1. Concentrate on what your dog is doing right. Professional dog trainers everywhere tell their students to reward their dogs when they do something right. This “positive training” method is in contrast to training that centers on punishment. Trainers recommend that owners praise and reward their dogs with treats and affection for good behavior instead of just scolding them for bad behavior.
2. Be proactive and keep your dog from behaving badly in the first place. One of the most important tips that a professional dog trainer will tell his or her students is that good behavior is not just the responsibility of the dog. The owner must make every effort to avoid giving the dog the ability to engage in bad behavior while they are still learning the ropes. For example, if you notice that your dog likes to chew, it’s important to make sure that everyone in the home puts their shoes behind closed closet doors to remove temptation.
3. Stop saying NO! One of the biggest mistakes that people make when training their dogs is saying NO without giving the dog an explanation of some type. Dogs, much like children, will become confused with a simple command of NO! Here’s what you should do instead. If your dog is stealing the cat’s food, tell him NO and then gently guide him to his own food dish. Or, if your dog is chewing on a table leg tell him NO and give him rawhide or another toy on which he can chew. Once your dog begins to actually use the new behaviour, reward him with treats, toys and praise.
4. Learn the difference between boredom and separation anxiety. It is important to determine whether your dog is misbehaving when you leave home because he is bored, or because he is experiencing a case of separation anxiety. Figuring out why your dog is engaging in bad behaviors is usually the quickest way to combat the problem. If boredom seems to be the issue, you can probably keep your dog from destroying your house during alone time by providing him a toy stuffed with treats or something else that will help exercise his mind a little. If separation anxiety is the problem, you will need to learn ways to desensitise your dog to not only your absence, but also your “preparing to leave” routine. Page 5
5. Consider trying clicker training. Clicker training is a relatively new technique in the dog training world and involves the owner using a specific sound to indicate to their dog that a particular behaviour is acceptable or desired. The owner will repeat the “click” and then reward their dog for his or her good behaviour. The positive feedback will encourage the dog to repeat the good behaviour.
6. Be patient, persistent and consistent. These three behaviours on the part of an owner will develop similar behaviours in a dog. Patience means that you understand that learning new behaviours may take some time and a lot of practice and repetition. Persistence means that you, as the owner, do not give up when training does not seem to be going well. Consistent means that your dog knows what to expect from you. For example, if you always say NO when your dog is misbehaving, they learn to recognise NO as a sign of disapproval. Conversely, if you only give treats for good behaviour, your dog will learn to recognise such positive feedback.
7. Start early. As soon as you get a dog, you should begin training in some capacity. If you are getting a late start, it may take some time to catch up. The key to remember is that training is often nothing more than reversing bad habits and behaviours. If your dog is young, they haven’t had a chance to develop a significant number of these bad behaviours and training will be simple. With an older dog, you really have to unteach everything the dog knows about behaviour and start to reteach behaviours that you find acceptable.
8. Be kind and gentle for best results. An owner who constantly punishes his or her dog for bad behaviours is bound to be a lot less successful than an owner who is gentle and kind, rewarding his or her dog for acceptable behaviours. Consider offering your dog plenty of praise, and be gentle when redirecting his attention from a bad behaviour to one that is more acceptable to you.
9. Have reasonable expectations. For example, if your dog misbehaves at home you are wise to expect that he will misbehave at the dog park or in the yard. Therefore, if your dog is having trouble paying attention to your commands you will want to make sure to keep him on a leash when outside. If your dog jumps on people in the house, expect that he will be rough with other dogs. You can reverse these behaviors through positive training, but you need to realize that bad behaviors will most likely continue regardless of the circumstances until they have been unlearned by your dog.
10. Always enforce your commands. If you give commands, but do not enforce them, your dog will learn that there is no reason to listen to you. On the other hand, if you back up your commands with reinforcement he will quickly learn that you mean business. For example, if you tell your dog to sit and he ignores you, gently push him into the desired position and praise him. Always praise good behavior as a means of enforcing your commands