss and excitement when they get it right. Then build on this with longer times between the Wait and the Have it command. Then you can start using this command on walks, crossing roads, and so on.
How to train your dog to come to you - Recall
This is essential, to prevent your dog running off and getting lost.
- The easiest way is to have a long lead and allow your dog freedom to roam, with you holding the end.
- Then, call them back to you, showing them you have a high value treat in your hand. Pick a word they will associate with returning to you and being rewarded. I use a simple "COME."
- As soon as they get back to you, give them a happy, excited "YES", good dog and the reward. They will soon associate the COME with a treat.
What supplies do you need for dog training?
A good quality collar, not a choke chain.
Julius-K9 Colour and Gray Collar
Made from strong and durable high-quality materials, this lightweight collar won't stick to or irritate the fur of your pooch.
A short lead for walking and a long line for recall training. Avoid the automatic leads as these can cause your dog to be tangled up around other dogs and people. They also make a loud noise if they are dropped, which can startle your dog and cause it to run off.
Poppy + Ted lead
We love the wide range of fun designs on offer at Poppy + Ted. The leads have a soft neoprene padded handle and are quick drying so a great one for rainy walks.
Vivifying Dog Training Lead Leash
At 10m long, this training leash is made of strong nylon with a durable metal hook. The 28cm length D-ring is designed with a layer of cotton wrapped and it can be wound around your hand to adjust the length without hurting your hand like any other rope.
High-value treats are the key to training. Invest in a treat bag you can pop in your pocket or belt and fill with the kind of delicious treats they like best.
Kurgo Go Stuff-It Dog Treat Bag
Keep your pup's treats in this bag which has a wide opening for easy and quick reach and is made with reflective material for nighttime visibility.
Wagg Training Treats
Enriched with vitamins and minerals, these oven-baked dog treats have no artificial colours or flavours or added sugar.
• Reward all good behaviour
• Always have some high-value rewards with you
• Your tone of voice is everything. Keep the tone of your voice the same generally but:
If you are teaching your dog NO to stop them doing unwanted behaviour then remember to say it with a no-nonsense ton
As soon as they stop the unwanted behaviour, then reward them with "YES" in a high, fun tone.
• Don’t get stressed or impatient if your dog does not perform the task you are asking, take a break, play with your dog, have fun and come back to the training later
• Practice your training in all new or unusual environments, so your dog learns the commands are used wherever they are
What to look for in a training class
It's understandable that you might want further help and guidance in teaching your dog. This is where training classes can come in useful. When searching for a class, here's what you should look for:
• You want an instructor who uses only positive reward-based training
• Before committing, go along without your dog to a class, check there is space between dogs, and a controlled calm environment
• Talk to the instructor, are they a confident, knowledgeable instructor?
• Does the class have dogs of the same age and ability?
• Take time to read reviews of the training class