Are You Making These 10 Training Mistakes?

After thousands of years of practice, you might think that training a dog would be a natural, almost intuitive, process for us humans. But, too often, we make honest errors in training that result in nagging misbehaviors and strained relations. Owing to the dog’s resilient nature, minor mistakes rarely result in catastrophe. But major errors can cost owners (and dogs) years of frustration. I’ve therefore listed the ten biggest training mistakes I see owners make and offer alternatives to improve your chances of keeping you and Fido on the straight and narrow. Note that these are related to training techniques only, and not to other important areas such as socialization, enrichment, or exercise.  

1. You don’t train your dog often enough

How often should you really wash your dog? - ABC Everyday Most of us do teach basic behaviors and routines to our new dogs. But once the relationship stabilizes, we often allow our dogs to go on “auto-pilot.” Consequently, response times for important behaviors can worsen; often a dog won’t even respond. This degradation is simply a function of a lack of practice; if you play golf only once a year, you’re going to stink at it, right? Instead of “training then forgetting,” keep your dog’s established behaviors sharp by working them randomly and regularly, several times each day. “Sit” for dinner, “wait” at doors, “down” at the dog park; be spontaneous and unpredictable. Then, each month, teach a new behavior—a trick will do—to keep your dog’s mind and motivation up. The larger your pet’s repertoire of behaviors, the smarter he or she gets, and the more important you become.  

2. You repeat commands

I see this often, especially among newbie owners with challenging dogs. The owner has taught a behavior such as “sit,” but, due to distractions, bad technique, or confusion on the dog’s part, the pet fails to respond. The owner asks repeatedly until, after the sixth or seventh attempt, the dog halfheartedly sits. This stalling becomes a learned behavior, one that’s hard to break. This often occurs with behaviors that haven’t been fully proofed, or with one the dog doesn’t particularly like to perform. Headstrong dogs, for instance, hate to lie down, as it is an admission of deference. Timid dogs also resist lying down, a position they might deem too unsafe. When I teach “sit,” I do so as if it’s a fun trick; I treat reward at first, praise, then work it in other locations, reducing treat rewards along the way while increasing praise. I make sitting, lying down, or coming when called the greatest things to do. Once you are sure a dog knows a behavior, ask only once! If you are ignored, it’s either because you haven’t taught it properly, or the dog is distracted or simply rebellious (yes, they can be!). Take Fido to a quiet spot and ask again; if he still doesn’t respond, go back to basics and re-teach, avoiding the mistake of asking multiple times, or of making the behavior seem dreary or unbeneficial. If you suspect your dog is simply blowing you off, don’t be afraid to show your disappointment by saying in a convincing tone: “No; sit.” One other tip; after asking once without response, wait a moment, while looking your dog square in the eye and moving in a bit closer. Often this will be enough to get the dog to comply. Then praise!  

3. Your training sessions run too long or too short

Teaching new behaviors to a dog is a process of evolution, not revolution. The key is in knowing that it’s usually going to take numerous sessions to perfect a new behavior. Time spent on a training session should reflect some positive result; as soon as you attain some obvious level of success, reward, then quit. Don’t carry on and on, as you’ll likely bore the dog, and actually condition it to become disinterested in the new behavior. Likewise, don’t end a session until some evidence of success is shown, even if it’s a moment of focus or an attempt by the dog to try to perform. Remember that ten one-minute sessions in a day trump one ten-minute session every time.  

4. Your dog’s obedience behaviors are not generalized to varying conditions

4 Things Your Dog Trainer Wishes You Knew | PetCoach If you teach Fluffy to “sit” in the quiet of your family room, that’s the only place she will reliably sit. It’s a mistake that many owners make; failing to generalize the new behavior in different areas with varying conditions and levels of distraction will ensure spotty obedience at best. To generalize a behavior, first, teach it at home with no distractions. Then, gradually increase distractions: turn the television on or have another person sit nearby. Once that’s perfected, move out into the yard. Then add another person or dog. Gradually move on to busier environments until Fluffy will perform consistently, even on the corner of a busy city street. Only then will the behavior be “proofed.” This generalizing is especially vital when teaching the recall command, a behavior that might one day save your dog’s life. [For more information on the reliable recall, go to]  

5. You rely too much on treats and not enough on praise, esteem, and celebrity

Treats are a great way to initiate a behavior or to reinforce that behavior intermittently later on. But liberal use of treats can often work against you. There can develop in the dog’s mind such a fixation on food that the desired behavior itself becomes compromised and focus on the owner diffused. Think of it: you’ll rarely see hunting, agility, Frisbee, or law enforcement dogs being offered food rewards during training or job performance. Why? Because it would break focus and interfere with actual performance. Instead, other muses are found, including praise and, perhaps, brief play with a favorite toy. Most of all, the reward for these dogs comes from the joy of the job itself. By all means, initiate new behaviors with treats. But once Fido learns the behavior, replace treats with praise, play, toy interludes, or whatever else he likes. Remember that unpredictable treat rewards work to sharpen a behavior, while frequent, expected rewards slow performance and focus. Also, understand that you are a reward as well; you responding happily to something your dog has done will work better than a treat, and have the added effect of upping your “celebrity quotient.”  

6. You use too much emotion

Excessive emotion can put the brakes on Fluffy’s ability to learn. Train with force, anger, or irritation and you’ll intimidate her and turn training sessions into inquisitions. Likewise, train with hyperbolic energy, piercing squeals of delight, and over-the-top displays of forced elation, and you will stoke her energy levels far beyond what is needed to focus and learn. I tell students to adopt a sense of “calm indifference”—a demeanor suggesting competence, and a sense of easy authority. A laid-back, loving, mentoring kind of energy that calms a dog, and fills it with confidence. If your dog goofs up, instead of flying off the handle, back off, and try again. Likewise, if she gets something right, instead of erupting with shrill pomp, just calmly praise her, smile, then move on. She will gradually imprint on this relaxed attitude and reflect it.  

7. You are reactive, not proactive

Dog training is a lot like the beautiful martial art of Tai Chi, with equal parts physical and philosophical. It takes timing, technique, and stamina, as well as a devotion to understanding the canine mind. It is not a skill that can be learned by watching one half-hour television show or from reading a few books. It takes time. As a result, many dog owners have not yet mastered the timing and insight needed to train as capably as they might like. Like someone playing chess for the first time, they react to their opponent’s moves instead of planning their own. When you simply react to Fido’s misbehaviors, you lose the opportunity to teach. Instead, practice your technique; anticipate his reactions ahead of time, becoming more proactive in the process. For example, if trying to quell a barking issue, instead of waiting for the barks to start, catch Fido right before his brain says “bark,” and distract it into some other, more acceptable, behavior. Know that whatever stimulus is causing the barking needs to be either eliminated or redefined as a “good thing” in the dog’s head. This takes experience and a proactive role on your part.  

8. You are inconsistent

Dogs need to feel that their mentors and providers are consistent in behavior and in the ruleset. If you vary training techniques too much, especially in the beginning, you’ll diminish your dog’s ability to learn. For instance, if one day you stay patient with a stubborn dog, but the next day lose your cool, she won’t be able to predict how you’ll react at any given moment. This breaks confidence and trust. Instead, stick to a consistent methodology and be unswerving regarding what is suitable behavior. For instance, if Fluffy isn’t allowed on the bed, but you let it happen two times out of ten, that’s inconsistent. Set rules and stick to them.  

9. You lack confidence

Loss of confidence is a weakness, and I think that, as natural predators, dogs can sense it instinctively. It’s why frightened people get bitten more often than calmer individuals. Show a lack of confidence and Fido will exploit it. That’s not a condemnation of your pet; it’s just a dog’s nature. To avoid this, simply work with him more and attain some training successes. Attending a class with him can work wonders to increase your confidence, as can you spending time with other dogs. Try trading dogs with a friend every so often for a different experience. Take your dog into different venues, and push yourself and your dog to learn more. Practice!  

10. You don’t train the individual dog

How to Potty Train a Dog When You Live in a High-Rise Apartment Every dog has a distinct personality and behavioral profile. Though breed helps determine this, the individual dog’s character must be understood before training can succeed. As a trainer, you must determine what methods will work best with your dog. For example, most retrievers are very sociable and can handle lots of people or dogs around them. But try this with a Chow Chow or Shiba Inu, and you may be in for a surprise. Likewise, a dog with a high food drive will respond to treats, while a dog with a low food drive may require a different muse. A shy dog will fare poorly with a robust training technique, whereas a swashbuckling dog might not even hear the gentle appeals coming from a trainer with a less hardy style. Think timid Toy Poodle versus rowdy Rottweiler. If you have a shy dog, plan on showing a saint’s patience. Train peacefully, with little distractions at first. Train to the dog’s limitations, but plan to gradually sneak in social situations to desensitize and build confidence. If your dog is a big, bulldozing lummox, be just as big, just as hearty. Know that this dog can be challenged more than that timid dog. And know that, because of its size and strength, you simply must achieve control over it, especially in social situations. For dogs in between, reason out a training strategy based upon personality, size, age, energy, breed, and history. If you stick to these basic guidelines, you’ll slowly redefine yourself as the resident trainer, and not just your dog’s concierge. Practice, succeed, be confident, and have fun with your protégé!… Read More »

Dog breeds that are super easy to train

When it comes to getting a puppy, it's important to know how to train it so that both you and your pet will be happy, you can fit into each other's lifestyles and they will be well-behaved as adult dogs.

Obviously, this can be out of our control when rescuing an older animal, but for younger dogs from rescue centers or newborn puppies, it's important to have a training plan.


Many dog owners will require a well-behaved, well-trained dog – this could be because of health considerations or physical disabilities, the size and shape of their home, or lifestyle factors. Some people might not have the time and resources to raise a dog who is less likely to be obedient due to early life trauma.

For the animal, a well-trained dog is a happy one, so it benefits everyone.

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Carolyn Menteith, dog behavior and training expert, and Kennel Club Accredited Instructor told Country Living: “Whether it’s puppy training, advanced obedience or merely a game of fetch, trying to teach an old (or young!) dog new tricks can be the perfect way for you to bond with your best friend and build your relationship."

puppy training

How to train a dog

“Taking your dog to training classes is an important part of responsible dog ownership," continues Carolyn. "At training classes, you not only learn how to train your dog but also help socialize them by exposing them to new environments and teaching them how to behave calmly around other people and dogs.

“It’s crucial to start young; socialization should start with the puppy's breeder and continue the minute your puppy comes home. What might be really cute in a puppy-like jumping up – can be far less desirable in a large adult dog. Start as you mean to go on by teaching your puppy the skills they will need to be a well-behaved member of canine society.

Kennel Club Accredited Instructors (who have a nationally-recognized qualification), or the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme (the largest dog training program in the country) are perfect places to start if you’re looking to train your dog or puppy.

"Instructors and clubs can provide training classes and practical advice for dogs of any age, size, ability or breed. All Good Citizen training clubs and Kennel Club Accredited Instructors across the UK can be found on the Kennel Club website.”


Here are some suggestions from the Kennel Club of dog breeds which are generally known for taking naturally, and easily, to training. Although intelligence is a component in a dog’s ability to learn, each will have its own distinct personality, natural instincts, and genetic heritage which will affect trainability.

Don’t forget! Characteristics and natural instincts of dogs always vary and there are many other factors which can shape your dog’s character and temperament.


Prized for its instincts and working ability, the Border Collie is thought to be the most intelligent and easy to train a dog. They have a lot of energy and love to work so they need owners who can keep them busy and provide a good amount of exercise and stimulation! Collies thrive at canine activities like obedience and agility.

border collie dog
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5 ways to tell your dog you love them in their own language

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” —Josh Billings

Any intuitive dog owner can attest to the fact that one of the most beautiful gifts dogs have to offer us is their unconditional love. A dog will always be happy to see you, cuddle you, play — whatever it may be! Dogs will love you because they are loyal and because you are their master and caretaker. For this, they are eternally grateful and brimming with unfiltered love for you — which lends itself to the title of “man’s best friend”. Do you know how to tell your dog you love them in their own language?

So, how do we show our fellow canine companions that we love them back in their own language? This is an interesting question because we may oftentimes think we’re giving back in all the right ways, however, some things we do aren’t exactly the right things to do. For example, many dog owners like to share their meal or snack with their dog — we’re naturally inclined to do so because to other humans — this is a way to show you love and care. However, in a dog’s world, this is not so much the case, not to mention it can be unhealthy for your dog’s health and overall obedience.

Dogs respond to your gestures and body language in a way that you may not be aware of, so, we’ve provided you with five easy techniques that will help you tell your dog you love him or her in dog language. Give these a try and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much of a deeper connection you will feel with your dog almost instantaneously.

Training and positive reinforcement.

An excellent way to communicate your love is through positive reinforcement. Dogs thrive off of structure and learning. Training will let present your dog with their favorite forms of motivation, whether that’s food, praise, or play, and your dog will come to see you as a provider of the things he loves the most. He’ll see that when he works with you, he’s making you happy, and your rewards will make him happy in return. When you both work to make each other happy, you’re both showing your love for each other.

Read to your dog.

Do you read to your kids at bedtime? Have Fido join you. Even if you don’t have kids, your dog will thoroughly enjoy being read to. Get down on the floor and take out a good book or maybe even a short story. Try being animated with your eyes and soothing in tone. Make this a nighttime ritual you both will enjoy!

Give the human touch.

Your dog craves your attention and even just a few minutes of back massage, belly rubs, and ear scratches go a long way. Speak to him in quiet, soothing tones. Tell him he’s a good boy. Give him a safe and healthy treat that’s made just for dogs. Treat him like he’s part of your family because he would do anything for you, no questions asked.

Engage in deep conversations.

It might sound silly at first, but your dog probably wouldn’t mind if you talked to him more often. Feel free to tell your dog about your day. Rehearse your business presentation with them as your audience. Talk about whatever else is on your mind. You might question how much of what you say is actually sinking in. Studies indicate that the average dog can understand about 165 words, and even more if you work with them enough. Bonus: the benefits of talking to your dog aren’t entirely one-sided. Previous studies have shown that talking to and petting dogs can contribute to lower blood pressure in humans.

Rub your dog’s ears.

Rubbing a dog’s ear will immediately put him on cloud nine. Dog’s ears are a hot spot for nerve endings and when activated, those nerves send messages all throughout the dog’s body while releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural happy drug. A gentle, circular massage with two fingers (one behind the tip of the ear and one inside the ear at the tip) will do the trick. Fido will definitely be feeling the love!

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How to Train Your Dog

Illustrated gif depicting different types of dog training including clicker training, crate training, and basic commands

Are you ready to start training your dog or puppy? Proper training and socialization are among your dog's basic needs. It's important to start training your dog as soon as possible.

At first, dog training can seem pretty overwhelming, especially if this is your first dog. The truth is that training your dog is a very big project. If you take it step by step, you will find the task to be far less daunting. Here is some information to help get you started:

How to Train Your Dog to Shake
  • Start a Dog Obedience Program: Learn how to set a basic foundation before you begin to train your dog.
  • Train Your Dog Using Games: Training your dog should be fun! Everyone knows it's easier to learn when you are having a good time, so try implementing some games into your dog training regimen.
  • Six Weeks to a Well-Trained Dog: Using this schedule as a guide, you can teach your dog the basics in about six weeks.
  • Positive Reinforcement: There are many different ways to train a dog, but most dog professionals agree that the positive way is the best for both the dog and trainer.
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Watch Now: How to Train Your Dog With Positive Reinforcement

Need help with dog training? Consider getting help from a dog trainer. Try group classes and/or private lessons, and check here for tips on affordable dog training.

House Training and Crate Training

Unless you plan to keep your dog outdoors--and few of us do because it's not recommended--you'll need to teach your dog where to eliminate. Therefore, house training (also called housebreaking or potty training) is one of the first things you need to work on with your dog. Crate training can be a very helpful part of the training process. This includes house training as well as many other areas of training:

  • Crate Training Dogs and Puppies: Here are the basics of training your dog or puppy to accept and even enjoy the crate. Not only will it help with housebreaking, but it will also give your dog a place of his own.
  • How to House Train your Dog: When it comes down to it, house training is not that complicated, but this doesn't mean it's easy. Consistency and diligence are key during the housebreaking process.
  • Submissive/Excitement Urination in Dogs: If your dog is still having accidents in the house, it may be more than a simple housebreaking issue. Your dog might urinate out of excitement or to express submissive behavior.

Leash Training Dogs and Puppies

Every dog needs to learn to walk on a leash. Besides the fact that most areas have leash laws, there will be times when keeping your dog on a leash is for his own safety. Learn how to introduce your dog or puppy to the leash, then teach him how to walk properly on the leash, even beside you on a bike. A loose leash walk teaches your dog not to pull or lunge when on ​the leash, making the experience more enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Black lab puppy on a leash, watching his owner
 Chalabala / Twenty20

How To Socialize Dogs and Puppies

Socialization means training your puppy or adult dog to accept new people, animals, and various places by exposing him to these things. Socialized dogs are less likely to develop behavior problems and are generally more welcomed by others. Socialization can also help prevent the development of fears and phobias.

The bottom line is that socializing your dog or puppy will make him a happier, more well-behaved dog.

Clicker Training for Dogs

Clicker training, a common form of positive reinforcement, is a simple and effective dog training method. Although it is still fine to train your dog without clicker training, many people find it helpful. With clicker training, you can easily and effectively teach your dog all kinds of basic and advanced commands and tricks. It's fast and easy to learn how to clicker train your dog

Basic Commands and Fun Tricks

There are some basic dog training commands and dog tricks that every dog should know like comespeakdrop it, stay, back up, etc. Basic commands give your dog structure. In addition, they can help you overcome common dog behavior problems and will help keep your dog safe.

How to Train Your Dog to Stay

What's more fun than showing off your dog's cool tricks?! Dog tricks are a great way to take your dog training to the next level and give your dog some mental stimulation.

Proofing Behaviors and Troubleshooting

Proofing is the last step in training your dog to do any new behavior. Learn how to proof behaviors so your dog will be as obedient at the park or a friend's house is he is in your own living room.

Remember, just because you have reached the final stages of training, it doesn't mean that behavior problems won't crop up. Learn about the most common dog behavior problems and how to deal with them. These guides will help you navigate this part of the training process:

  • Proofing Behaviors: Practice behaviors in a variety of situations with different levels of distraction. Without proofing, your dog may behave well in your living room, but seem to forget all his training when he is outside the house.
  • Teach Your Dog Self-Control: This method teaches your dog that nothing in life is free, but that he needs to earn things like food and attention through obedience.
  • Common Dog Behavior Problems: Understanding potential behavior issues can help you detect and address them before things get out of control.
  • Dog Behavior Management Versus Dog Training: While dog behavior management and dog training are two different things, they are not mutually exclusive. Behavior management is an important part of any dog training program.

Advanced Dog Training

Once your dog has mastered all the basics, you can consider moving on to more advanced tricks. These activities will help keep your dog active, fit, and mentally stimulated. Plus, they will help strengthen the bond you share with your canine companion.

Remember that training is an ongoing process. You will never be completely finished. It is important to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your dog. People who learn a language at a young age but stop speaking that language may forget much of it as they grow older. The same goes for your dog: use it or lose it. Running through even the most basic tricks and commands will help them stay fresh in your dog's mind. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with your dog.

Australian Shephard on agility course
 Terralyx/ Twenty20
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Reasons Why You Need to Train Your Dog

Is Clicker Training Right for You and Your Dog? | PetFirst Our dogs should bring us joy, companionship, and a sense of pride. But when a dog continually disobeys or exhibits behavioral issues, dealing with them can be a constant source of stress for both us and them. Making sure your dog is properly trained is the responsibility of every dog owner—not just for your dog’s welfare, but for your own peace of mind as well. No matter its age, breed, or temperament, every dog can benefit from a little instruction. Here are five reasons to consider training your dog, or having her enrolled in an obedience class.

1. Training benefits both dog and owner

When it comes to training, your dog isn’t the only one reaping the rewards. Working regularly with your dog helps you to understand her needs better, making you an even better owner as well. It can also be a great source of exercise and open up new possibilities for you—the better behaved your dog is, the easier it is to take her along wherever you go.

2. For their own safety

How to Train Your Dog in Agility Sports - Show Dog Store The better you can control your dog with voice commands, the better you can protect her when unrestrained. A dog that bolts when off the leash is much more likely to run in front of a car, or to slip out the front door before you’re ready to leave. Also, should your dog ever become lost or need to be placed in a shelter, being well-trained only increases the likelihood she will behave well, or in the event it’s necessary, be placed with a new family.

3. It helps your dog to be more sociable

As your dog learns to respect boundaries and behave properly in social situations, other dogs (and people) will be more comfortable and at ease around her as well. As a result, more of these interactions will be positive experiences for your dog. If he begins to enjoy these social encounters, your dog will be more relaxed and manageable with each interaction.

4. Training makes boarding your dog go smoothly

That increased sociability we just mentioned becomes even more critical when it’s time to board your dog or when friends offer to take her in while you’re out of town. It’s one thing for your dog to obey owner’s commands, but a successfully trained dog will also follow others’ orders when you’re not there. Unless you want to cut your vacation short because your dog isn’t playing well with others, making sure she’s properly trained should be a top priority.

5. Because you can teach old dogs new tricks

Dog Training for Busy People: Efficient Ways to Train Your Dog There are plenty of myths out there that might be stopping you from moving forward with your dog’s education. But many of them are just plain wrong, and some may even be causing you to encourage bad behavior. For one, a dog’s age is no indication of his capacity to be trained. Older dogs may be need a few physical accommodations, particularly larger dogs or those with weight problems, but they can learn to take instruction just as well as younger dogs. A well-behaved dog experiences less stress, interacts better with others, and forms a stronger bond with you. Our team is committed to helping your dog live the healthiest, happiest life possible, and a well-behaved dog will have much more fun on her next stay with us. Contact us or stop by one of our locations to make your next reservation.… Read More »

Dog Training: Obedience Training for Dogs

Most people love their furry companions. However, not every moment is enjoyable when your dog isn't trained to behave in specific ways or avoid unwanted behaviors. There are many techniques passed on from unknown sources that tell you the best ways to get your dog not to do something. But what is the best method, and how do you use these techniques? Learn the most common methods for how to train your dog, as well as what techniques not to use.

How Should You Train Your Dog?

Dog Training 101: How to Completely Train Your Dog There are two common methods of training a dog. The first is the aversive-based method. The second is the reward-based method. Aversive-based (discipline) training is when you use positive punishment and negative reinforcement techniques with your dog. Reward-based methods use rewards only for the behaviors that you want your dog to follow. Aversive-based training uses techniques like loud, unpleasant noises, physical corrections, and harsh scoldings to get your dog to act the way you want. On the other hand, reward-based training uses rewards whenever your dog does something you want it to do. Treats, belly rubs, or other dog-pleasing actions are used to reinforce that a behavior was good.
Different experts prefer one method over the other. The one that you use is completely up to you. Some people believe that a rewards-based method sets up an "event sequence" for your dog where they associate you with happy feelings when they do what they're told. Aversive-based methods do just the opposite, where they fear you. That fear means that your dog does what they are told to avoid unpleasant feelings.

Understand How Your Dog Learns

three-dogs-bench-backyard-session - Bark & Gold Photography - Pittsburgh  Pet and Dog Photographer Dogs learn a lot like little kids. They are close in intelligence to human two-year-olds. Immediate consequences are all that they care about. As they grow, they begin to understand our words. Some intelligent breeds will respond to as many as 250! Yet every dog responds to the tone of our voice more than the actual words. There are three types of dog intelligence recognized by scientists:
  • Instinctive
  • Adaptive
  • Working and obedience
Instinctive learning is when your dog learns the behaviors they were bred. Adaptive learning is how well your dog learns from their surroundings and the environment around them to solve problems. Working and obedience are how well they learn the tasks and commands that you teach them. To get your dog to be obedient, you should focus on training that uses obedience techniques and the specific behaviors you want from them. Both aversive- and reward-based training have been proven to work. However, if you’re training your dog to be a loving pet, you should consider reward-based obedience training. This method doesn’t develop fear-based responses in your dog. It actually reinforces your loving relationship with them.

Obedience Training Rewards

Dogs are smart enough to learn the behaviors that you want them to have. They are also smart enough to learn what they can get away with. If you're wondering how to train a dog with a specific behavior, one of the most effective methods is to give them treats, praise, or affection. Most importantly, the best reward to give them is the one that they want the most. If they are food motivated, treats might work better than praise. If they crave attention from you, then affection might be the best reward. The main point to focus on is to consistently give your dog rewards for the behavior that you want. Do not reward the behavior you don’t want. When your dog performs the behavior, they should get their reward. If you ask them to lie down and don’t give them a treat until they stand back up, they become confused. They won’t know which behavior the reward was for.

Control Consequences Effectively

When you are using reward-based training, your dog needs to understand that there are consequences for behaving in a way you don’t like. Here the consequences are to withhold their reward when they do something bad. For instance, a dog that likes to jump up to greet their humans when they come in the house can be dangerous for an older adult. To train them not to jump up at you, do not greet them or give them attention if they jump up. You should turn around, walk back out the door, and continue doing this until the dog doesn’t jump up. Keep a treat in your hand while you do this.
When the dog doesn’t jump, give them the treat, and repeat the task until your dog doesn’t jump up when you come in. You should try this with all of the people that your dog gets excited to see when they come in your house. This ensures that they give your dog the treat for the correct behavior.

Training New Skills

When you’re teaching your dog something new, remember that they have the attention span and intelligence of a two-year-old. Your training sessions should be short and to the point. Limit them to 15 minutes. Focus on one task or behavior so that they do not become confused. Make sure that you’re using the same commands for the behaviors that you want. If you use the same word but insert it into sentences differently every time you say it, your dog may not understand. For instance, if you want to train your dog to lie down, you will confuse them if you say “Lie down” one session and then say “Fido, lie down or no treat” later in the day. They might not know what to do.

Basic Obedience Dog Training

The American Kennel Club recognizes five basic commands that every dog should know. They are:
  • Come
  • Heel
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down

Finding Help and More Information

Dog on Park Bench with Custom Plaque | Dog park, Cute animal pictures, Dogs If you're looking for help training your dog, you could try taking a class at our service. Here, we can help you with behavioral problems or with fundamentals. Just contact us for more information.
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5 Rules For Choosing A Dog Trainer

Ways to Become a Dog Trainer – VitalCute 1. First, ask yourself what you want your dog to learn. Is your dog like one of the extreme cases on my TV shows? Then learning “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel” is not necessarily the first lesson your dog needs. Some dog trainers don’t do rehabilitation, some don’t do obedience work, and some do both. Choose the right tool for the job you need done. 2. Think about your own philosophy and ethics. For example, some people are opposed to choke chains. I am not opposed to them and find them helpful in some cases, when used correctly. But I will not use a choke chain or any other tool an owner objects to, because if the owner feels badly about the tool, I guarantee you that the dog will have a bad experience with the tool. And there could be other reasons why I might not be the right trainer for you. You have a world of options when it comes to dog trainers. Make sure that the trainer you choose agrees with and supports your own values, because you are the one who is going to live with your dog and work with him every day. 3. Check out a trainer’s certification. There are many gifted dog professionals out there who aren’t certified―I used to be one of them―and the truth is that there are no hard-and-fast rules that necessarily mean a certified trainer is an expert. But having certification ensures that the person you hire has had to pass some minimum requirements, put in some hands-on hours with dogs, and do some studying. Certification also makes a trainer accountable to some basic standards and guidelines, which you can research. About — Shelby Semel Dog Training
4. Get referrals. This may sound obvious, but even if you find a trainer in a phone book, ask if you can talk to a couple of his or her previous clients. They can give you an idea of the trainer’s methods, “bedside manner,” reliability, and willingness to follow through. 5. Make sure the trainer includes you as part of the training process. There’s nothing wrong with a trainer who asks you to drop off your dog in order to work with him. I do that myself from time to time, because often an owner is the cause of the dog’s bad habits and he needs to be away from his owner in order to learn new ones. But I make it clear to my clients that I don’t “fix” broken dogs. I work closely with the owners on identifying their own issues and behaviors so that they are able to change as much as their dog changes. If you’ve watched my show, you already know that more often than not it’s the owner who needs the most “training.” Profitable Partnerships: How Identifying a Good Dog Trainer Can Grow Your  Hospital's Business and Your Client's Trust | MWI Animal Health If you are finding a good dog trainer, you can contact us for more information.… Read More »

7 Most Popular Dog Training Methods

Weimaraner dog walking through weave poles with owner beside during dog training class. There are so many popular dog training methods out there that it can be frustrating to find out which is which and what method is going to be best for both your dog and you as a pet parent. If you find it overwhelming and confusing, you’re not alone. There is even a great deal of disagreement within the professional dog training community about which methods are effective and ethical, and several methods overlap or are used in tandem for the best results.
Here are seven of the most popular dog training methods used today and who might benefit most from using them.

1. Positive Reinforcement


(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Purely positive reinforcement is a method popularized by trainers like Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, who trained the Obamas’ dog, Bo. The theory behind it is fairly straightforward. Dogs will repeat good behavior when it’s followed by a reward. Bad behavior does not get a reward or acknowledgment. If a correction needs to happen, it comes in the form of the removal of rewards, like a toy or treats being taken away. Harsh reprimands or physical punishments aren’t necessary. This training method begins with rewarding the desired behavior immediately, within seconds after it happens. That way, the dog comes to associate the behavior with the reward.
Some trainers combine this method with clicker training (see number three below). This gives the dog a distinct sign of the exact moment the behavior was completed. Commands also need to be short and to the point. Sit. Stay. Come. Positive reinforcement requires consistency. Therefore, everyone in your household needs to use the same commands and reward system. Start with continuous rewards every time your dog does the right thing. Then, gradually move to intermittent rewards as the behavior becomes consistent. Sometimes beginner trainers accidentally reward bad behavior. For example, they might let the dog outside when they start barking at a squirrel or another dog. Only wanted behaviors get rewards, which can include treats, toys, praise, and pets. It can also be easy to overfeed when your dog is learning, so use small treats when you are rewarding with food. This method is great for learning commands, but you need patience for correcting unwanted behaviors.

2. Scientific Training

Young woman using laptop, dog in background

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Science-based dog training can be difficult to define, as it relies on information that is continually building and changing. It aims to understand dogs’ nature, their ability to be conditioned, and the effectiveness of rewards and punishments. Animal behaviorists are constantly creating new studies and experiments to shape our understanding of dog psychology. Trainers rely on these studies to work with dogs. Before a behavior is corrected, everything about that behavior must be understood. Because science-based dog training is so broad, it’s hard to pinpoint an overarching methodology behind it. In fact, a lot of the methods used in scientific dog training are used by other forms of training. For the most part, there is a reliance on operant conditioning, which mostly includes positive reinforcement and, less often, some forms of punishment. Some scientific trainers believe that it’s also important to learn how to strengthen good behavior without the need for rewards and to rely on dog psychology to find ways to improve off-leash relationships between humans and their pups. Scientific training relies on doing a good deal of research and staying updated on the latest studies. For that reason, it may be best for professional trainers, since the methods they use are often effective whether you know the science behind them or not, and other forms of training already employ many of those methods. Also, developing new methods based on research may not be appropriate for everyone. Still, it’s a good idea for dog parents to stay informed and pay attention to a new research when it becomes available.

3. Clicker Training

young hunting dog and woman hand with clicker

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Clicker training is also based on operant conditioning and relies heavily on the same principles like positive reinforcement. In fact, clicker training may be grouped as a method of positive reinforcement, rather than as its own form of training. It relies on the use of a device to make a quick, sharp noise, such as a whistle or, as the name suggests, a clicker to signal to a dog when a wanted behavior is accomplished. The advantage of using clicker training is that it signals the exact moment the desired behavior is finished and exactly what is being rewarded. Trainers can then use the clicker to shape new behaviors and add verbal commands. First, the dog needs to be conditioned to know that a click means a reward is coming. Then the dog can associate a behavior with a click and a reward. Finally, the verbal command can be introduced to form a new association. This is a great method for learning new tricks, and it can help shape the basics into more complicated tasks. Many professional trainers use this method. While it is great for learning new behaviors, clicker training isn’t necessarily well-suited for curbing unwanted behaviors. When used alongside other training methods, it can be very effective in making sure you have a well-trained, well-behaved pooch.

4. Electronic Training

A young Boston Terrier dog looking intently out of curiosity.

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Electronic training relies on the use of an electric collar that delivers a shock or a spray of citronella when a dog is not performing the desired task. It’s mostly used for training at a distance when a leash can’t be used. For example, shock collars can train a dog to stay within the boundaries of an un-fenced yard. Remote collars can teach dogs to work in fields or do hunting work. People who use these devices claim that there’s less risk of a dog getting hurt than with choke collars or other mechanical devices. There are many problems with this training method. One is that it relies on punishment for bad behavior instead of rewards, meaning a dog learns what they shouldn’t do, rather than what they should do. Another problem is that it can create a great deal of stress and lead to permanent anxiety issues for dogs. The devices are often used by inexperienced pet parents, and therefore are overused. This can cause a lot of unnecessary pain, both physically and psychologically, for dogs. Professional dog trainers may see desired results from electronic training, but it’s definitely not for use by average pet parents. There are many alternatives that put dogs under far less stress and pain. If you’re going to use an electronic device, consult a professional about proper use, and consider an alternative form of behavior correction.

5. Model-Rival Or Mirror Training

The model-rival method of training relies on the fact that dogs learn by observation. By providing a model of good behavior or a rival to compete for resources, dogs learn to mimic behaviors. So a trainer might have another human act as the model, praising them for completing tasks on command or scolding them for unwanted behavior. The dog, as an observer, learns what to do correctly from the model. The model can also act as a rival, competing to do the right task for a desired toy or treat as a reward, encouraging the dog to pick up on the task and accomplish it more quickly. Mirror training relies on the same principle, using the dog parent as a model, then offering rewards for mimicking good behavior. It uses the dogs natural instincts to operate socially instead of working against them. To put it simply, the dog learns by example. This training method operates with a similar level of success as positive reinforcement and operant conditioning. However, some trainers may find it more natural and preferable. If your dog has a strong bond with you and can spend a lot of time observing you and following you around, this may be a technique that you find more comfortable than sticking to regular training sessions.

6. Alpha Dog Or Dominance

Rear view of a man walking a group of dogs

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Alpha dog or dominance training relies on a dog’s instinctual pack mentality to create a relationship of submission and dominance. The theory suggests that dogs see their families as their packs and follow a social hierarchy, as observed in captive wolf packs. When a dog sees themselves as the alpha, they need to learn to instead respect their human as the alpha and submit. Some methods used in this technique include understanding dog body language and responding accordingly, projecting confidence and authority, and going first when it comes to eating, entering or leaving rooms, or walking on a leash. If your dog wants to go out, then they have to sit before you open the door. If they want to eat, then they have to wait calmly while you prepare food. Generally, with alpha training, you don’t allow your dog on furniture with you, including the bed. You also don’t get down to your dog’s eye level. That’s because these are signs that your dog has equal standing in the relationship. You are in charge; you are dominant. Cesar Millan popularized this training method. However, he sometimes combines dominance training with other methods when appropriate. Some modern trainers say this technique is outdated, as new research has shown that dogs do not rely on pack mentality as much as previously thought, and the pack dynamic of wolves isn’t structured in the wild the same way it was when the animals were observed in captivity. Although dominance training can curb unwanted behaviors, modern dog trainers often find it antiquated. It can fail to address the underlying causes of bad behavior and leave dogs feeling anxious or fearful. The dominance struggle becomes constant and needs consistent reinforcement, which can be difficult or even dangerous for children or the elderly.

7. Relationship-Based Training

USA, Utah, Salt Lake City, Couple with pug sitting on sofa

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Relationship-based training combines several different training methods but focuses on a more individualized approach for both dogs and humans. It is the relationship between dog and human that drives everything. This method strives to meet the needs of the dog and the trainer, foster communication, and strengthen their bond. Basically, it’s about being mutually beneficial. The person must know how to read their dog’s body language, what rewards most motivate their dog, and how to meet their dog’s basic needs before each training session begins. Positive reinforcement encourages good behaviors. The dog’s environment is controlled to limit possible unwanted behaviors. New information is built on previous success. For example, a dog must learn to “sit” in a quiet room before trying to perform the command in a park with squirrels and kids, and other distractions. Difficulty increases gradually. When a dog doesn’t perform the desired behavior, the human must figure out why instead of punishing. Is the dog focusing on distractions? Hurt? Unable to hear? Or just unwilling to perform? This relationship-based training leads to a deep and meaningful bond, but it takes time and patience. It may not have enough to differentiate it from other training methods, but rather seems to be inclusive of many aspects of other successful methods. You may find that your relationship with your dog improves regardless of which training method you use, and certainly that bond will help you continue your training. What dog training method works best for you? Are there any other methods that you find helpful? Let us know in the comments below! Contact us for more information.… Read More »

6 Proven Methods to Make Your Dog Smarter

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years. Though the Internet might try to tell you otherwise, any dog can be trained to be smarter.

How to Make Your Dog Smarter

Is it natural for dogs to learn new words and odd behaviors? It might not be easy, but it can definitely be done. All dogs have a basic level of intelligence based on their nature:
  • They are easy to house train because it is natural not to mess up their home.
  • They are easy to train for bite-inhibition because it is natural to respect the leader.
  • They are easy to obedience-train when we ask them to perform natural movements like "sit" and "lie down."
A dog is more attuned to his owner and easier to train when he is socialized. The more you talk or give hand signals to your dog and work on giving commands, the more likely your dog will learn new commands. A lot of people consider assistance dogs intelligent, but anyone who prepares them knows they have to be very well socialized. If not, they are never going to be selected as assistance dogs.
My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden

My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden


6 Tips for Raising an Intelligent Dog

  1. Practice physical manipulation every day. This is most important when your puppy is very young, but daily handling will make your dog more willing to accept changes and willing to learn new commands
  2. Socialize your dog. This is especially important during the sensitive period before 16 weeks. It will help your dog if you take him out more often and expose him to new situations. A young puppy learns quickly, but even older dogs need to be socialized.
  3. Start training your dog as early as possible. Start as soon as you bring your puppy home. Early training will make your dog more trainable later and increase this type of intelligence.
  4. Provide continued exposure to tests and problems. Buy food bowls that make him use his intelligence to eat, and continually test his intelligence.
  5. Introduce new tricks and other commands during training. All dogs can learn new tricks, so keep looking for new things to teach him as he gets older.
  6. Give your dog lots of praise. Giving your dog positive reinforcement when he displays intelligent behavior will help perpetuate that behavior.
Early touching may make a puppy more willing to learn and perhaps more intelligent.

Smart Puppies and Early Obedience Training

Almost every one of us wants a dog that is considered smart. The path to intelligence should start early. Puppies can be touched and manipulated even before they are able to hear or see, and that mild stress (like holding the puppy away from his littermates for 15 seconds) makes their brains work harder and will lead to a more intelligent dog. As soon as a puppy is about five weeks old, he will be able to learn basic obedience commands if taught in very short sessions. If your puppy is already eight weeks old when you bring him home, training should begin from the first day. For example, always say his name when he walks towards you, thus improving recall. There may be some genetic limits, but the more you teach your dog and stretch his thinking, the more intelligent he’ll become. Also, focus on teaching your puppy the four basic commands that every dog should learn at an early age.

Early Socialization Is Key

Part of making your puppy more intelligent is exposure to novel situations through adequate socialization. The sensitive socialization period lasts until a puppy is about four months old; during that time, he needs to be exposed to many new things to increase his adult intelligence. Take your dog out (on a leash, of course) so that he sees things like bicycles, joggers, loud trucks and busy streets, other dogs, and any other novel situations that you may have in your area.

Continued Intelligence Training for Dogs

Concept Practice
Expose your dog to tests and problems. Try a problem-solving food dish, calling your dog while he is blindfolded, etc.
Introduce new tricks and commands. Teach your dog to back up, climb stairs, etc.
Praise intelligent behavior. Let your dog know that you are pleased with him when he does display intelligent behavior.

Intelligence Scores: Will This Really Make My Dog Smart?

Recently, I discussed this subject with a misguided young man who wanted to select his dog based on the breed's intelligence score. Intelligence scores, of course, are determined by humans and are a human method of deciding which breed is the most intelligent. For some, most intelligent means most trainable. But in my eyes, most trainable does not mean most intelligent. Some breeds are considered more intelligent because they are easier to train than others. Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds are easy to train and rank high on many intelligence lists. When I was young, the German Shepherd was considered the most intelligent breed since they had won most of the obedience awards at dog shows. Later, a Border Collie was made famous since he could remember over 200 words and knew how to string some of the words together. Labrador Retrievers are also popular in this area because they have made the list of “The 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds.” What happens when you take an “intelligent” dog breed and ask it to do something contrary to its breed intelligence? Can you teach a Border Collie to kill chickens like a Siberian Husky? (Okay, maybe that’s not the best example, but anyone who has owned a Siberian will realize why that is one of the first things I thought of.) Can you teach a French Bulldog to point out birds in the field and retrieve them without damaging the flesh? Can you teach your German Shepherd to run rabbits like a Beagle? My dog, a Pitbull cross, is intelligent enough to shepherd the rabbits and collect coconuts on the beach. I have also trained her as a seizure alert dog, and she also acts as a full-time therapist. Her main job is to guard my house.
Is my dog more intelligent?
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How to Train Your Dog Not to Bite

Pug puppy biting finger with sharp teeth.

Any dog can bite. According to the Center for Disease Control, dogs bite around 4.5 million people each year. This number may seem frightening, but there are a number of things you can do to ensure that your dog doesn't contribute to this dog bite statistic.

When a dog bites a person, it is often out of fear or protectiveness, or when they aren't feeling well and want to be left alone.1 Training to prevent dog bites involves proper socialization, providing structure, and building your dog's confidence.

Socialize Your Dog

Puppy Socialization: How to Socialize a Puppy

If you've just brought home a puppy, the best thing you can do is introduce it to as many new places, people, and situations as possible. Keep things positive. This early exposure is referred to as socialization; a well-socialized puppy is far less likely to be fearful in new situations, and this lack of fear decreases the likelihood of aggression. If your dog is no longer a puppy, you can still work on adult socialization.

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

Choosing the Best Age to Spay or Neuter Your Dog - Buzzards Bay Blog

While having your dog spayed or neutered does not guarantee it'll never bite, there is some evidence that suggests that altered dogs tend to be less aggressive. There are a number of good reasons to spay or neuter your dog, and potentially preventing a dog bite is at the top of that list.

Don't Make Assumptions

Given the right circumstances, any dog has the potential to bite.1 Too often people are bitten by dogs because they assume their dog won't bite. Don't assume that because a dog is a certain breed or size, or because it has never shown aggression in the past, that a dog won't bite.

Work on Obedience Training

An obedient dog is easier to control. By working on obedience training, you can use basic commands to keep your dog focused on you in situations in which it is uncomfortable. If you are able to control your dog's behavior, it is less likely to bite. In addition, training provides a structure for your dog and boosts its confidence.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement dog training is a method of training that rewards good behavior rather than punishing inappropriate behavior.2 Positive reinforcement can include treats, extra playtime, verbal encouragement, petting, or any other activity your dog enjoys.

Punishment, by contrast, can be anything a dog finds unpleasant. Some common punishments include hitting, leash corrections, and physically rolling a dog over, a process referred to as alpha rolling.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior found that dogs who are trained using punishment are 25 percent more likely to respond with aggression than other dogs. By using positive dog training methods, you can reduce the likelihood of your dog biting.

Be Aware of Body Language

Dogs use body language to communicate. Pay attention to what your dog's body language is telling you. A dog who is afraid or unhappy about having its territory invaded has the potential to bite. Behaviors such as bared teeth, raised hackles, a lowered head, or ears lying flat against the head are signs that a dog is uncomfortable and may bite.3 If you notice a dog displaying this type of body language, give it some space and advise others to do so as well. Remove your dog from the situation as soon as you feel safe to do so.

Don't Stop a Dog's Growls

Your dog growls to let you know it is uncomfortable with a person or situation. It is a warning signal that it may bite. Very often our impulse is to teach our dogs it is inappropriate to growl. The dog may learn this lesson so well that it stops growling in any situation. This is why we so often hear stories of dogs biting without warning. By preventing them from growling, we don't allow dogs to communicate their discomfort.

A better option is to pay attention to the circumstances that cause your dog to growl. Is it growling at someone approaching its food bowl, a child running past, a person cornering it? Once you know why your dog is growling, you can begin a dog training program to teach your dog to become more comfortable in those situations. In this way, you correct the problem that causes potential aggression rather than taking away your dog's ability to warn you it may bite. Once your dog is more comfortable in a given situation, it won't feel the need to growl.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

To proof your dog's new, more appropriate behavior you'll need to take the dog into new environments and introduce it to new people and animals.4 If it's able to maintain its behavior in a variety of settings, it has internalized the training; if not, you may need to take additional steps.

If you know when your dog is most likely to growl or bite, you'll want to be sure that the dog can now handle that situation without resorting to aggression. It's not a good idea to startle or frighten your dog, but it is helpful to slowly introduce challenges to be sure your dog can handle them. For example, if your dog is aggressive around food but has learned not to growl or bite at mealtime, have another person bring the dog's food to be sure that the new behavior is followed even with a new person in the room.

If you've taught commands using positive reinforcement and worked hard to earn your dog's trust, you may still find that your dog is having a tough time learning not to growl or bite. If that's the case, you'll need to take additional steps.

Aggression is a tough behavior problem to overcome on your own. If you believe your dog may become aggressive, or if it has bitten someone already, it's time to call in a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. A professional dog trainer can help you to come up with a plan to manage your dog's aggression to ensure the safety of both you and your dog.

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