The A, B, C’s of Dog Training

September marks the beginning of the school year for kids of all ages.  But they aren’t the only ones that need a little schooling. Your canine companion needs a little school too!



Training should be fun and rewarding for both you and your dog.  The training should enhance your relationship with your pet, not detract from it. 


Enrolling in obedience classes can be beneficial as experts can help you with the basics.  However, in order to be successful, it is necessary to take the skills taught in the classes and work on them outside the classroom.  Start in an area that is most familiar to your dog (i.e., home), with as few distractions as possible.  As your dog becomes proficient, then begin to work on the commands in less familiar areas (outside, in the park, etc), gradually introducing more distractions, as time goes on.


Whether it’s working on “sit,” “stay” or any other desirable behaviour or trick, there are a few principles to keep in mind during training sessions:



With each command you want to teach your pet, determine a short, clear word or phrase to be used each and every time you want a particular behaviour performed.  Examples may include: “sit,” “stay,” or “paw.”  Make sure the same word or phrase is always used, reducing confusion.  Inform other family or friends of the vocabulary, so that when they want the desired behaviour performed, they know how to communicate in a way your pet understands.



Practice certainly makes perfect! Once a word or phrase is chosen, give the command repeatedly until the desired response is obtained.  It may be necessary, especially at the beginning, to assist your pet in completing the task.  Gradually, they will come to associate the word or phrase with the desired behaviour.


While practicing is important, overdoing it doesn’t help! Practicing for short periods of time, and allowing breaks and play time in between, will have better results than spending hours at a time trying to drill a command into your pet.


Praise & Reprimand:

When your pet successfully executes a command, reward them! Rewards can be small treats, pats on the head or verbal praise.  Every dog has their own motivators, so use that as their reward.  Rewards or praise should be given as soon as the behaviour is performed, so your pet senses they have done something correctly.  This increases the chances they will repeat the behaviour the next time the command is given.


If the behaviour is performed incorrectly, do not allow it to go uncorrected.  A reprimand, in the form of withholding praise or a verbal admonishment (“No!”) needs to be administered immediately, so again, an association is made between the reprimand and the incorrect behaviour.  Never ever use physical reprimands such as hitting, punching or kicking!


Once the reprimand is given, repeat the command, working with your pet to complete the behaviour correctly. Once the behaviour is performed correctly, given them lots of praise.


Keep in mind that training can be a lengthy process, depending on the individual and the complexity of the commands.  Patience and understanding is essential!


Have fun learning together!

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