Ten Dog Training Tips
You Can’t Live Without

Here are my top ten dog training tips.

  1. Find out what motivates your dog. This may seem obvious and it sort of is, but knowing what turns on your dog gives you leverage in your training. Food is also an obvious choice for motivation and for most dogs it works really well. But not all dogs are motivated by food and there are instances that using food is not a good choice or is cumbersome. Other motivators are prey drive (instinct to chase things), tugging toys, stopping a training session, walking the dog.
  2. Is your dog healthy? Some behavior problems are related to medical conditions and they should be ruled out before starting a behavior modification program. Starting one before your dog is evaluated by a veterinarian is like putting the cart before the horse. Some medical problems that can adversely affect your dog’s behavior are any kind of pain (growling) and urinary or kidney stones (housebreaking).
  3. Exercise - Most behavior problems can be lessened or completely solved by this dog training tip. Just increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets per day can do wonders to his disposition. A tired dog is a happy dog, I always say. If you can increase the amount of exercise time by even 15 minutes, you will start to see a calmer dog.
  4. Use classic conditioning. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted and confused by all the scientific words on positive reinforcement training or operant conditioning. Good ol’ Pavlov and his drooling dogs got it right with simplicity. I think humans tend to over-analyze things (me, included) when the answer is simple.
  5. Try different dog training techniques. Just because one way works for my dog, doesn’t mean it will work for your dog. Keep exploring new methods until you find one that works for your dog. Some dogs have a thick skin and don’t respond well to punishments. Some dogs are so sensitive that even a dirty look will send them cowering to the corner, even if it’s not directed at them!
  6. Use dog psychology - learning about normal dog behaviors helps you to be the leader of the pack. Horsemen use this same technique to learn about herd behavior which helps them become a herd leader. Knowing how a dog pack functions helps to anticipate behaviors and encourage the ones we like while discouraging the ones we don’t like.
  7. Setting goals - What are your training goals? Do you know how you want your dog to behave? Does your dog need to perform a specific or complicated task, such as retrieving clothing, a series of commands in order, or climbing a ladder? These tasks can be broken up into small steps and training sessions to achieve the final goal. Think about what you would like your dog to do, write it down and break it down into smaller doable sessions.
  8. Naming your dog. If your dog’s name sounds like a command, you can guarantee confusion. I had a dog in one of my classes whose name was Sid. Whenever her owner would ask her to “sit”, she would jump up and try to kiss her. The poor dog thought that was what she was supposed to do when her name was called. We decided not to use a verbal command for the sit command and instead used a hand cue.
  9. Dog Temperament - This is the general disposition of your dog. Some dogs are really high-strung, meaning they have a lot of energy and are focused to the point of obsession. Other dogs are calm, laid back, love everyone. Some are fearful and shy. Some are grouchy and aggressive. Knowing your dog’s temperament is helpful in developing your training program.
  10. Have fun! This is my favorite dog training tip. If you or your dog are not having fun, then training becomes pointless. If you find yourself getting frustrated or if your dog seems to be confused, STOP! Quit training and take and a breather. Try working on something new, like a dog trick.

These are my top ten dog training tips to help with your training routines. I hope that they help take your training to the next level.

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Dogs inhabit our homes, our lives, our very souls.  They show us how to live our lives; with compassion, with vigor, with purpose. 

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