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How to Train a Dog: The Essentials

Dogs are renowned for being loyal, faithful and obedient, but they’re only as good as their training allows them to be. Even the most well-behaved and clever breeds won’t start doggy-dancing routines by themselves – they have to be taught.

As experts in dog training in Surrey, we recommend using positive reinforcement techniques to train your dog. Punitive methods may still be in use in some quarters, but research has shown such methods to be associated with aggressive responses and poorer performance, and we feel that positive methods have a much better outcome.

Plan Your Training

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Make sure that you have a comfortable space for training where you won’t have to compete with a million distractions for your dog’s attention. The garden may give you plenty of space, but birds, squirrels and the scent of your neighbour’s cat may be just too interesting!

Training is best conducted in short sessions. Dogs, like people, don’t have an unlimited attention span, and if it’s not sinking in, going over it again and again will just become boring and frustrating. Choose your moments wisely; if they’re tired or over-excited your lessons won’t sink in. If you’re using edible treats as a reward, before their regular meal is a good time – they’ll be hungry enough to work a little harder for that tasty treat.

The essential technique of training is the same regardless of the command you’re teaching: gently encourage them to adopt the position or take the action required (don’t push them into place) and issue the command clearly. For example, to teach Sit you might show them a treat in your hand, hold it close to their nose and then move it over their head so that their bottom will naturally hit the floor. Once they successfully complete the action, give them a reward and affection.

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Choose clear commands, and stick to them – you may hear the difference between “Sit” and “Sit Down” but a dog doesn’t have the same grasp of English as you do!

You should only say the command once – if they don’t obey, repeating it is only likely to confuse them – and you should ensure that rewards are issued promptly, while the desired behaviour is still in place.

You must also ensure that you are in the right mood for training; if you’re angry or frustrated, your dog is going to pick up on that emotion and feel like it’s directed at them. You should remain calm while you’re training your dog, and if you feel yourself getting frustrated call it a day, and come back to it when you’re calmer.

Finally, make sure that your family knows what you’re teaching the dog, and that everyone sticks to it – and not just during training sessions. Offer rewards whenever your dog completes commands successfully, and to reinforce good behaviour, and make sure nobody’s making a fuss over them and rewarding them with attention when they misbehave.

You may wish to go on to teach your dog more complex instructions and entertaining tricks later on, but first you have to master the essential commands. These are the ones that you may need to ensure the health and well-being of your pet.

Sit

Photo of a Beagle dog

Essential for: Making your dog stop at will, for example at road crossings.

Stay

Stop dog

Essential for: Making your dog hold a safe position while you clear up potential dangers – for example, broken glass in your kitchen.

Come

Golden retriever puppy run from front view

Essential for: Making your dog come to you, for example if they have slipped their lead or if they are approaching potential dangers.

Leave

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Essential for: Making your dog ignore something which is very interesting but which they shouldn’t have – like your shoes, or something more dangerous.

Drop

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Essential for: Making your dog give up an item held in their mouth which they shouldn’t have.

With these commands mastered, you should have sufficient control over your pup to keep them safely out of danger – and then you’ll be able to move on to further training, both to expand their abilities and as a bonding process between you and your faithful canine companion.

If you’d like any assistance with dog training, please do get in touch with us on 07739 815 265.