A well-trained dog is an absolute pleasure to own.
Walks with a loose leash are enjoyable, and you can welcome people into your home without worrying about your dog leaping up and being a complete embarrassment.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at some of the things that you need to consider how to train your dog properly and be the type of dog trainer that your dog deserves.
We’ll talk about some of the behaviors that are really helpful for your dog to understand. But before we get started, you might be wondering if your dog is even capable of learning new things, so let’s take a look at that first.
In this guide you will learn:
- how to train an older dog
- if all dog breeds can be trained
- how to train a dog with behavior problems
- 5 ways to train your dog properly
- 5 common behaviors to train your dog
Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?
You might have heard the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
But I’m so pleased to tell you that no matter your dog’s age, they can definitely learn how to be polite and well behaved.
In fact, in this research, they found that an adult dog was better than a younger pup when it comes to a logical reasoning task.
Now, it can sometimes take an older dog a little longer to learn a new dog command, so you’ll need to be patient, understanding, and use positive reinforcement.
That’s because, just like us, once we develop bad behavior, it can be tough, but not impossible, to learn new ways of doing things.
Can All Breeds Of Dog Be Trained?
Some breeds are easier to train, and these tend to have a long heritage as working dogs. So, that includes the herding dogs such as Border Collies and the sporting breeds such as the Labrador Retriever and the German Short Haired Pointer.
If you need some inspiration, how about this abandoned Staffordshire Bull Terrier who has become the first of their breed to become a police explosives search dog!
Can You Train A Dog With Behavior Problems?
When you have a dog who becomes worried about new situations or is reactive towards other dogs or people, it might seem that training classes are just impossible.
Realistically, you’re right; a very fearful dog is unlikely to be able to focus on learning when they’re going to be so worried in that type of environment.
But training doesn’t have to happen in a class outside your home.
You are able to purchase online training courses, we have excellent reviews on our site.
You can or hire a trainer to help you on a one-to-one basis for house training.
Another option is to look at videos from a brilliant professional trainer such as Emily Larlham.
How To Train Your Dog Properly
Training a dog or new puppy is a skill, and just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you become.
To get you started, here are our five top tips for becoming great at dog training.
1. Training is happening all the time
Sometimes a pet owner can fall into the trap of thinking that they’re only training their dog when they’re at the obedience class or if they’re training something like a sit or a down in their own home.
But the reality is that your dog is learning from you all the time.
Every interaction you have with your dog will teach them something.
The morning when you save your dog a bit of toast?
You’ll only need to repeat that for a couple of days before they’re at the table waiting for their morning treat!
This then leads on to our next consideration when training our dogs, and that’s consistency.
2. Be consistent with your dog
Life can be confusing for our dogs, and that’s because we humans tend to be pretty inconsistent in what we expect from our four-legged companions.
This leads to unwanted behavior from our pet.
We might, for example, encourage them to jump up and have a fuss when we’re dressed in old clothes. But then we tell them off for jumping up when we’re dressed up, ready to go out.
We let our dogs pull on the dog’s leash when we’re in a hurry but then tell them off for having no leash manners when trying to take a leisurely family walk at the weekend.
We all know what a nightmare it can be when we have a boss who keeps moving the goalposts, someone who you can never quite work out what it is that they want.
Our dog probably feels just the same when we’re inconsistent with our expectations of them.
3. Don’t be stingy with the treats!
When training is rewarding, your dog will be attentive and focused, and they’re going to enjoy the learning process.
As we all know, when learning is fun, it’s much easier to develop that new skill.
Some owners worry that they’ll end up with a chowhound who will only sit when they have food in their hand. But don’t worry, you will be able to slowly phase out the food during the training process.
4. Set your dog up for success
There can be a temptation to test rather than train.
Imagine that you’ve just started loose-leash training, and you decide to take your dog to a dog park on a Saturday when there are loads of other dogs around.
It’s a little like taking your first driving lesson in the middle of a big city during rush hour!
When we set our dogs up for success, we start training in a distraction-free environment.
Then we slowly increase difficulty but always aiming for our dog to be as successful as possible.
This way, you’re building a solid foundation for that new behavior.
5. Generalize, generalize, generalize
Just because your dog knows how to sit when at home doesn’t mean they know how to sit in the yard or the park.
That’s because most dogs are not great at generalizing.
When they first learn the sit cue, the environment in which the learning took place becomes entwined with the behavior.
In your dog’s mind, sit means – ‘when I’m in the kitchen and Mom says ‘sit’ I need to put my rear end on the floor.’
This means that you then need to teach your dog how to sit in lots of other places.
Now, this training will be much quicker than the first time, and probably after three or four new locations, your dog will have an ‘aha’ moment.
Now they understand that sit means sit no matter where they are.
Train Your Dog Common Behaviors
We have shortlisted five of the most common behaviors to teach our dogs.
A sit cue can be a really useful way for your dog to say ‘please’.
That might be when they’re waiting for their dinner, when they want to go out of the door, or when they want to leap up onto the sofa to have a cuddle with you.
When your dog is sitting, they’re not jumping up or barging in front of you.
The easiest way to teach a sit is by using food to lure them into position:
- Hold a treat slightly above your dog’s nose and almost touch it.
- Now slowly move the treat back over your dog’s head.
- As your dog follows the path of the treat, their head goes up, and their rear end goes down into a sit position.
- Make sure to praise your dog and give them the treat while they are sitting.
- If your dog jumps up to get the treat, it’s too far away from their nose!
We should be aware that a sit position isn’t always the most comfortable of positions for our dogs.
Greyhound-shaped dogs and those with very short legs can find it difficult to sit, and it can be painful for older dogs and those with joint issues such as hip dysplasia.
When your dog is in a down position, they’re much more settled than when in a sit position.
This is the perfect position for your dog to chill if you’re enjoying a coffee when out on a walk or catching up with a friend.
Using a lure and verbal praise is again the most common way of teaching a down.
- With your dog in a sit position, show them the treat in your hand.
- Now move your hand down so that it’s between their front paws but a few inches back and towards their chest
- To follow the treat, your dog will need to lower their body to the ground.
- Once down, then praise and give the treat.
3. Loose Leash Walking
Teaching loose leash walking needs lots of patience and consistency, but once it’s mastered, you’ll find that walks are so much more pleasurable!
- Hold a few treats in your hand on the side that you’d like your dog to walk on.
- Hold the leash in the other hand.
- Take one step, then stop.
- Before your dog pulls ahead, feed them a treat.
- Repeat remembering to feed when your dog is in the correct position. Now your dog is learning where all the good stuff happens. That’s going to encourage them to stay where the treats are.
- When your dog is looking up at you for their treat, take two steps instead of one before you stop and treat.
- Now slowly increase the number of steps you take before you treat.
Teaching a stay is a great way of keeping your dog safe from potential danger.
If, for example, you need to open the door to receive a parcel, you can ask your dog to stay.
That prevents them from running out of the door and into the road.
- Give the verbal command for your dog to lay down.
- Count to two and then reward with a treat while they are still in a down.
- Now repeat the first two steps but each time, add on another second before your dog gets their treat.
- Once you’ve reached ten seconds, you can now work on adding distance.
- Take one step back and then immediately return to your dog and reward them while they are down.
- Now repeat the previous step but each time, add another step backward before your dog gets their treat.
The wait is similar to the stay, but rather than going back to your dog at the end, your dog comes to you.
That means that you can repeat the same steps as above, but instead of returning to your dog to reward them, you can call your dog to you.
We hope you enjoyed reading our guide to training your dog based on reward based training. It’s important that you find the right trainer for your needs, which is why we created this list of tips on what makes a great dog trainer.
Have you been able to use any of our training tips?
If so, how has it increased your dog’s good behavior, and has their obedience level improved?
We hope that this guide was helpful for you! Let us know if there are other questions we can answer.