Aside from physical exercise, dogs also need mental stimulation each day. This is why it’s important to make dog obedience training part of your everyday routine. Training sessions should be short and simple. 2 - 3 minutes, a couple of times a day is enough for most dogs.
If you are bringing home a new puppy, adult dog or want to include some dog training activities into your dog’s day, here are 8 of our best easy dog training tips.
Keep your training sessions positive
Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement or rewards-based training. This means rewarding the dog when they have done the right thing and ignoring or not rewarding undesirable behaviour. The more they are rewarded for the behaviour, the more they will repeat it.
Clear communication skills
A marker word is a word or sound that you can use to accurately tell your dog that they have done the right thing at a specific moment in time and that they will be rewarded. Most people use the word ‘yes’ or the sound of a clicker.
Start by teaching your dog what it means. Use your dog’s favourite treats broken up into small pieces. Say your word or press the clicker and give your dog a treat. Wait a couple of seconds and repeat it. Do this 5-7 times, take a 5-minute break and repeat. In the beginning, this word or sound will have no meaning to the dog. But as you practise this, your dog will quickly catch on.
Using your marker word whenever your dog is doing something you like. For example, you ask your dog to sit and he does. Mark the behaviour with the marker word and then reward him. A reward can be a treat, a toy, a pat or anything that your dog enjoys. This is an important foundation of communication between you and your dog.
Be consistent with your dog
This is one of the most challenging things for humans to do. Often we make exceptions to the rules and boundaries we set. For example, we may eat healthy every day and choose to give ourselves a cheat day on the weekend. Dogs can't understand this, therefore we need to be clear and consistent with our training. If you choose to allow your dog to jump on you and your friends, don’t be surprised if he also jumps on strangers.
It is also important that you keep the cues you use for your dog consistent as well. For example, if you use the word ‘down’ to ask your dog to lie on the ground, don’t use that same word when you are asking your dog to get off the couch. You will find your dog will learn a lot faster when your communication with them is clear and consistent.
The same also applies to anyone else that will be around your dog. Be sure to inform any friends, family members or pet sitters to be consistent too. This means they shouldn't secretly allow your dog to do things you normally wouldn’t.
It’s all about you
If you have the full attention of your dog, training will be a piece of cake. The key to getting your dog to listen and follow through is to ensure that your dog thinks you are the best thing in their world. Achieve this by training, playing and engaging with them.
Be patient with your dog
Each dog learns differently and in their own time. Give your dog as much time as it needs to learn and if they are not understanding something, don’t be afraid to go back to the basics. If you have someone like a pet sitter who is looking after your dog, be sure to explain to them what obedience training skills your dog has so that your dog doesn’t get confused when he’s asked to do something he does not know.
Keep dog training sessions short
Dog training sessions should last 1-2 minutes for a puppy and 2-3 minutes for an adult dog. Always aim to end the session on a positive note. If you are getting frustrated, it’s best to cut the session short by asking your dog for a simple behaviour, rewarding it and finishing it on a good note.
Dog training is much more than obedience skills. Allow your dog to explore and experience a range of different environments, people, other dogs and situations. Socialisation does not mean that your dog has to be super happy or interact with everything. Let your dog experience walking over different surfaces, see different types of people and dogs walk past or sniff different smells. Remember, observation is considered socialisation too.
For puppies, the more you socialise them when they are young, the more well adjusted they will be when they grow up. However, make sure to take it slow. Pushing puppies into a situation that they are not prepared for can have the opposite effect. If you work all day, consider getting a pet sitter to visit and help with socialising your puppy. Even if it’s a home visit, your pet sitter can expose your puppy to being comfortable with a stranger and new smells.
Enrichment activities for your dog
To keep things interesting, include enrichment activities for your dog. Enrichment can come in different forms. Walking in a different direction and letting them sniff a new street. Taking an old muffin tin and filling each cavity with a little bit of food to make mealtimes into a puzzle game. Or freezing some treats and toys into a big ice block that slowly melts on a hot day. All these little things will stimulate and satisfy your dog. A dog that is satisfied both physically and mentally is a very happy and well-behaved dog.
At Pawshake, many of our pet sitters have dog training experience and would be happy to help continue your training routine. If you are planning on going on holidays, consider booking a pet sitter who can also spend some time training or providing enrichment for your dog. Compared to a boarding kennel, a stay with a pet sitter is a much better and well-rounded experience for your dog while you are away.