Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers: Top 10 Tips to Successfully Training Your Dog Yourself
By Dr. Nicholas Dodman
Dog obedience training is one of the best things you can do for your dog and yourself. Obedience training doesn't solve all behavior problems, but it is the foundation for solving just about any problem including soiling your house, destroying your belongings, barking excessively, digging holes in your yard, fighting other dogs and even biting you.
For most dog owners, dog obedience training is a daunting task. However, training your dog is about to get much easier, if you follow my advice below.
Here Are My Top 10 Tips for Training Your Dog
1. Dog training should be an enjoyable experience for you and your dog. If you are not in the right mood for training, don't even start.
2. Keep dog obedience training sessions short (5-10 minutes) to maintain your dog's motivation. Dogs will learn much more from regular short sessions than from longer, less frequent ones. Once the dog has learned several useful commands on the continuous reward schedule, the schedule should be changed to one of intermittent rewards.
3. Always end training on a positive note. Ask your dog to respond to a command you know he or she will obey. Then reward your dog for a job well done and issue a finish command such as “free” or “release.” Avoid common words such as “okay.” Following a training session, both owner and dog should be left with feelings of accomplishment.
4. Keep in mind that your dog's motivation to respond to a command decreases as the complexity of the task increases. If your dog doesn't respond appropriately to a command after several attempts, don't reward him or her. Resume training a few seconds later using a simpler command. Return to the more complex task later.
5. Remember, the odds of success hinge not only on the degree of sophistication of the task, but also your dog's motivation to respond. From a dog's perspective the question is, which is more rewarding: chasing the squirrel or returning to the owner? Understanding this aspect will increase your patience and chances for dog training success.
6. Training should not involve any negative or punishment-based components. There should be no yelling, no hitting, no chain jerking, no hanging, and absolutely no electric shock. Remember that the opposite of reward is not punishment; it is no reward. If you ignore unacceptable responses, your dog will not be rewarded for his or her failed response. Most dogs want to please their owners or, at the very least, to obtain highly valued resources (food, attention and toys).
7. Ensure that your dog's motivation for reward is highest during a training session. If food is the reward, train before a meal, not after. If praise, petting and other aspects of your attention are to be used as a reward, schedule the training session at a time when your dog hungers for your attention (for example, after you have returned home from work).
For complex tasks, such as the off leash down-stay, your dog will be more motivated to comply if he or she has received moderate exercise before the training session. Asking a dog that is bursting with energy to remain in a prolonged reclining position is asking for failure during the early stages of training.
8. Make sure the reward you offer in training is the most powerful one for your dog. Food-motivated dogs work well for food, but the treats used should be you dog’s favorite food. If praise is used as a reward, deliver it in high singsong tones, which are most pleasing for the dog. Also, enthusiasm in your voice will be much appreciated. If petting is to be used as a reward, it should be in a way that the dog enjoys, such as stroking the dog's hair on the side of his or her face in the same direction that it grows, or scratching him or her on the chest.
9. After a correct response, reward your dog within ½ second of the command. This will ensure your dog makes the connection between the behavior and the reward.
10. Use short commands such as sit, down, leave it, quiet, out, and off. Say the word once. Do not repeat the command. Dogs will remember a command for about two minutes before the notion is lost. Shorter words are better than longer words and words that end in a hard consonant (C, K, T, X) are better than those that end in a vowel because you can “spit” them out.
A Bonus Dog Training Tip:
The “Holy Grail” of training is to have the dog reliably obeying commands off lead, even when other things are going on around him or her. This level of training can be achieved, but only after a lot of hard work and investment of time. It's something to strive toward.
About the Author
Dr. Nicholas Dodman has provided thousands of pet owners just like you with valuable insights in keeping their dogs obedient, healthy, and happy. Get your free daily dose of pet crazy stories and access to over 8000 veterinarian approved advice articles guaranteed to help you train your dogs and keep them living longer, stronger lives at: http://www.petplace.com/dogs.aspx
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