How to train your dog to do what you want
How do I teach my dog to come when called?
What does your dog love? Success depends on finding a reward that’s more fun than what the dog is doing instead of coming when called.
Irresistible rewards include yummy treats, lots of praise and petting, playing with a favorite toy, belly rubs, playing a chase game or whatever suits your dog. But it’s got to be more satisfying than whatever is distracting the dog from coming back to you.
Come is an emergency cue, so only positive reinforcement training will give you the certainty you need.
Never say come in a negative, irritated voice. Use a different cue word when calling your dog for anything negative, such as a bath.
If you’ve ruined the word come with negative experiences, it’s not too late to choose a new word. This word should mean that no matter what the dog has done, once he gets to you great things will happen.
For training to work, your dog must be rewarded every time he comes back to you when called.
What is positive reinforcement training?
Positive reinforcement training is a great way to teach your dog good manners and build a positive relationship to last a lifetime. It works by linking desired behavior with desired rewards. Dogs — like humans — are more likely to repeat the desired behavior to receive the reward and praise.
Can I do positive reinforcement training to get my dog to stop doing things I don’t like?
Dogs do what comes naturally. Many behaviors we don’t like are things dogs love. The positive strategy is to teach your dog what we want instead of correcting and focusing on what we don’t want. Dogs learn the same way we do. When I am learning or trying to do a good job, I appreciate it when the teacher or my boss tells me what’s expected of me to do and praises me when I do it correctly.
Use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to sit when greeting people rather than jumping up for attention.
When your dog jumps on you, turn away, cross your arms on your chest, say nothing and give no attention. Be as dull as possible so that when the dog is jumping, all the attention and fun stops. If the dog runs around in front of you, turn away again. Best is to face a wall or corner. Next, ask the dog to sit. When it stops jumping and sits, say yes to mark the good behavior. Then reward the good behavior with a treat or petting.
If the dog jumps up again, end all attention. Ask again for a sit. When dog sits, again say yes and give a reward.
Remember to praise your dog at every sit for attention, no matter when or where.
Why do you use food as a training reward?
What’s in it for me? That’s the big question for both dogs and humans.
A dog’s idea of reinforcement tends to be a little different than ours. Dogs like rewards in the form of food, toys, praise and attention. The reinforcement does not have to be food. It does have to be something that gets the dog thinking along these lines: That’s what I want! If that’s what’s in it for me, I am going to keep working for that reward. Most dogs find food a very valuable reward.
We can also think of the food reward as the paycheck for learning good manners, which don’t necessarily come naturally to a dog. Remember, we are asking dogs to do things that they were not born to do on cue. Getting that treat makes it fun and rewarding for the dog.
When teaching any dog a new behavior and especially one that is not natural, you need to increase the reward level. Once a dog finds a behavior fun and rewarding, he’ll do it again and again even if sometimes he doesn’t receive a reward but just praise. On the other hand, if the fun and praise stop, along with the reward, the dog may well stop the desired behavior.
Food rewards are not forever. They’re intended to be phased out as quickly as possible, replaced with other rewards such as being able to play fetch, receiving praise or playing with a toy. But you’ll always have to use something your dog finds rewarding.
How long will it take to train my dog?
Dog training should last a lifetime. Dogs love to learn new things. The bottom line is what you want to teach and how much time you have. If we don’t continue to learn more and to make learning fun, we may step backwards and lose what we have learned. Like humans, dogs tend to lose skills over time if they are not used.
So an old dog can learn new tricks?
All of us, dogs and humans, can learn new tricks at every age. The older we get, the more we must keep our minds active to be healthy and happy. This is also true for our dogs. Ongoing mental and physical exercise is as important for older dogs as it is for younger dogs.
Most old dogs love to learn new tricks or new behaviors as long as the reward is high enough.
When should I start my dog’s education?
Socializing your puppy means giving him positive new experiences with all different kinds of people, places, things, animals and activities.
Early socializing is critical to behavioral health. Behavioral problems are the number-one reason dogs are given up to shelters. Socializing your puppy before 16 weeks has been proven to be the most critical factor in raising a happy, stable, confident dog. Socialization should start even before all of their vaccinations are complete, according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.
How do I housebreak my puppy?
Consistency and prevention are what it takes to housebreak both puppies and adult dogs. Each inconsistency takes you backwards at least three steps. Every time your dog goes in the house, it actually reinforces the behavior because elimination is self-rewarding for a dog.
Housebreaking can take up to a year. Use these tips to help you and your dog master this essential of living together:
• Take your dog out as often as possible. Puppies should be taken out at least every hour until they learn and are physically capable of waiting longer.
• Go to the same door every time the dog goes outside to go potty.
• Go out every time the dog drinks water or eats. No free feeding.
• Recording your dog’s feeding and elimination schedule will help you figure out its routine.
• Go out immediately after playing.
• Watch for pre-elimination behaviors. You can use a leash and tether your dog to you to keep a close watch for pre-elimination signs.
• Teach a cue such as potty with the behavior of going potty outside
• Take your dog to his potty spot on leash. A walk is not the time for potty breaks.
• When your dog goes outside, reinforce the behavior by saying yes, make a big happy fuss and give him a treat or whatever it is he loves.
• If the dog does not go potty within five to 10 minutes, go back inside and put the dog in its crate for 15 minutes. Then try again, repeat until the dog goes potty outside.
• No attention or playing until after the dog has gone potty in his potty spot. Once she has gone, then she can have a treat, play or go for a walk.
Does crating help with housebreaking?
Most dogs do not want to eliminate in their living area, so crate training works very well and is the primary tool used by most trainers.
At night your dog should be crated in or near your bedroom. If he wakes up and cries, he probably has to go out. You must wake up and take him out and reward him when he goes. Then bring him back and immediately return him to his crate. We don’t want to teach him that crying at night earns a play session.
However, crating may not work as well with puppies raised in puppy mills, purchased from pet stores or coming from shelters with poor sanitary conditions that force them to soil their crates repeatedly.
How should I manage accidents?
Dogs do not eliminate out of anger or spite. Never punish elimination in the house. Never rub your dog’s nose in the feces or urine. The only thing punishment will do is cause your dog to learn that he needs to hide when he eliminates. Then he will no longer go in front of you so that when you do take him outside he will probably not go.
Clean with an enzymatic cleaner (Nature’s Miracle is great!).
When cleaning up accidents, don’t use your feet on a towel to mop up the urine because getting urine on the soles of your shoes means every step you take tells the dog that it’s okay to urinate where your foot has landed.
If your dog is eliminating every time you leave him alone in the house, he could be suffering from stress, perhaps even separation anxiety, not anger or spite. If you are having serious housebreaking problems, you may need the services of a professional dog trainer.
What can a trainer do that I can’t?
A professional dog trainer will have learned specific skills to teach you and your dog new and fun ways to learn and build a relationship. In addition, professional dog trainers teach you how to communicate with your dog by reading canine body language and learning more about dog behavior to prevent problems. Once problem behaviors start, they are much harder to stop.
About the Author
Laurie Scible is Animal Behavior College Dog Trainer with Best Friends Forever Pet Services. Best Friends Forever Pet Services offers group, private, semi-private good manners training, behavior consulting, tricks training, new baby and dog training, doggone safe training and pet CPR and First Aid training: www.bffpetservices.com