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20 Training Dos And Don'ts

good dog sitting with treat balanced on nose

Dog lovers sometimes wonder why, despite their best efforts, their attempts at pet training fall short of expectations. No matter what you try, Rex still thinks the couch is his personal kingdom and Rover roams to areas that you want him to learn are out of bounds. As you’ve probably discovered, training takes more than just hoping your dog will read your mind and obey.

To help make training easier for you, here's our list of Top 20 Training Dos and Don'ts.

First, the Dos:

  • Do focus on your dog. Training must be about bringing him into your world by understanding his instincts and natural behaviors.
  • Do be honest with him. Never fool him into doing what you want or tease him with commands you teach him.
  • Do begin each command with the end in sight. Reward your dog lavishly—but only when he has completed the task you've set.
  • Do be consistent. Always use the same words for desired behaviors and the same tone of voice.
  • Do think ahead. Anticipate your dog's actions before he moves.
  • Do reward or admonish your dog immediately. He needs to associate praise or admonishment with the specific act.
  • Do teach him one command at a time. More than one command can easily confuse even the cleverest dog.
  • Do allow enough time for him to take in your command and then act. He may not react immediately, but this is not necessarily a sign of disobedience. Be patient.
  • Do enjoy yourself and he will too. This way, he'll associate his training with companionship—so it will become easier for both of you. And play with your dog before and after each training session.
  • Do be kind and patient. A poorly trained dog is the fault of the trainer, not the dog.

Knowing what to do is only half the story. Coupled with that, successful training depends on understanding the Don'ts:

  • Don't ever allow others to pamper him any more than you would. You're his master—the de facto alpha dog in your home pack—and he must look to you for leadership.
  • Don't ever finish a training session on a bad note. Remain positive and praise him for any progress made.
  • Don't punish him while you're angry. Training should be a pleasurable and nourishing experience for both of you.
  • Don't lose your temper while training. He needs to understand that you are in control.
  • Don't chase him if you want him to come. The idea is make him come to you.
  • Don't deceive your dog. Never shower him with praise to bring him to you and then punish him because he's been naughty. Be honest with him.
  • Don't continually repeat the same command to your dog until he executes it. He should understand you very early. Be patient but don't overuse the command.
  • Don't discipline your dog for disobedience unless you're certain that he understood the command you gave. And remember, discipline and punishment are two very different things.
  • Don't reward your dog for a given behavior, then, later admonish him for the same behavior. Consistency is crucial.
  • Don't allow anybody else to command your dog while you're training him.

This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, but just enough to help direct you in the right direction when it comes to successfully training your dog. For some dogs and their owners, these tips may be enough. However, if your efforts are still unsuccessful, it may be time to seek the help of a professional dog trainer.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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