8 Steps to Train Your Dog
Training your dog or puppy is a matter of teaching your fur baby good manners. Good manners and knowing how to behave properly are important for everyone in your household, including your dog! Good manners for dogs include learning how to obey cues you give, when you give them. You’ll want to teach your pet not to pull on the leashing with you dragging behind, not to jump on visitors who come to your home, and much more. This is where training your dog comes in.
Dogs Want to Please
Dogs have been bred to want to please their owners. This is basic in most dogs and dog breeds. Your dog wants to please you and make you happy, so he’ll do almost anything to get your approval. Training your dog good manners is the way to teach him what makes you happy. Not only that, but your dog will understand how to act in different situations and watch you for cues on how to behave. Training is an essential part of becoming a dog owner and teaching your dog what makes you happy.
Be aware that training and teaching are an ongoing process. Every moment you spend with your dog, he’s learning how to behave in ways that make you happy. Training is also about creating a relationship with your pup—one that’s based on trust and love. So, training is more than just getting your dog to obey and it doesn’t stop when the session’s over…training more about relationship and is ongoing in the time spent with your dog throughout his life.
Training Your Dog vs. Hiring a Trainer
If you’re a new dog owner, or even if you’ve owned dogs all your life, the idea of training a pet can be daunting. You may have tried and failed to train your pup or maybe you’ve become frustrated with the whole process. If you’re at this point, you might consider attending a basic training class with your furry companion. There are times when you and your pup may need to visit a professional dog trainer. You may have become frustrated (as noted above), or you may be facing these issues with your dog:
- Aggressive behavior: such as biting/nipping, growling, jumping at the front door when the doorbell rings
- Jumping on you and others
- Excessive possessiveness
If you have one or more of these issues with your dog, then it might be time to attend basic training classes together or even consider sending your pup to a trainer for obedience training. These types of behaviors can be dangerous and need to be curbed quickly to keep you, your family, your dog and others safe. However, if you’re just starting out and need some guidance on how to begin basic steps to train your dog, then read on! We’ve done some research to help you find the best methods to try when it comes to teaching your dog basic manners.
8 Steps to Train Your Dog Basic Good Manners
Here are 8 steps you can use to teach your dog the basic good manners he will need throughout his life.
Most trainers advise you to start training your dog by first teaching him to sit. This is the most basic cue, from which you’ll teach your pet the other basics.
- Using a treat in your hand, move the treat down in front of your dog’s nose. His head will follow. At the same time, say the word “sit.” You may need to gently hold his chest and apply gentle pressure to his hind quarters to help him get the idea.
- Repeat this process until your pup understands the cue to sit. The idea is to eventually get your fur baby to sit when cued, without having to use a treat.
Once your dog’s gotten the hang of sitting on cue, without expecting a treat, then you can move onto the next basic training, which is teaching your pup to stay. Teaching your dog to stay is more than just teaching him basic manners; it’s also a matter of safety. For instance, the stay cue keeps your dog from bolting in front of traffic or after other animals, jumping on visitors to your home, and more. Staying not only keeps your furry canine friend safe, but it keeps you and others safe, too.
- Start with your dog in a seated position, then face him. Hold your hand out, palm facing your pet, and use the cue “stay.” You may need to repeat this several times until he understands, but when your pup stays for several seconds, reward him with a treat and praise.
- Repeat this process and lengthen the amount of time your dog stays. Once he’s got the hang of it, then begin to add distance between you and your fur baby. When he stays for the time you specify, then walk back to him and reward him with a treat and praise.
- Keep this process going by adding a little more distance when your dog understands that he needs to stay, even with the increasing distance. The goal is to get your dog to stay (with increasing distance) until you give the release cue.
3. Lying Down
Teaching your dog to lie down is another basic lesson he needs to learn. Dogs in the down position are more relaxed and settled. Your dog may also feel more submissive in this position.
The lie down cue is another way to get your pup to behave when at the vet’s and in other situations.
- Teaching your dog to lie down on cue is similar to the sit cue—hold a treat in one hand, then lower it to the ground—your dog’s nose will follow the treat to the ground. He’ll probably get right into the lie down position so he can more easily get to the treat! If he doesn’t, you may have to gently get him into the right position. Once there, praise him and give him the treat as a reward.
- Just as you did with the previous sit and stay cues, teach your pup to stay in the lie down position for longer periods and gradually increase the distance between the two of you. When he behaves correctly, praise him and give him his reward—that yummy treat he’s worked so hard to have!
4. Coming to you when called
It seems natural that if your dog loves you and wants to please you, he would automatically come to you when called! However, you’ll have to teach him to come when called, just like you’ve taught him to sit and lie down. The come cue is another way to keep you and your dog safe in various circumstances. The goal is to have your dog come when called and teach him that he should expect good things when you call him back.
- Begin with your dog on a leash, then stand in front of him with a treat in one hand. Hold the treat away from his nose and begin to back away from your fur baby. He will follow—he expects a tasty treat for reward! Keep backing away slowly.
- As your pet keeps coming towards you, back away a little more quickly. You may need to make encouraging noises or sounds that keep his interest—just keep him coming toward you.
- Just before your fur baby reaches the hand with the treat, give the “come” cue and then give him the treat. Also offer calm praise along with the treat! Keep everything positive to encourage to keep coming when called.
- Keep following these steps while increasing the distance your pup has to come on the leash. Over time, you might try to work with your dog in a safe area—such as a fenced yard—without the leash. This way, your dog will learn to come even when he’s off the leash. Keep using this method until your pup learns to come and soon you’ll have a happy dog running for you when called!
5. Drop it/Leave it
Another important lesson for your dog. Sometimes dogs will pick up things they shouldn’t have or try to eat something they find in the road, etc. Occasionally he may pick up something dangerous and try to eat it.
The “drop it” cue also comes in handy when playing fetch with your canine friend! If he doesn’t drop the ball or toy, how can you throw it again?
- Start the “drop it” lessons with a toy, but one that’s not your dog’s favorite. When you’ve found the right toy, let your dog have it for a little bit. Sit on the floor in front of your dog and then, with a treat in hand (let your pet see the treat in your hand), calmly give the cue “drop it” cue. Wait for your dog to choose between the toy and the treat. When he drops the toy and chooses the treat, give him the treat and praise.
- You’ll have to repeat this over and over until your pup gets the idea. That’s OK. The main thing to keep in mind is to stay calm, never force your dog to give up the toy. Forcing him to hand over his toy could make him guard it and possibly growl or bite in order to protect it. The goal here is to eventually wean your dog off needing the treats to drop his toy.
6. Walking on a leash
This is another basic lesson all dogs should learn. Walking nicely on a leash doesn’t come naturally to most dogs, who would instead love to run and cavort in perfect freedom! To teach your pup to walk on a leash, you’ll need a collar or harness. The harness is highly recommended as it doesn’t choke your precious fur baby and it offers you more control of his chest and front lets.
If your dog is new to a collar or harness, before leash training, consider letting him get used to wearing the collar or harness first. This way he’ll be comfortable and used to these before the introduction of the leash. When introducing your dog to the leash, you might let him wear it in the house for short periods so he can get used to wearing it.
- Begin with your pup wearing the leash and collar or harness—you should both be standing still. Chances are your pup will want to start running and playing; however, if he’s jumping around and pulling on the leash, make him come to you and stay. Offer a reward and praise.
- Next, take a few steps and allow him to come with you, then stop. Your dog should not be allowed to pull on the leash. If he doses, then call him to you and give the cue to stay—withhold the treat. Try taking a few steps again, and if your dog comes with you and doesn’t pull on the leash, then praise him and give him the treat.
- Continue this process—it may take a while–but have patience—until your fur baby has the idea. Continue increasing the distance you go, until you’re both walking smoothly, and your pup isn’t pulling on the leash.
7. Place/Bed/Crate cue
This is handy for times you need or want your dog to stay in his sleeping area. This could be a favorite rug, his dog bed or even his crate.
- Start with your dog on a leash and have a treat in one hand. Gently guide him to his place/crate and give the cue “your place/your bed/your crate,” then give him his treat and the praise he deserves!
- Keep repeating these steps until your dog understands the cue and responds without the treat. This will take some time. As you continue training, use fewer treats and instead give your dog praise for obeying.
The wait cue is used when your dog needs to stay in place. This can be used when opening his crate, opening the car door to let him out, opening the front door for a walk, etc. This cue can be used in conjunction with other cues. For instance, you can use this cue every time you go for a walk—when you open the door, cue your pup to wait.
- Put the leash on your dog in advance of this training session. Then standing in front of the door (or when you let him out of his crate), let your fur baby out and give the cue to “wait.” If he bolts, pull him back and reposition him in the crate or in front of the door. Then start the process over again.
- Keep repeating these steps until your pup understands he needs to wait when given the cue. Reward him with a treat and praise when he responds appropriately. The goal is to eventually wean your dog off the treats and to accept praise as his reward.
Tips to Train Your Dog
Start with the basics: if you’re just starting out, it can be confusing—what do you teach your dog first? The answer is to start off with the basics; these are sitting, lying down, coming, staying, and heeling (when on the leash). These are the cues that teach your dog the basic manners he will need all through his life.
Your puppy is a baby: remember that your puppy is a baby dog! He doesn’t have the full thinking/reacting/learning capacity of an adult dog. He’s not a miniature adult. Keep this in mind when training a puppy. You’ll need to keep sessions short and train more often for your puppy to begin learning the basics.
Come to training sessions with lots of patience: whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, you’ll need to have a lot of patience when it comes to training him. Each dog learns in different ways and at his own pace. Be sure to bear this in mind and adapt your training sessions to fit your pup’s learning capacity, age, etc.
Consider exercising your dog before a training session: if you have a high-energy dog, you may have trouble keeping his attention during training sessions. High-energy dogs tend to always be on the move and don’t appreciate keeping their attention on anything for long, especially basic training such as sitting or lying down. Even if your pup is a high-energy dog, it might help to give him a short walk before a training session. Exercising will release some of your dog’s energy and he’ll be more likely to be more attentive.
Avoid feeding your dog just before training sessions: if you’re using treats as a reward during training sessions, you may want to avoid feeding your pup a meal beforehand. Your dog will more readily respond to his favorite treat! Not only that, but some dogs have sensitive stomachs. If they feel stressed or are very active after eating, they may need to vomit. So, avoid feeding your pup a meal before training sessions to avoid these issues.
Stuff you may need: you won’t need any fancy dog training tools to train your pup. Most people simply use a treat (one your dog loves!), a clicker (sometimes used to signal when the dog has behaved/performed properly), a collar or harness and a leash. And remember, you don’t want to use harsh means to train your precious pet. Items that shock or cause other discomfort only work through negative reinforcement. You want to train your dog with love and care by using positive means of reinforcement.
Train your dog in a comfortable, quiet area: be sure to train your dog in an area that’s quiet and comfortable. He may be happier to train in your backyard or in the house if he’s easily distracted by things going on around him.
Repetition is necessary: training involves repetition, so expect to repeat certain aspects of your dog’s training sessions and keep at it until he learns and understands. Use praise, gentleness and patience when training your furry companion.
These are the steps you can take to teach your dog the basic good manners he will need throughout his life. Not only are these training sessions teaching your dog, but you’ll be working with your dog and solidifying your relationship with one another, too. Make it a fun process, give lots of praise and even more, give your pup lots and lots of love.