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1. Always be positive when working with your dog
Always be positive when working with your dog. Dogs enjoy learning if they don’t feel unduly stressed and you want to focus on building a positive relationship with your dog.
2. Remember that your dog wasn’t born understanding human speech and can’t read your mind
Dogs “speak” to each other using body language and various types of vocalizations so learning to understand what your dog’s signals mean can lead to stronger relationship.
3. Understand the basics of how animals, including people, learn
Behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated, and behaviors that are ignored are more likely to be stopped because they bring no benefit to the dog.
4. Keep your training sessions short and train in small increments throughout the day
Dogs learn best in small increments, and by making sessions shorter it becomes more likely you’ll find the time to train your dog every day.
5. Make training part of your daily routine
Ask your dog to sit before going in and out of doors, have your dog do down stays while you’re watching TV, etc. By asking the dog to do these behaviors as part of “daily life” the dog will learn to offer these behaviors without prompting.
6. Teach your dog new behaviors in quiet, low-distraction areas
Once your dog is doing them well, slowly add in distractions. Don’t be surprised if you have to go back to square one with some behaviors once distractions are added in.
7. Make sure everyone in your household is on the same page
Be sure everyone uses the same words and hand signals that you use with the dog for each behavior. Being 100% consistent helps the dog to learn faster and find training less confusing.
8. Always focus on teaching what you want
It’s much easier for the dog to learn to “do” a behavior than to learn to “not do” a behavior. So a dog that jumps up could be taught to sit, or a dog that pulls can be taught to look at you and give eye contact before moving forward.
9. Use what your dog finds reinforcing
Every dog is different. Potential motivation may include food, treats, toys, petting, or getting to play with another dog. Treat your dog as an individual and use what he loves best.
10. If you find you need help with basic training, or start to see behavioral problems appear, do not wait to see a trainer or behavior consultant
Visit www.apdt.com to find a qualified professional near you who can help you and your new friend work through his or her issues for a long, happy life together!
Jason Carr, Pet Health Network Editor