30 Surefire Dog-Training Tips and Techniques
Puppies are adorable, affectionate and lots of fun. But they’re also energetic, curious and playful. And if you don’t teach them how to channel that sense of adventure in the right way, you could have behavioral issues further down the line.
Dog trainers advise teaching simple commands from a very young age to give you a solid base to build on as your pup grows (although it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks). These 30 surefire dog-training tips are a good place to start.
Create an Understanding
Start your dog-training journey the right way by creating an understanding between yourself and your pup early on, says The Puppy Academy trainer Sparky. Most importantly, neither of you should feel overwhelmed, so keep it simple in the early days.
“You want to be able to command the pup to come to you and do some recall commands (like sit, down, etc.),” Sparky says.
Make Simple Recall Commands a Priority
A recall is basically a “come” command, which draws the pup to you.
“The first step is to use your pup’s name, give a verbal command “come!” and then reinforce it with a hand command, such as holding a treat or piece of food down for them to come to,” Sparky explains.
Build Your Repertoire
Beyond the simple recall, there are some basic dog-training commands and tricks that every dog should know, Sparky says. Try to cover “speak,” “drop it,” “stay,” “back up,” etc.
“These basic commands give your dog structure,” Sparky explains. “In addition, they can help you overcome common dog behavior problems and will help keep your dog safe.”
Use a Couple Different Marker Words
When you are marking a behavior in the moment or maintaining that good behavior, Sparky recommends using “good!” And when you are releasing the pup from a specific command use “OK!”
If you’re wondering what this sounds like in practice, it’s something like “Come, good. Sit, good. Place, good. Stay, good.”
Use Your Hands
Dog training isn’t just about what you say.
To maintain good behavior, Sparky advises holding up your hand at the same time as saying “good!” with a calm demeanor.
Use Food During Training
The road to a well-trained dog is lined with treats.
Use your dog’s appetite to your advantage by using a combination of food and treats to reward them when they complete a command, says Sparky.
Carry Treats at All Times
Training doesn’t always have to be planned ahead of time.
If you always have some dog treats in your pocket, you can give them to your puppy whenever they do something right, from sitting calmly to not jumping up on someone you meet, says dog trainer Steffi Trott.
Choose Your Tones Wisely
Just like we use different tones of voice when we communicate with other people, we should do the same throughout dog training.
In fact, according to Sparky there are up to 10 different tones that you use when you are working with your new pup. For instance, a very high-energy tone will draw your pup to you, and a low-energy tone will be calmer and more serious to maintain a certain command.
Layer Your Commands
When your pup starts to understand what a recall command is, you can start to layer other commands on top of it. “Everything you’ll do while training your pup is in layers and advancing the pup each time,” says Sparky.
He recommends working toward a series of commands like “come, sit, place, stay.”
Find a Quiet Place
Young pups can become easily distracted by other people, pets and noises.
To give your training the best chance of success, choose a quiet room in your house as the place to start new lessons for tricks.
Feed Off Your Pup’s Energy
Take your pup’s energy levels into account when honing your training approach. “If your pup is a very energetic and happy pup, slow-paced training will make them bored much quicker,” Sparky warns.
In this case, make sure everything you do is fast to keep the pup on their toes and focused, and don’t allow too much time between commands.
Consider Crate Training
The Puppy Academy trainer Josh believes crate training is one of the most valuable assets in puppy training. “It gives your puppy a safe place of their own where they can rest, it helps to teach them independence and confidence in being alone, and it can even speed up the potty-training process,” he explains.
A crate or playpen is also somewhere safe for your puppy to go when you can’t monitor them.
Take Advantage of Tools
Crate aside, there are lots of other training tools at your disposal. “So many new owners want to let their pups walk around and explore their new home on their own, but the reality is that allowing this will more likely than not lead to your puppy getting into some kind of trouble,” says Josh.
It’s essential to use tools like baby (or dog) gates to create boundaries for your dog throughout your home. This will not only create structure and routine, but it will also make it easier to monitor your pup during playtime, mealtimes and sleep.
Establish a Daily Routine
The first six months of your puppy’s life is all about learning what happens throughout the day — and when.
Establishing specific times and places for eating, sleeping, playing, training and going to the bathroom.
Don’t Forget Leash Training
You’ll need to put your pup on a leash to take them for their daily walks — don’t forget that this is a crucial training opportunity as well as their essential exercise regimen.
“Every dog needs to learn to walk on a leash,” says Josh. “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.”
Decide on a Schedule Early On
Puppies will pick up on routines and schedules, which can actually be to your benefit. “Repeated inconsistencies in your pup’s schedule can lead to unpredictable potty accidents, poor eating habits and even more undesirable behaviors such as increased barking or nipping,” Josh explains.
It pays to decide on a schedule early on that makes sense for you, will help you avoid unnecessary stress and help get your puppy on the right track the quickest.
Avoid Repeating Commands
According to Josh, one of the common mistakes new dog owners make during training is repeating a command like “stay” over and over and then praising their puppy.
It might not seem like a bad thing to do, but Josh explains that repeating a command too much will actually desensitize your puppy to the meaning of the word. “Instead of it being a direct and clear command for your puppy to follow, they will start to tune it out and ignore you,” he says.
Socialize Your Pup
You can’t immediately socialize your pup (they need to have completed their vaccination program first), but it should certainly be a priority when you get the green light from your veterinarian. Josh suggests enrolling in a puppy-training class, which is essentially socializing with lots of other pups and people.
“It’s a safe and controlled environment where they can learn how to interact with other people and puppies the right way and have some fun while they do it,” he says.
Train Every Day
Trott advises training your pup every day for the whole first year of their life. “Just five to 10 minutes are enough, but it needs to happen every day!” she says. “Most owners start out super motivated and then begin to skip training sessions or give up completely when the puppy is about 4 to 6 months old.”
Try not to fall into this trap — keep going! “You can’t set out to train your dog once every two weeks, for one hour — they won’t learn anything,” Trott warns.
Don’t Rely on Your Older Dog
If you’re bringing home a second dog, don’t trust that the older dog will help you train the new one.
“Dogs do not raise each other,” Trott says. “Your puppy needs you and your attention. You need to do all the training.”
Visit Lots of New Places
Taking your puppy to as many places as possible during its first year is crucial, says Trott. This really helps with socialization (the more places you go, the more people you’ll meet) and gets your pup used to a wide range of sounds, sights and smells.
“You should strive to take your puppy to a new place several times per week,” Trott says.
Consider Clicker Training
Many dog trainers recommend clicker training as a simple, effective training method to teach your dog through positive reinforcement.
Per the American Kennel Club (AKC), the clicker communicates the exact moment your dog does what you want. Note that the timing of the click is essential, and every click must be followed by a reward.
Keep Talking to a Minimum
Whatever training method you favor, try not to chat too much.
“Dogs don't need verbal explanations — they need us to show them through rewards what behaviors we like,” Trott explains.
Nip Bad Behaviors in the Bud
One mistake a lot of dog owners make is letting bad behaviors, like chewing shoes, jumping up on people or begging for food, go on for too long. “The more ingrained a bad behavior is, the longer it takes to undo it,” Trott says.
The second you become aware of an unwanted behavior, adapt your training plan to address it.
Be Patient With Older Dogs
Older dogs who weren’t trained as puppies are more likely to have ingrained behaviors — and the longer they’ve had them, the longer it will take to undo them. “If your dog has been pulling on leash for the last eight years, you cannot undo this in one training session,” Trott says.
Essentially, the training tips are the same as for a young puppy, but you’re likely to need a lot more patience. As Trott says, a puppy is a "blank slate,” whereas an older dog has already rehearsed unwanted behaviors many times.
Practice Behaviors in Different Places
When you think your pup is behaving well at home, take them somewhere else to practice. Ultimately, you want to test their behavior in a range of situations with varying levels of distraction.
If your pup behaves well in your home but seems to forget all the rules when you’re out in public, that’s a sign you’re not quite done with training.
End With Something Your Dog Knows
At the end of each training session, go back to something your pup knows how to do. This concludes the session on a positive note.
That way you both can feel good about the experience.
Remember Training Is an Ongoing Process
Remember, training is an ongoing process. Try not to think of it as something you’ll “complete” in 12 months (or whenever).
You’ll get the best from your dog if you commit to long-term obedience training and don’t forget that your training sessions are great for bonding.
Puppy training is all about raising a healthy, well-socialized dog who knows how to behave both in many different environments. But it’s also something to enjoy.
“At the end of the day, you want your puppy to understand that you are training, but you are having fun while doing it,” says Sparky.
Get Professional Help
If you’re struggling with a particular behavior or aspect of training, don’t hesitate to call in a professional.
“It’s much easier to address a new behavior than one that has been ingrained and rehearsed for many months,” Trott explains.