So, you’ve just got yourself a new Border Collie puppy, but when do you start training it? There is so much conflicting information on when to start training a Border Collie and in this article, we hope to answer the question definitively.
We are going to be talking about why some trainers recommend starting the training process immediately and why some believe it is better to wait a bit longer. We are also going to give you some tips and tricks that will hopefully make the training process simpler and easier.
Why is Training a Border Collie Important?
Lots of new dog owners often make the mistake of spending way too much time looking at what collars they think will suite their dog best and what toys they should purchase for their pup. While there is no doubt that these things are important, getting your dog correctly trained is arguably more vital.
The reason for this is that a poorly trained Border Collie can be a nightmare to deal with, leading to a bad pet/owner relationship. Additionally, a well-trained Collie can be called back in a dangerous situation, which may save their life.
Why Do Some People Recommend Waiting?
Some trainers and owners recommend that you wait until about 6 months before you start training a Border Collie. This idea comes from a more “old school” training method where heavy handed corrections were used. The dog needed to be old enough to withstand wearing a collar and dealing with harsh physical corrections or punishment during training.
These old school trainers also believed that a Border Collie would reach the same skill level in adulthood, whether they started at six months or eight weeks, so they saw no reason to start them early.
What About Training a Border Collie at Eight Weeks?
Generally, eight to twelve weeks is around the time that Border Collies are taken from their mother and sent to a new home.
Before this, Collie puppies should be spending time with their mother, brothers and sisters to learn about being a dog. During this time they learn what it means to be part of the pack, how to communicate, and how to play. This first eight weeks is an incredibly important time for a Border Collie puppy and starting training too early can be detrimental to their development.
The idea that training should start at around eight weeks is based on this fact that most Border Collie puppies go to their new owners at this time. They have learnt most of what they need to know about being a dog and now it is time to learn from their new family.
Additionally, a puppy’s brain is not properly formed to learn much before eight weeks, so they do not have the ability to learn new commands and tricks properly.
When Should You Start Training a Border Collie?
With all the above in mind, when is actually the best time to start training a Border Collie puppy? We believe that the best time to start training a Collie puppy is as soon as you get them home, whether it is at eight or twelve weeks.
While a young Border Collie’s attention span is fairly limited, you can start the training process with short sessions. You should start the training process by teaching your puppy not to bite, how to take food gently and basic commands such as “sit”. Additionally, socialising your Border Collie as early as possible is incredibly important.
You should only use reward-based methods of training such as luring with food or clicker training. Forceable methods can be used at later points, but we are not fans of this training method and believe that reward-based training is always the best.
What to Expect from a Border Collie Puppy?
When you get your new Border Collie home don’t expect too much of them during training. Young puppies tend to be impulsive and have little self-control. Their attention spans are extremely limited, so keep training sessions as short as possible.
Try to think of your Border Collie puppy as a child. They will play with anything that interests them and do anything they want. They don’t understand what is theirs and what is not, so do not punish them for chewing your shoes. Remember, that a Collie puppy at around eight weeks will not listen to every command (in fact, they will probably ignore most of them).
Below we have created a rough training guide for a Border Collie puppy.
Border Collie Training Schedule
The following training schedule will be slightly different for each individual Border Collie, however, it should give you a basic idea of what you should expect from your puppy.
What to teach a Border Collie at 8 – 10 weeks.
The first things you should focus on when you bring your Border Collie puppy home for the first time is getting them socialised, training them to take food properly and getting them toilet trained. Remember, don’t expect too much at this stage. In fact, we would recommend that you don’t create formal training sessions and instead let it happen naturally.
It is also a good idea to reward your new Collie puppy when they follow you or come to you on their own accord. This will get them mentally prepared for future training sessions when more difficult and advanced commands are introduced.
As soon as you get your Collie puppy home you should also be getting them used to you touching their paws, tummy, inside their mouth and around their ears. This will make trips to the vets much easier and your vet will appreciate it.
Socialisation – Border Collies need to be socialised as soon as possible and you need to introduce them to a range of different people, dogs and other animals. While you may not be able to take them out for walks straight away (due to vaccinations), you can still introduce them to a friend’s dog who has been vaccinated.
Follow – Rewarding your new Collie puppy if they follow you is incredibly important. If your Collie understands that following you is a good thing it makes teaching them commands such as “come” or “heel” much easier.
Recall or come – While you are not teaching your Border Collie to come properly, you are teaching them that coming to you is a good thing. Reward your Collie puppy when they come to you naturally
Not to bite – Do not allow hard biting, however, mouthing is acceptable at this stage for a Collie puppy.
How to take food – Nobody likes a dog that snatches food and if you continue to let your Border Collie do this they may eventually bite somebody by accident. Never let your Border Collie snatch food from your hand and if they do say no and then ignore them.
House Training – One of the most important things you can do at this early stage. Get your Collie house trained, but remember it usually takes a few months before accidents stop.
What to teach a Border Collie at 10 – 12 Weeks
This stage of a Border Collie’s training process is pretty much the same as above. Just continue what you have been doing, however, you can introduce some more basic commands/skills.
Socialisation – Increase the amount you socialise your Border Collie and make sure they are meeting a wide variety of people and dogs.
More recall training – You can start to introduce the ‘come’ command, but only associate it with the action. Only use the word ‘come’ when they are already moving towards you. Continue to reward your Collie when they come to you naturally.
Discourage biting – hard biting should not be allowed, but mouthing is still okay at this stage.
Fetch or retrieve – Encourage your Collie to chase after toys and pick them up. Don’t try and get them to fully retrieve yet, but reward heavily of they do.
Walk by your side – Start to introduce heel training by getting your Collie to walk by your side. You can do this by either using clicker training or food rewards.
What to teach a Border Collie at 3 – 4 Months
At three to four months a Border Collie puppy is much more developed. They should be capable of sleeping through the night and there should be less toilet accidents occurring.
Don’t worry if your Border Collie puppy is even more keen on biting and nipping your hand. Three months is the peak age for biting, so don’t expect the problem to be gone by this time.
Introducing commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’ is a good idea, but don’t expect them to stay in the position. Remember to keep rewarding your Collie when they come to you naturally and start getting them associated with lead walking.
Even more socialisation –Your Border Collie should be finished their vaccinations at around 14 to 16 weeks, so you can introduce them to more dogs and take them more places.
Come – Once your Collie has associated “come” with the action of moving towards you, you can begin to use it as a command. Try and get your Collie puppy to come to you in a distraction free environment. Remember to reward and praise them heavily if they do so.
Biting – No biting should be allowed, but gentle mouthing is ok.
Fetch and retrieve – Continue to encourage your Collie to retrieve different items and toys.
Introduce some new positions – Start rewarding your Collie when they sit or lie down. We are not training them fully yet, but instead indicating that we like it when they do get into those positions. Read more about teaching your dog to sit here.
Basket – Introduce the idea that sitting in their basket when you are doing the washing or when you are eating dinner is good. Reward them for doing so.
What to teach a Border Collie at 4 – 6 Months
At four to six months old you should be getting your Border Collie’s biting problem under control and mouthing should be discouraged. Your puppy should also be toilet trained, but the odd accident here and there is to be expected, especially if they are left alone for an extended period of time.
From around four months a Border Collie puppy will be quite capable, so you can get much more advanced with their training. You can start to introduce more commands and formal commands for the actions you have been rewarding them so far.
Despite their ability for more advanced training, don’t expect your Collie to walk at heel or stay for long periods of time.
Come – Introduce distractions into your Collie puppy’s ‘come’ training routine.
Sit and lie down – Introduce distractions and get your Collie sitting and lying down at your command
Stay – You are not going to ask your Border Collie to stay, but use commands like sit and lie down to get them to so.
Heel – Continue getting your Collie to walk by your side and introduce more advanced heel training.
Socialisation – Continue to socialise your dog.
No more biting – There should be no biting or mouthing allowed.
What to teach a Border Collie at 5 – 6 months
Command and obedience training – Continue training for commands such as ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘come’ and ‘heel’. Introduce distractions in their training routine.
After 6 Months
From six months onwards, the basics should be fully ingrained into your Border Collie’s mind. They should be able to carry out simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘down’. Your Collie puppy should be socialised, toilet trained and there should not be any biting or mouthing.
With that in mind, you can begin to raise your expectations for their training. Train your Collie to sit and stay for longer periods of time and introduce some distractions into their training.
Your puppy should be capable of walking at heel for extended periods of time or close to being able to do so, and they should also come at your command. You can also start to teach your Border Collie some other tricks and commands at this age as well.
Remember that a six-month old Border Collie will be quite strong and powerful. They will be full of energy at this age and you may even find that training them is more difficult. Despite this, if you have set a good basis for their training you should be able to work through the problems.
Are Training Classes Necessary for a Border Collie?
You may be wondering if puppy training school is worth it or even necessary for your Border Collie puppy? Most pet owners can teach their dog everything they need to know. With a bit of patience and consistency, you should be able to train your Collie to respond to commands predictably and reliably.
For those who are struggling with the training process, a puppy school can be really helpful. In puppy training classes the instructor will take you through different training techniques and can answer any of your questions immediately. They will guide you through the training process and can advise you on any problems.
One of the biggest benefits of taking your Border Collie to a puppy training school is that it forces you to train them. So many owners buy a dog and then never train it, so taking them to a puppy school is a good way to motivate yourself.
Another big benefit of a puppy school is that there are usually lots of other dogs there. This means they are great places to socialise your Border Collie, which is incredibly important for their development.
If you have access to other dogs, you may find that a puppy school is less beneficial for socialising. First time dog owners will get the most out of training classes.
Summing Up When to Train a Border Collie
With so many differing opinions out there on when to start training a Border Collie puppy, it can be difficult for new owners. Most modern dog trainers (us as well) believe that training should start as soon as you get your Border Collie home.
If you decide to leave the training process for a bit later it probably won’t make much of a difference, however, we feel that six months is far too late. The only vital things you should do straight away is socialisation, toilet training, and stopping your Collie from biting/mouthing.
Remember to never ask too much of your Collie and that progress can be quite slow. Do not get frustrated and try not to compare your dog’s progress with another.
If you do start training at an early age, you will be surprised by how much your Border Collie can learn. They are an incredibly intelligent breed of dog, so they will soak up anything you teach them.
Are you struggling to stop your dog or puppy from biting and nipping? Do you wonder when your new puppy will stop biting? Or do you have an older dog that has a tendency to bite or nip people? If this sounds like you, read on to learn how to stop it.
Biting is a common problem that dog owners face and you will find that young puppies just love to sink their tiny teeth into you. Today we are going to look at how to stop a dog from biting people, clothes and other items.
Why Do Dogs and Puppies Bite?
Biting is one of the most natural things for a young puppy to do and there are a number of reasons why they do it. Older dogs usually bite for other reasons and the implications can be much greater.
Why Does My Puppy Bite?
Below we have listed some of the reasons a puppy may bite or nip.
It’s Fun and They Want to Play
Puppies love to bite because it gets them a reaction. Your puppy may be bored and wants to play, and all they have to do is sink their teeth into you or their siblings to get the action going. When a puppy bites one of their siblings, a game of chase or play fight will probably ensue. This gets attention focused on the biter, which is what they want.
When puppies bite humans the same thing happens. Your attention will focus back on your dog and they will get a reaction from you. Even if you tell them off your puppy has still go what they want. Remember that negative attention is still attention to a puppy.
They Love to Explore and Investigate
Puppies love to explore and investigate the world around them. The problem is, that unlike humans they do not have hands to grasp and touch the world around them. That means the only real way they can hold things is to use their mouth.
A puppy has the same incredible levels of curiosity as a child. Babies love to grab onto everything they can get their little hands on, and you will often see them use their mouth as well. Puppies have the exact same mindset as a human baby, but with paws instead of feet and hands.
Additionally, puppies can’t talk. They may be able to bark and whimper, but that is about it. A puppy’s mouth strength and biting ability can help them communicate and will determine their rank among the pack.
They Are Teething
While many dog owners associate biting or nipping with teething, it is not usually the main cause of the problem. Most biting is because they want to play, but teething can make the issue worse.
Puppies will usually have their adult teeth by the time they are about seven months old, but biting normally stop before this time. However, if a puppy is not trained to keep their teeth away from humans and redirected to appropriate chew toys, then mouthing and chewing can last well into adulthood.
Why Do Old Dogs Bite?
Elderly dogs will often bite with reasons that are totally different to the above.
They May Be in Pain
Pain is usually the main reason why elderly dogs bite or act aggressively. If your old dog suddenly becomes aggressive or starts to bite, you should take them to a veterinarian immediately. You vet will be able to rule out or treat any medical conditions or issues.
Dogs are pretty stoic about pain and aggressive behaviour is often the first sign of a problem. It is quite hard to know when a dog is hurting and by the time we know there is something wrong with them, the problem may be much worse.
An Older Dog Can Become Intolerant
Older dogs need a nice comfortable place where they know they can be safe. Even if your dog loves to be the centre of attention, they will need a safe place to retreat to. Disturbing and older dog can lead to aggressive behaviour or biting, and as they say “Let sleeping dogs lie”.
Elderly dogs may become impatient, and they can become annoyed if they are poked and prodded all day.
They May Be Confused
Just like some humans, dogs can become confused in their later years. You may see this sporadically, or there may be a steady decline. Dog dementia is a serious problem and you may notice the following symptoms if your dog is suffering from it.
Sleep-wake cycle disturbances
Lower threshold for aggression
Decreased activity levels
Inappropriate vocalization (howling, barking or whining)
Carrying on from above, a dog that can’t see or hear can become confused. Approaching them from behind or surprising them can lead to aggressive behaviour and biting. If your dog’s eyesight or hearing is impaired, be careful about how you approach them.
Do All Dogs Bite?
Almost every single dog will bite or nip when they are a puppy. It is a natural thing for them to do and fortunately it is a temporary phase that they go through. Puppies will eventually grow out of it, but expect some bites along the way.
When it comes to older dogs it is slightly different. The majority of older dogs will not bite, but they can develop the habit as they age or when they become sick or injured.
Do Some Breeds of Dog Bite More Than Others?
If you are wondering if some dog breeds are more likely to bite than others, the answer is yes. Sporting breeds and those that have the drive to chase prey or protect their territory or more likely to bite than others.
The Canine Journal has a fantastic article on the statistics of dog bites in the United States. While this doesn’t really factor in puppy biting and mouthing, it is good information to look at if you are thinking about buying a new puppy or have one of the top biters. The top biters are as follows:
Jack Russell Terrier
Remember that not all dogs are the same and they all have their own individual traits and characteristics. If your dog is on this list, you should not panic. Likewise, if your dog is not featured on the top biters list, you should not become complacent with them.
Play or Aggressive Biting in Puppies?
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether a puppy’s biting is due to aggression or play. Dog body language can be difficult to understand so we recommend that you check out this article.
Play Time Can Look Aggressive
It can be quite alarming when puppies play with each other. You’ll probably hear all sorts of yapping and barking, and it can really look like they are trying to hurt each other. Even when your puppy is playing by themselves they can make all sorts of aggressive sounding noises, but it is perfectly normal.
Biting will often accompany this sort of play and you will probably hear your puppy growl and snarl at other puppies or objects in their environment.
It is natural for inexperienced dog owners to worry that their puppy’s behaviour could be a sign that they have a dangerous animal in their house. Snarling, growling, biting and barking can be a shock to new dog owners, but most of the time it is just play.
Growling in Dogs
What If My Puppy Growls at Me?
When your puppy is playing they practice being scary and fierce. They turn themselves into a different animal and want to make as much noise as possible. All puppies tend to carry out this sort of behaviour when they are playing and you may be on the receiving end. Your puppy may try to entice you into a game by growling and yapping at you.
Your puppy’s mum and siblings understand this behaviour and are not bothered by it. Because of this, your puppy will have no idea that he is frightening you or other people in your house. Your puppy doesn’t understand that you think they are turning into a monster.
What About Elderly Dogs?
Now we know that puppy growling and aggressive behaviour is often harmless play, but what about older dogs?
Growling in older dogs happens for many of the same reasons as biting. We listed some of those earlier in this article, but in short it could be because they are in pain, afraid, annoyed or they are trying to protect their possessions or territory.
What About Resource Guarding
Alright, so most of the time aggressive behaviour in puppies is actually play, but what about when they are guarding something?
Some dogs can act aggressively if they are protecting something important to them, like a toy or food. We call this resource guarding.
When your dog wants to guard something they will stand over it to protect it from any possible threat. They may act aggressively and even start biting if a potential threat gets too close.
This sort of behaviour needs to be discouraged when they are puppies and it definitely shouldn’t happen when they are adults. If you have an older dog that does this, you need to fix the situation as soon as possible. Adult dogs and even puppies can have a serious bite on them and they may use it if you try to take away something important to them.
More Puppy Biting Information
In this next section of the article, we are going to be focusing on puppy biting. If you would like to learn more about stopping an older dog from biting, scroll down a bit further.
What Makes Puppy Biting Worse?
If you are trying to stop a puppy from biting, it is a good idea to know what encourages them. There are four main things that can make biting worse:
Excitement – An excited puppy is more likely to bite. The more excited a puppy is, the harder they will bite and with more frequency. Rough, physical play, chasing, tummy tickles and more will get your puppy bubbling with excitement that they cannot control. Additionally, noisy behaviour such as screams, shouting or crying will wind your puppy up and make them over excited.
Inappropriate play – This sort of goes with the above. If you let your dog chew on your fingers or if you wave your hands in front of your puppy’s face, expect to get a nasty nip. This sort of behaviour trains your puppy to associate your hands as a toy.
Attention – We all love to give our puppies attention, but giving them attention when they bite us only makes matters worse. You may not think you are rewarding your puppy for biting, but you are if you give them any attention when they do so. Puppies love attention and getting any is a massive reward for them.
Poor bite inhibition – A puppy with poor bite inhibition will bite harder than those with good bite inhibition. We are going to explain a bit more about bite inhibition below and how you can help your puppy improve theirs.
So How Do You Stop a Puppy from Biting?
Prevention Is Key
Avoiding situations where you put yourself in the position to be bitten is a big part of this training. You do not want to let your puppy associate you or somebody else’s body as a toy. The key with this is to redirect and prevent.
Control Your Puppy’s Excitement
An excited puppy is more likely to bite, so you need to control their level of excitement. If your puppy starts getting too excited, let them cool off for a bit. You can stop the game you are playing for a couple of minutes or leave the room. When you return your puppy should have calmed down and you can resume play time.
Redirect Attention with Hands and Toys
When you are training your puppy, make sure you always have toys to offer them. Puppies love to chew and bite anything they can get their paws on. They want to explore the world and do that via their teeth.
You need to use your hands to redirect them to some fun toys. Your job is to make the toys look as attractive as possible and much more interesting than your hands, feet and clothes. When redirecting your puppy’s attention, don’t make fast, jerky movements with your hands. This only makes your hands more interesting.
Stay in Control When Playing
You need to make sure you stay in control when you play games with your puppy. If your puppy attempts to bite you or starts causing trouble, simply walk away and return once they have cooled down.
Supervise Your Kids
Children are often on the receiving end of a bite. They love to play with dogs and they will wind them up until they are almost in a frenzy. You need to supervise any children who are playing with your puppy and show them how to play correctly.
This means that you shouldn’t let children run around a puppy without a toy. If a child is running around, the puppy will begin to focus on them as their main source of entertainment. Teach children to be calm around puppies and use toys to play with them.
Can You Punish a Puppy for Biting?
There are a number of trainers who advocate punishing a puppy if they bite. This may be by intimidating them with an angry, shouty voice or even physical punishment such as a light slap.
These sort of methods can work, but there are a number of problems with them. Negative training techniques can reduce the trust between you and your dog, leading to unwanted behaviour down the line.
In addition to this, puppies need to learn how to control their mouths and bite before they are taught not to bite at all.
What Is Bite Inhibition?
Bite inhibition simply means that the puppy learns not to apply too much force when they are biting. It is similar to how humans learn to not apply too much pressure when they perform a handshake with someone. Applying too much pressure in a handshake can crush the other person’s hand and cut off their blood supply.
Puppies learn to limit the pressure with their mouths by feedback from their siblings and mother. If they are playing with their siblings and one bites a little bit too hard, the other one will yelp loudly. The yelp indicates to the biting puppy that they are applying too much pressure and they need to let go.
Once this has happened, play will stop for a few minutes until they are ready to go again. The next time they play, the offending puppy will bite a little bit less hard than before.
This also happens with their mother. If they bite down on their mom too hard, she will growl at them and get up. This means that they will get no more dinner or attention from her.
So how does this apply to humans? A puppy may have learnt the acceptable force when biting their siblings, but unfortunately, humans do not have a nice fur coat to protect them. The level of force your puppy has learnt to use on their mother and siblings will be too painful for delicate human skin. Your puppy will not know this yet, but you are going to teach them.
Bite Inhibition Training
From the above, it can be seen that fun things stop when a puppy bites their mother or siblings. You need to apply this same theme to your puppy’s bite inhibition training to get the point across to them.
We have listed some steps and training tips below to teach your dog good bite inhibition.
If your puppy bites too hard, make a load yelp or “Ouch!” sound.
Once your puppy releases your hand, don’t pull it away quickly. Jerking your hand away from them quickly will make it look like something fun to chase and bite.
Instead, let your puppy release your hand and then get up and move away. Completely ignore them while you are doing this. The idea is to teach your puppy that the fun stops when they bite you.
Continue to ignore them for a couple of minutes and then return to them. Play with them and make sure you have some toys on hand. Praise your puppy when they interact with the toy.
If your puppy bites you again, repeat the same process of walking away and ignoring them.
You may find that your puppy tries to chase or follow you. If they do this, leave the room so they cannot follow you. Make sure your puppy is in a puppy-proof area, as they may take out their frustration or boredom on household items. Leave them lots of toys, so that they can interact with those.
For those who don’t have a puppy-proof area, we recommend that you put a lead on your puppy. When they bite you, tie them up to something and walk away.
The main goal of this exercise is take away the fun when they bite you. Do not get angry at your dog and do not give them attention when they bite you.
Leaving your puppy for a couple of minutes after they bite you will give them time to cool down and reduce their excitement levels. Make sure you have plenty of toys and encourage them to play with the toys.
Why Don’t We Teach Them to Not Bite at All?
You are probably wondering why we don’t just teach a puppy to not bite at all. The reason for this is that a number of experts believe that a staged bite inhibition training process is important to get complete control over your dog’s biting in the present and future.
The idea of reducing biting gradually was popularised by Ian Dunbar. He believed that a dog that has learnt to control their bite will be less likely to harm a person if they bite in the future. Remember that a dog can always bite and there is no way to train them 100% not to.
As your puppy begins to understand that they need to be gentle, you can start asking more of them. If your puppy bites or mouths you, remember to walk away every time. They will slowly reduce the force of their bite and eventually you can get them to stop biting altogether.
Your whole goal is to help your puppy understand that playtime continues as long as they keep their teeth away from you and on their toys.
How to Train a Puppy Not to Bite in Steps
Now that we know why puppies bite, some of the things that make biting worse and methods to stop biting, let’s put all of that information together in easy to follow stages.
Stage One – Control Your Puppies Environment and Interactions
You need to control your puppy’s environment and have a place where they can calm down. This means that you shouldn’t give them the run of the house and you need to have a room or area where they can feel safe.
In addition to this, you need to control your puppy’s interactions with yourself and other people (especially kids). Make sure that children understand how to play with your puppy and have lots of toys on hand.
Make sure your puppy doesn’t get too excited when they are playing a game or meeting someone for the first time. Control their excitement levels and know when to give them a minute to cool down.
Stage Two – Don’t Make Things Worse
As we have stressed in this article, don’t get your puppy too excited and don’t reward them for biting. A puppy’s favourite reward is your attention, so don’t give it to them when they do something bad.
Make sure your puppy gets no rewards when they bite you or someone else. This is a vital step to stopping a puppy from biting.
In addition to this, don’t encourage biting by waving your hands or fingers in front of your puppy. Many puppies see fingers, hands, toes and feet as something to chase and play with.
Stage Three – Teach Your Puppy Some Mouth Control
This is all the bite inhibition training we talked about earlier in this article. You need to train your puppy to bite with less force and that biting hurts you.
Bite inhibition training takes a while so don’t think you are going to see success in a day. Your puppy needs to learn to reduce the power of their bite gradually and eventually stop biting all together.
As we wrote earlier, if your puppy bites make a load yelp or squeal and then walk away. Leave the room for a period of time and then come back once your puppy has calmed down. Your puppy will soon understand that fun things stop when they bite you.
Step Four – Redirect Their Attention
If your puppy looks like they are about to bite or they are starting to focus on you, introduce some distractions. Redirect your puppy’s attention away from your body and clothes to interesting toys. This way they will bite and chew the toy instead of you. Reward your puppy when they play with the toy.
Step Five – Teach Your Puppy Not to Bite
This is the part where we teach the puppy to let us touch them in any way we like, without them biting or mouthing.
The best way of doing this is to use a clicker and some delicious dog treats. However, for those that don’t have a clicker you can use a cue word such as ‘yes’, but make sure you still have treats to give your puppy.
We have laid out how to conduct the training exercise below:
Move your hand towards your puppy in a slow, controlled manner.
If they do not move their mouth towards your hand say “yes!” or give them a click if you have clicker trained them. Immediately following this, give your puppy a treat.
Repeat the same process but get your hand closer to your puppy’s mouth. Eventually you want to be able to touch your puppy’s mouth without them biting you.
Every time you do it say “yes” or give them a click and then follow with a treat.
Watch This Video for a Full Description of the Technique
What if My Puppy Bites Me?
If your puppy bites you while you are conducting this training session, walk away and ignore them. Remember that we want to show our puppy that biting is not okay and hurts us.
Let your puppy cool down for a couple of minutes and then return to the training exercise. This time, make smaller hand movements further away from your puppy until they ignore them. Gradually close the distance between your hand and your puppy’s mouth after each successful go.
More Options to Control Puppy Biting
While the above method is what we would recommend you do to stop your puppy’s biting, there are a few other things and techniques that can be used to reduce biting. Let’s look at them below:
If walking out of the room and leaving your puppy isn’t enough to stop them biting you, you can try taste deterrents to make your hands and feet less appealing.
The idea with these taste deterrent products is that they make anywhere you apply the product taste terrible. Something like Grannicks Bitter Apple is a product you can use to deter your puppy’s biting.
When your puppy releases their bite, praise them and redirect their attention to a toy.
Keep Your Puppy Exercised
Keeping your puppy exercised and mentally stimulated can go a long way to help the biting problem. If you take your puppy for regular walks and let them work up a sweet, they will be less likely to get too excited.
A well exercised and mentally stimulated puppy will be calmer than one that is kept inside all day. You can read more about dog exercise in our “How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need” article.
What About Dominant Puppies?
Just like humans, dogs and puppies have different personalities and characteristics. Most puppies are not trying to be dominant and just want to be part of the pack. However, as puppies grow older, some may try to use biting as a way to show their dominance.
If you believe that your puppy is trying to be dominant by biting you, do not yelp or shout at all. This can reinforce the bad behaviour and could be a sign that you are backing down. They will then believe they are the leader in the relationship.
For puppies or dogs that are trying to be dominant through biting, simply walk away if they do bite or attempt to. You can also put your puppy in a time-out room or use their lead to tether them in place.
How to Stop an Old Dog from Biting?
Now that we have looked at stopping a puppy from biting, let’s look at stopping elderly dogs from doing the same. Unfortunately, older dogs can be quite stubborn and the reasons for their biting are usually completely different to a puppy.
Help Their Illness or Pain
As we wrote at the start of this article, an older dog may bite because they are sick or in pain. It can be hard to recognise the signs of a sick dog as they are quite stoic about pain. Your dog may have hip or back issues, but you may be none the wiser.
Always keep a look out for any changes in behaviour and take your dog to the vets if you believe there is something wrong with them. Your vet may be able to treat the problem, or it may be a case of managing the condition.
If your dog is suffering from illness or pain, avoid doing things that could make it worse. Make sure they have plenty of rest and a safe place where they can be away from people. Don’t let young children jump all over your dog, as this could result in a nasty bite. Monitor any play with your dog and don’t overstress them.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
We all know this quote and it really is true. Older dogs can become intolerant to people, kids and other dogs. Make sure they have a place to rest without being disturbed. Teach any children to leave the dog alone when they are resting and don’t let them have access to the dog when there is no one to supervise.
In addition to this, we recommend that you take your dog to the park and out for walks at none peak times. This means that there will be less dogs to potentially annoy your older dog.
Approach and Touch Them Appropriately
Older dogs may be confused or their hearing and eyesight could be impaired. Always approach your dog appropriately and don’t sneak up on them. If you can, always try to approach your dog from the front and say their name as you get near. This way they will know you are coming and won’t be surprised.
Don’t Put Your Dog in Situations They Don’t Like
This is sort of a combination of the above, but it is important. If your dog doesn’t enjoy doing something (even if they did before) don’t put them in a situation where they have to do it. This may mean that you don’t take them to the dog park or roll them on their back for a tummy tickle.
Walk Away if They Bite You
Just like when a puppy bites, don’t give your older dog attention and walk away from them. Leave them to cool down and do not physically harm them. Any negative training techniques could lead to harder biting in the future.
Train Bite Inhibition
Some dogs never learn to control their bite, but it never too late to start training them to do so. Simply do the same as you would with a puppy. Walk away when they bite and stop any fun things.
Summing Up How to Stop a Dogs and Puppies Biting
As you can see, there are loads of different reasons why a dog might bite. Usually, they are not to do with aggressive behaviour or trying to be dominant. For puppies it is simply a natural occurrence and you need to discourage biting through bite inhibition training and teaching them to stop.
When it comes to older dogs you may not be able to solve the problem completely, but you can control the factors that make it worse.
Remember that stopping your dog’s biting will not happen overnight and you need to be consistent. The alternative to not training your puppy or dog is a large animal putting their mouth on you or other people.
Always be patient with your dog and remember that biting is only natural for dogs, especially puppies. Show your puppy that biting hurts and they need to control their bite when interacting with people.
Most people usually want to find out how to stop their Labrador barking, but for some, they want to do the opposite. Teaching your Lab to speak or bark is a fun trick that can also be useful in some circumstances.
In this article we are going to be explaining how to teach a Labrador to speak on command and why it can be useful. We are also going to be talking about issues you may come across during the training process.
The Benefits of Teaching Your Lab to Speak
Teaching your Lab to speak or bark is a great trick and it lets you get control over their voice. While this trick is not essential, there are some reasons why you should teach it to your Labrador. Let’s look at them below:
Can help to control their barking – If you have a Lab that loves to bark at anything, you may want to teach them how to speak on command. When you train a dog to bark on command, you will find it easier to train them to be quiet.
You can make your Lab bark when people come to the door – For some owners they want their Lab to bark when people come to the tour. Teaching your dog to speak on command is a one of the first steps to do this.
Teach your Labrador to speak when they want something – Another benefit of training your dog to bark on command is that you can then teach them to do it when they want something. For example, you can train your Lab to bark when they want to go to the toilet.
It’s fun – Training your Lab to bark on command is a fun trick. You can use it when you are playing games such as fetch or when you want to show off your dog’s impressive bark.
Helpful Tips for Training Your Lab to Speak
Below have listed some helpful tips that will make the training process easier for you.
Pick a Good Place to Train – It is incredibly important to establish a good training environment. Avoid any areas with lots of distractions as they will make it more difficult to train your canine companion. We recommend that you find a nice quiet room in your house that is reasonably small so you can keep your Lab’s attention fixed on you.
Use High Value Treats – Labradors love food, so get your hands on some high value treats to make the training process easier. Tasty treats such as chicken or pre-made dog treats will get your Lab more excited for training time and they will be more eager to do as you command.
Keep Training sessions Short – Always try to keep your training sessions under five minutes. If you make your sessions too long your Lab will get bored and distracted, which is frustrating for the both of you.
Make it Positive – Always make your training sessions a fun, positive experience and don’t make them into a chore. Try to think of the session as more of a game as this will make it more interesting for the both of you and your dog will look forward to future lessons.
What You Will Need
The only tool that you really need for this command is some high value dog treats. Small bits of chicken or dog treats such as these ones from Old Mother Hubbardare a great way to keep your Labrador’s attention fixed on you.
Alternatively, you can use a toy as a reward. Some dogs respond better to this, while others aren’t interested at all.
You will also need some kind of barking stimulus such as a doorbell, clicker (if your dog is trained to use one) or even a toy.
Training a Labrador to Speak
Now that you are all set to go, let’s look at how you can make your Labrador bark on command. Teaching a dog to speak is a fairly straightforward process and it shouldn’t take too much time.
In this guide we are going to be looking at a method called “capturing”. Capturing works by waiting for your Lab to do the desired action (in this case speaking), and then rewarding them for that action. You then match a signal word or sound to the action.
Your Labrador will eventually learn that they should do the action when you say the signal word. This is a common training method that is widely used for other tricks and commands.
Choosing a Signal
It is important to pick a simple signal that is short and snappy. This signal word or command should only be used for this specific action, so that your Lab doesn’t start barking when you want them to do something else. We personally use the world ‘speak’ with our dogs and will be using that in this guide. Other good words include ‘bark’ or ‘talk’.
Steps to Train a Lab to Bark on Command
The first thing you are going to want to do is to let your Labrador bark/speak naturally. This can be quite a difficult task for some dogs as they naturally aren’t barkers.
If you are struggling to make your Labrador bark, you may have to get creative. Try to find something that makes your dog bark such as a toy or game. For our boy Winston we used his favourite ball. We held the ball up high and because he wanted it, he barked.
Once you have got your Lab barking, start saying the signal word in a clear, upbeat manner when they do it.
Following this, praise your dog and give them a treat or throw them a toy/play a game with them. Show your Lab that you are really excited by what they did and remember to keep it fun.
Repeat these steps several times until your Labrador begins to match the signal word (“Speak”) to the action of barking/speaking. Most Labs will get this pretty quickly, but some dogs take a few training sessions to get the hang of it.
The next step is to use the word on its own. In a clear voice say “speak” and wait for your Lab to bark. If they do not bark repeat the signal word a few times, maintaining a clear voice.
If your Labrador still doesn’t speak on your command, go back to the earlier steps to reinforce the command.
Once your Lab does speak you have taught them the command! Remember to use it frequently to reinforce the command.
Common Questions When Training a Labrador to Speak
Below we have answered some common questions when teaching a Labrador to speak on command:
My Dog Keeps Barking When I Say the Signal Word
When you train your Labrador to speak on command it is important to only reward them when they do a single bark. If you reward your dog for barking lots, they will think that is what you want. If your Lab is doing this, you may have to retrain them by only giving them rewards when they do a single bark and ignoring them when they do multiple.
My Dog Won’t Bark at All, How Do I Fix This?
This is a tricky one as some dogs simply don’t bark at all. Our girl Daisy has only barked twice in her entire life and no matter what we do we can’t make her bark. If your Labrador is like this there isn’t much you can do.
For those that don’t have dogs like the above, but are still struggling, we recommend teasing them with a toy. Do this while you are playing a game of fetch or tug as your Lab will be focused on getting the toy off you. In one instance, we even put Winston’s ball in a tree to make him bark. While it may seem mean to do this, it is a quick and easy way to get your dog to bark and won’t hurt them.
Summary of How to Train a Labrador to Speak
Training your Labrador to speak/bark on command is a great fun trick and can be useful in some circumstances. If you are new to dog training there are plenty of other commands you should teach your Lab first, but this is a nice, easy one. Remember to keep training sessions fun and if your dog doesn’t want to bark, find a creative solution.
One of the first things you need to do to create a strong relationship with your dog is to become the pack leader. You need to do this from the moment you bring them home, all the way throughout their life.
Dogs need a strong pack leader. They operate on a social structure of rank and if they lead, you follow. If your dog is the pack leader and a time comes when you need to command them, they will not take you seriously. However, if you become the pack leader and set out clear leadership roles, your dog will respond more positively to your commands.
While being the pack leader is beneficial, being overly dominate can actually be detrimental to their behaviour. You need to have them trained correctly and they must trust you.
How Do You Become the Alpha Dog?
Being the pack leader in your household does not give you free reign to become a bully. If your dog fears you, they may become badly behaved or even aggressive.
Let’s look at a number of things you need to do to become the pack leader in your household.
Be Calm Yet Assertive
When it comes to dogs, leadership is more about showing your dominance silently. Pack leaders do not project nervous or emotional energy, so neither should you. You must be calm and confident when dealing with your dog.
A dog’s mother is a great example of a pack leader. They do not take any silly behaviour and if a puppy steps out of line, they are dealt with quickly and calmly.
Set Your Boundaries
Like pack leaders, territory is incredibly important to dogs. Wild dogs claim their territory by asserting themselves calmly and confidently, and then communicate their ownership through eye contact and body language. As a pack leader, you need to show your dog that you are in charge of the area you two live in and train in.
Your dog will probably already realise this however. For example, they know they cannot go through a door without your help.
Make Sure Your Dog Earns Their Rewards
A common problem with many dog owners is they become big softies when they get home and see their puppy. While they are strong at work, the sight of their pooch makes them break down. Your dog needs to learn that rewards are not something they just get, but something that is earnt.
If you give your dog everything they want, when they want it, they will become bossy and uncontrollable. This means that you should not give your dog any rewards such as food, petting or even eye contact when they are demanding attention.
Rewards should be given when your dog does something that you feel is good, not when you just want to treat them. If you want to give your dog a treat, get them to do something like ‘sit’, ‘come’ or ‘lie down’ before you give it to them. This way your dog understands that they need to do something before a reward is given.
However, it is still ok to occasionally treat your dog to show that you love them.
Be in Control of Their Food
You should be in total control of your dog’s feeding arrangements. However, contrary to popular belief, eating your food before your dog eats theirs is not necessary. You can feed your dog before yourself, but remember to not give them the food until you have released them to eat.
Finally, take your dog for a walk before you give them their breakfast or dinner. You will not only show that you are in charge of their food, but your dog will also find that your dog will be more willing to follow your commands. A hungry dog will be more keen for food rewards, so use this to your advantage.
Control Your Dog When it is Time for a Walk
Your dog should not be jumping up or snatching at the lead when you are about to take them for a walk. Ask your dog to sit and wait patiently for you while you get ready. They should stay sitting until the lead is on and you are ready to go. Make sure you walk out the door before your dog.
When walking, make sure you are in front of your dog or have them just to your side. Do not let your dog lead you or pull on the leash and have them stop and sit when you get to traffic lights or crossings.
Use precise words when dealing with your dog and use verbal commands to get them into positionsyou want. Teaching your dog to heel and not pull on their lead will make walking a much more enjoyable experience for the both of you.
Train Them Correctly
One of the biggest problems people face with their dogs is trying to get them to carry out commands. While you need to be the pack leader, it is no use of you have not taught them correctly. Make sure you have trained your dog to instinctively follow commands.
Try to avoid giving specific obedience commands that have not been properly taught or conditioned. Doing so can actually set progress back and make dealing with your dog frustrating.
We believe that training is actually more important than trying to be a pack leader. Poorly trained dogs will not respond to directions well even if they see you as more dominant.
Manage Their Playtime and Toys
We all love to play with our dogs, but you need to set out some rules first. You should always be the first to initiate a game with your dog and you should be the one to make the rules. Start and stop games when you like it, and immediately walk away if they are not listening to you.
You can also rotate their toys or have specific toys that only come out during playtime. Making your dog work for their toys is not only a great way to reward them, but also a great way to show you are the pack leader.
Don’t Let Them Have the Higher Ground
Avoid letting your dog take positions above you. If your dog is on the couch looking down at you on the floor he will feel more dominant. Alpha dogs would never let that happen in the pack, and neither should you. However, you can let your dog have the higher ground if you are playing a game.
You should not let your dog jump up when you or guests enter the house. Simply ignore your dog until you are ready. Giving them attention and rewards when they are jumping up or barking when you get home will only make the problem worse.
Additionally, never let or approve of biting. While you will certainly get some biting or mouthing when your dog is younger, show them that you will not tolerate it. This will help you in the long run and guests to your house will be much happier.
More Information About Dog Behaviour
Why Do Dogs Sit On Your Feet?
You have probably heard that dogs that sit on your feet are trying to be more dominant than you. In reality, this is completely false.
Dogs sit on your feet for a couple of reasons and it has nothing to do with being more dominant than you:
The floor is cold and your feet are warm.
Because they like to be close to you or they sit on you so they know when you move.
If your dog sits on your vet, they may be concerned you are going to leave the room.
Why Does My Dog Try and Lie Down on Me?
Contrary to popular belief, a dog that tries to lie on top of you is not necessarily being dominant. Dogs love body contact and they like to sleep together in a heap rather than individually. Dogs see no reason to exclude you from their sleeping circle.
Additionally, some young dogs and puppies will try to hump people who sit on the floor. This is not typically related to dominance, but more play or hormonal reasons. If this happens, simply stand up and walk away.
Is Aggression Related to Dominance in Dogs
Yes, and no. Aggression in dogs is more likely to be caused by fear and resource or food guarding, rather than dominance issues. Trying to out dominate your dog can actually make things worse. If your dog is aggressive, take a good hard look at how you treat them and make sure they are trained correctly.
How Come Dogs Submit When They Are On Their Back?
Dogs will usually submit when they are placed or forced onto their back. Being on their back is alien to dogs and can be very threatening to them. It is usually nothing to do with dominance and is more to do with the fact that they may feel threatened. Your dog may also simply want to play or want a tummy tickle.
It All Comes Back to Resources
At the end of the day, being the pack leader is less about dominating your dog and is more about being in control of their resources. If you bully and intimidate your dog, they will become even more uncontrollable and may even become aggressive.
Your dog knows that you control their food, bedding and where they go, so use this to your advantage. They cannot go out and buy themselves more food or new toys, only you can do that for them.
This gives you all the power in the relationship, so don’t try and push it too much. Be confident and clear with your dog, and realise that you are already the pack leader. Do not try and out rank or dominate your dog.
Check outthis article from the American Veterinarian Society of Animal Behaviour for their views on dominance training and why it can be bad.
If you really want to change your dog’s behaviour, training will make the biggest difference. There are so many different resources available when it comes to training, so we suggest you check them out (remember to check Dogopedia’s training section).
The question of “how to stop my dog pulling” is always a common one, and there are loads of different methods to achieving this; however, there is one method that is better than the rest.
We have all seen and admired highly-trained dogs that snap to the command heel. It resembles a couple of dancers in perfect harmony, and we only wish we could have our dogs trained like theirs. But how do you train your dog to heel?
In this article we are going to teach you how to get your dog to heel and be the envy of all the other dog owners on the street!
The process is not easy however. It will require patience on both you and your dog’s part, and will require you to devote at least several weeks of your time to mastering it.
Your dog will need to learn where the heel position is and the command that will get them in that position. They will need to do it with all kinds of distractions in different places and situations.
While it is a hard process, teaching your dog to heel is a very rewarding experience and will only make you and your dog form a closer bond together.
What Does Heel Mean
A dog walking ‘at heel’ is walking alongside their owner in a comfortable, controlled manner. They are usually on the left side of their owner; however, it does not matter which side you teach your dog to heel at.
Dogs walking in the heel position usually have their shoulder aligned with their owner’s knee, with their head slightly in front. You will notice that dogs that are trained to heel are often looking at their owner, and in competitions they even do it to music.
Heel positions can vary depending on the role of the dog. For instance, a working gun dog or service dog will look ahead and not at their handler. This is to ensure they can see what is in front of them and is different to the obedience style position that most household dogs are taught.
A working dog may also have a bit more space between them and their handler’s leg. Some dog owners have taught their dogs to heel in a position where they brush alongside them as they work.
While the heel position does vary, the basic principle is the same. Heel means “walking alongside their owner in a position that is not too far in front or behind them.”
Why Teaching Your Dog to Heel is Important?
Walking to heel is considered to be an essential part of dog training for many. There are four main reasons why you should teach your dog to heel:
Control and Safety – When you teach your dog to heel, it allows you to move your dog into the walking position with just one word. This can help when you are crossing the road or moving through a crowded place with plenty of distractions.
Better Bonding – Teaching your dog to heel is not just about getting them walking correctly, it is also about the bond and communication you two form. Your dog will learn to focus on you, rather than other distractions around you.
It cooks cool and is more relaxing – Let’s be honest, we are all jealous of people who can walk their dog in a nice heel position. Walking your dog at heel just looks amazing and it is a more relaxing way to walk your pup.
Helpful in certain situations – Learning to walk without a lead can be incredibly useful in various situations. If you need both your hands or you have multiple dogs to walk, the heel technique can be a lifesaver.
Walking at Heel Vs Loose-Lead Walking
Before we dive into heel training, let’s have a look at some of the other training methods to control your dog while walking.
Heel is essentially a formalised command for telling your dog to walk in a certain position. The dog must do what you do and stop when you stop.
Teaching your dog to walk with a loose-lead is completely different. When you successfully teach your dog to walk with a loose-lead, they will stop pulling you down the road, and will instead walk with some slack in the lead.
When it comes to your dog’s position relative to you, it doesn’t really matter as long as they are not pulling. This will be fine for casual walks with your dog, but if you are looking to take your dog walking to the next level, teaching them to heel is what you need to do.
How to Teach Dog to Heel?
Now that we have told you why you should train your dog to heel, it is now time to teach you how to do it.
Setting Up Training Sessions
Teaching your dog to heel is something that will not happen in an afternoon (unless you have godly dog control or your canine is an absolute genius). What you need to do is set up some regular training sessions.
The training sessions with your dog should be five to ten minutes, two to three times a day to begin with. Making training sessions too long will slow down the learning process, as your dog will become distracted with longer trains.
Try to link your training sessions with some other activity or set aside some time each day, so you do not forget them.
Regular training sessions will lead to rapid progress. Sporadic or infrequent training will be much slower, even if you do longer sessions when you do train.
Get the Basics Down First
Heel training is certainly a bit more involved than other basic commands like “sit” or “come”. This is because it is a multi-step task in your canine’s mind and builds upon previous commands and training.
Your dog will need to learn how to get and stay in the correct position, so you will need some control over your dog already. They need to learn that you are the leader and that they need to follow your movements. A properly trained dog will adjust their own direction and movements to match yours.
Your canine will need to learn to sit when you stop moving forward, and how to stay until you set off again.
All this requires mastery of basic commands, before you can begin heel training. Good communication is essential and will make the training process that much easier.
Sit and Stay Commands
When your dog is in the heel position, they must learn to sit when you stop moving. They will then need to remain in this position until you start moving again. The basics of the sit and stay command are pretty easy, and should be one of the first things you teach your dog.
Along with the sit and stay command, heel training requires your dog to be able to watch and pay attention to you, so they can follow you.
Getting your dog to watch can be easily accomplished by simply associating a cue such as “look” or “watch” with a treat. Your dog will quickly learn to look at you when you use the cue, as they expect a reward. The next stage is for you to give treats randomly when training the look command.
Teaching your dog to watch you or a certain object will help with any training activity, not just heel training. Getting your dog’s attention will speed up the training process and will let them know that you are in charge.
Select a Release Word
Once your dog is in the heel position, they are engaged and active in the training session. To get out of this position your dog will need a release word to let them know they can relax, and move where they want.
The word you use should be connected to the release word you use for the sit and stay commands. For this article we are going to use a release word, such as “okay” or “free”; however, the word can be anything as long as you are consistent and clear.
You need to remember that when your dog is heeling, they are intently focused on you. This means they need a clear and concise release word to understand that they can get out of heel mode, and revert to being a dog.
Getting your dog to heel is a big ask of them, and they should not be heeling for long periods of time, especially at the start. Your dog may get fed up with being in heel all the time, which can lead to bad behaviour.
Try to use a combination of heeling, loose-lead walking and general running about to keep your dog happy. This will keep them focused and mentally sharp.
Should I Use Clicker Training?
While clicker training is not essential, it can help with the training process. If your dog has learned to associate a click sound with the right activity, they will almost certainly pick up heeling very quickly.
If you have not trained your dog to respond to a clicker, then don’t despair. If you want to teach your dog clicker training, you can try and do this before teaching them to heel.
How Do I Train My Dog to Heel?
The heel training process will go through a number of stages. When you get the first stage down, move onto the next one, and so on. By the end of all of the different stages of training, your dog should be capable of walking in the heel position. We have listed the three main stages below:
Establish the heel position and how to enter it
Lean to walk at the heel position and change direction
Introduce distractions and reinforce the heel position
The Heel Command
Historically, dog owners and trainers used a command at the beginning of a training process. This would get them in position and then they would set off on a walk. The dog would then be corrected or punished every time they moved out of the heel position.
At the start of the training process, the dog did not understand the command, but would eventually understand it after a few corrections.
Current day dog training is a bit different however. Dogs are now trained to carry out the desired action before the command is given. The command will then take on the correct meaning right from the start, which will speed up the training process.
Establish The Heel Position
Choose The Position
In reality, there is no correct heel position; however, we recommend that you use your dog’s shoulder as a guideline. Aim to have their shoulder about level with your knee. Your dog’s head will be slightly in front of you. Make sure you are consistent with this position.
If you are wondering what side you should have your dog on, just choose what you are most comfortable with. However, one thing to remember is that obedience competitions will usually require the dog to be on the left side.
Note: For the purpose of this guide we are going to be using the left side.
You will want to start in a quiet room or garden that has no distractions. This means no other dogs, humans, toys, just you the trainer and the dog. At this point we will not be telling the dog to “heel” (as they do not know the command yet). You will not need a lead for this section.
A good tip to getting your dog in the correct position is place yourself in a position near a wall. Have your dog on the side that is closest to the wall, and leave enough space between you and the wall for your dog. This will help to keep your dog close.
How to Get Your Dog in the Heel Position
Now that you have decided upon the heel position and you have a good training location, it is time to train your dog to move into this position.
When you are training your dog, have a handful of treats in your pocket or treat pouch. You should also have a few treats in both hands as well.
With your dog in front of you, put your right hand out in front of their nose and let them sniff it (not eat it). Lure your dog around the back of you until he can see the treat in your left hand. Give your dog praise as he does this and reward them with a treat. The position your dog ends up in should be the heel position.
Carry out this movement around three times, or until your dog gets the hang of it (don’t spend too much time on it though). The next stage is to try carry out this same movement without any treats. Show your dog that your hand is empty, and repeat the exact same movement you did when there was a reward in your hand. Use the same hand to move them around your back and then get them into the heel position.
If your dog is being difficult and won’t move into the heel position without treats, revert back to giving them a reward. Repeat this movement until your dog can move into the heel position without the aid of a tasty reward in your lure hand.
The trick with this technique is to lose the treat you use to lure your dog into the heel position as quickly as possible. Remember to keep giving your dog treats out of your left hand though, as this will reinforce the heel position.
Your dog should eventually recognise that your hand movement is the cue to get into the heel position. Now that they understand this, you can add a verbal cue such as “heel.”
After a while your dog will recognise your hand movement as the command to get into the heel position, you can begin to add a verbal cue like “heel.” After a couple of attempts, try and just say “heel” and don’t use your hand. Your dog should soon learn to move into the heel position when you use the heel command.
If you can successfully move your dog into the heel position with just the command, it is time to move onto the next step.
Walking While Heeling
Once you have taught your dog the heel command and position, it is time to add in a bit of walking. Start with smaller distances and then work your way up. You should also be in an environment where there are not any distractions.
For this exercise, we are going to start with one step and then progress from there.
Give the heel command and take one step forward. Treat your dog as they move to keep up with you. Once they move to your position, immediately progress to two steps and then give them another reward.
Repeat this process, increasing the number of steps you take when your dog successfully moves with you in the correct position. Carry on rewarding your dog.
It may take several training sessions to get to ten or more steps and don’t add any direction changes at this stage of the training.
When teaching your dog to walk in the heel position it is best to use short, frequent sessions as they may become bored or tired.
Now that you and your dog can walk comfortably in the heel position for ten steps or more, it is time to add some direction changes. As before, we are going to limit the distance we travel at this early stage.
When you are ready, take a couple of steps forward and rotate 90 degrees to either the left or the right.
Reward your dog if they successfully turn with you or even attempt to (your dog will improve with practice). The next step is to set off in the new direction. Once your dog turns with you, reward them and then take another couple of steps and repeat. You can try and make shapes or small course to walk around.
Once you and your dog get this down, it is time for the next step, stopping.
Making Them Stop
Stopping is just as important as moving off or changing direction. At some point you are going to have to stop, whether that for a set of traffic lights or to just finish the walk.
When you stop, your dog should not leave the heel position, unless you give them the release word. Your dog should stay in this position and follow you when you take off again.
Staying in the heel position when you are stationary will need some practice and patience; however, it is a very important skill to develop. The majority of people who train their dogs to heel will teach them to sit when they stop. We feel this is a good practice and is what we would recommend you do.
To practice stopping in the heel position, walk forward around 10 steps and then stop. Ask your dog to sit and then reward them for doing so. Eventually, your dog will learn that they need to sit when you command or when you stop when heeling.
While all the information above will help you get your dog heeling, the real test is when you add some distractions. Keeping your dog in the heel position when there are other dogs and new smells about is a whole different ball game. Carry on below to find out how!
Heeling in your garden or in a quiet area is relatively simple. It is a controlled environment and the most interesting thing to your dog is probably you or more likely the treats in your hand. The real world however, has plenty of other interesting things in it to distract your dog.
This part of the training process will require even more patience on your part, as it is only in your dog’s nature to investigate all the things around them. Remember that your dog is not naughty if they get distracted, they are just a normal canine.
So far, your dog has only learned to walk at heel in the garden or place where you have been practicing. You have to teach them what it means to walk at heel in a place with plenty of distractions.
While you could just jump straight in and take your dog out into the big wide world, we recommend a more reserved approach. You need to add distractions and change the training environment you are in slowly.
For instance, you could move from the inside of your house to the outside, or change rooms in which you train in. This is changing the environment, but still keeping it controlled. You should also try move your dog through doorways, as this can be an exciting change of environment for your dog.
When you are training your dog with distractions, have plenty of exciting treats on tap (think chicken or other treats they don’t usually get). This will help keep your dog even more involved in the training process, and they will be less likely to run off to sniff something.
Once you have tried changing the environment a few times, it is time to add in some more exciting distractions. Enlist the help of another person and get your dog to walk with you in the help position past them. If you have another dog, try the same again.
What you want to be doing is increasing the intensity of the training sessions as you and your dog progress. Try to add in distractions they might find when on a typical walk. This will help when you go out for your first proper walk while heeling.
If you don’t have a friend or other dog who can help, you could try and visit a training class where you can work with other dogs. Another idea is to take your dog to a dog park (or just a regular park) and practice in a far corner where there are fewer distractions, moving closer to the other dogs as you progress. For this technique you may want your dog on a lead, so they don’t go running off.
Once you have progressed to adding another dog in your heel training process, it is time to try your training on the street. Keep the walk short, even if it means walking a mere ten metres down the road and back. Every training walk you go on, increase the distance until you can comfortably walk in the heel position.
Making Distractions Easy
As they say, “practice makes perfect” and teaching your dog to walk at heel is no different. You need to keep introducing new distractions to your dog and don’t let bad habits creep in.
Try to avoid walking your dog on a lead too much during the training process and certainly don’t let them pull if you are using a lead. It can be confusing to your dog if you let them pull when they are on a lead and then expect them to heel on other occasions.
If you are walking your dog on a lead, try to keep them in the heel position to reinforce the training you have done. When you get to a park, let them run free and enjoy themselves.
Troubleshooting Heel Problems
We’ve listed a few problems that owners seem to face when training their dog to heel.
Dog Is Unwilling to Follow or Has No Energy
If your dog is lacking a bit of drive to follow your lead when you are heel training, you probably don’t have a reward that excites them enough. You may have to experiment with different treats or toys until you find one that they get excited for.
Dog Has Too Much Energy and Gets Excited Easily
For some, their dog may be the opposite of above. If your dog is so excited that they are almost bouncy off the walls, you might need to opt for a less-enticing reward. You might even want to use the normal biscuits you use for their dinner.
Another problem may be that your dog has too much energy and may need some pre-tiring to slow them down. Try take your dog out for a walk or to the park before you start the training session, this should burn off any excess energy.
Dog Jumps and Lurches for The Treat
A common problem people seem to encounter when training their dog to heel is that the dog will try lurches or jumps to get the reward. In this scenario, you need to remember to only give your dog the treat when they are in the correct position with all four paws firmly planted to the floor.
Never reward unwanted behaviour or actions, as this will only reinforce bad habits.
If you only reward the behaviour you want, your dog will eventually learn that jumping and lurching will not get them the reward any faster.
My Dog Is Easily Distracted
We’ve already talked about adding distractions in this article, but what if your dog gets distracted from the get go?
If you find your dog is getting easily distracted, even when you are simply training them to get into the heel position, there are a few things to remember.
Once again, your dog may simply not be interested in the reward you are offering to them. Try a few different rewards to see what one makes your dog’s eyes light up and their nose twitch.
Another thing to remember is that you may be asking too much of your dog. If your training sessions are too long, or you are making your dog stay in the heel position too long, they may become bored and distracted. Shorten your training sessions and keep them interesting with plenty of progression.
Some dogs need a tough mental challenge or like to walk at a fast pace as well, which can contribute to them becoming distracted. Make sure you are not walking too slow or fast, and try to implement new challenges to keep them interested.
As we have already discussed, environmental changes can distract your dog from training. Try to keep the same training location initially, and change it when you have mastered a step in the training progression.
If you find your dog is becoming distracted from a change in location, try to move back to your original training environment.
Other Tips and Points
Start Them Young
Training a puppy to heel is almost always easier than training an older dog to do it. When your puppy is around four to six months old, they will tend to follow you everywhere and you can use this to your advantage.
At this point you are not teaching your dog to heel, you are teaching them that following you will result in good things happening.
Call your puppy’s name and say something like “come”. As you give them command, walk away and don’t wait for the puppy. Your puppy should naturally follow you and after a short distance, stop or slow down. Wait for your puppy to catch up and reward them with a treat.
Once your puppy masters this, try and add in some more challenges such as walking in different patterns or directions. Try changing your speed as they get more experienced with the exercise.
Keep on rewarding your puppy for walking next to you and catching up. Don’t make the sessions too intense, see it more as a game rather than training.
Tips for Older Dogs
They say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but we all know that’s a load of rubbish. Older dogs may take a bit longer to learn new things and they may have developed some bad habits, but they are perfectly trainable.
For older dogs we recommend stocking up on their favourite treats and use them to increase their enthusiasm to learn. You can use the same method we described for puppies above, or you can add toys in as well.
Wrapping Up Dog Heel Training
Teaching your dog to heel is one of the most rewarding experiences and will only make you bond even more with your dog. It is challenging and can be frustrating, but with a bit of patience the benefits will pay off.
You will have more control over your dog and it also looks impressive to watch a dog focus so intently on their owner.
Remember to keep the training fun, short and full of progression. With the tips we have given above, you should get your dog walking to heel in no time.
Wondering how to stop your dog barking when they are left alone? In this guide we are going to be telling you how you can stop your dog barking and what causes them to do it when they are left alone.
Left unsolved you may face complaints from neighbours and it can be distressing to know that your canine companion is upset when you leave the house. The first thing you need to do to solve your dog’s barking problem is to find out the cause.
Why Does My Dog Bark When I Leave the House?
They are Genetically Prone to Bark
Yes, that’s right, your dog may be barking because of their genetics. Virtually all terriers and many other small dogs like miniature Schnauzers and Maltese are pre-programmed to bark at movement or noise within their range.
Many of these small breeds were bred to bark to alert their owners of any potential danger. This means they will often bark at people who come to the door, other animals around the property and even the neighbours when they come home. They will continue to bark even when you are not home, because it is in their nature to do so.
To combat this, you need to train them to limit their barking. You need to train your dog to bark on command. This will give you control and effectively gives you an “on/off” switch on their barking. It’s not that you do not want them to bark ever; you just want them to bark when the time is right.
They are Bored
Active and sporting breeds such as retrievers, setters, collies and pointers are more likely to get bored than other breeds. Dogs need regular exercise and a study in Australia found that 40% of canines do not get enough walks.
Lack of exercise is not only detrimental to your dog’s physical health, but it can also be bad for their mental health as well. Boredom can lead to barking and other unwanted behaviours such as chewing, pacing and digging.
Most healthy dogs need between one to two hours of exercise a day. Simply leaving your dog in the garden for a couple of hours is not good enough; you need to take them for walks and play interactive games with them. Older dogs, puppies and those that are sick may not require the same amount of exercise as a healthy dog in the prime of their life. However, they still need to be exercised.
Additionally, when you leave your house, give your dog a KONG filled with treats or another interactive toy to keep them entertained.
They Want to Order You Around
Does your dog bark at you when you attempt to leave the house? If this is the case it may be because your dog doesn’t want you to go. Your dog doesn’t want the fun to stop and they command you to return by barking. The problem with this is that your dog may continue to bark even after you have gone.
They are Alpha or Territorial
Un-neutered male dogs and guarding breed types are more likely to bark at something that is coming into their territory or space. They believe they are protecting their area from intruders when they bark. In reality, the intruder is probably just the mailman or a friendly neighbourhood cat.
Neutering and good training can keep their protective behaviour in check. Additionally, blocking the dog’s view of passers-by and anyone who comes to the door can help to reduce barking. You should also try to keep them from patrolling the property as this can lead to unwanted barking.
When you are home, you should always monitor a territorial or alpha dog closely. If you can’t get their barking under control when you are home, then there is no way you are going to stop them from barking when you are out.
They are Scared or Anxious
Every dog is scared of something, whether it is a trip to the vets or something as simple as the vacuum cleaner. A dogs past experiences can have a major effect on how they respond to things around them.
Dogs such as those that have been passed around from home to home, rescue dogs and those that have not been socialised correctly can suffer from anxiety. Canines that have always been kept inside or are constantly with their owners are candidates for anxiety behaviour problems if they are placed in a new environment.
If left alone, dogs with anxiety problems can begin to bark, chew, dig and even soil themselves. These dogs need to be socialised correctly with the world outside. Separation anxiety is one of the most common problems dog owners have. We will be discussing separation anxiety in more detail below.
Why It Is Important to Stop Your Dog Barking When You Go Out
There are a number of reasons you need to stop your dog barking when they are left alone:
Your neighbours can become annoyed if your dog barks.
It can be stressful for your dog when they are trying to communicate but get no response.
Separation anxiety can lead to other unwanted behaviours such as chewing and digging.
Fixing your dog’s barking problem can improve the bond between you and your dog.
Barking can be alarming to visitors coming to the door.
Once your dog learns not to bark, they can be more relaxed and spend their time sleeping or playing.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Dog separation anxiety is often unknowingly encouraged by owners. We often make a big fuss of our dogs when we leave the house or come back home. Doing this rewards our dogs for their concern and makes them anxious when we are not around. Anxiety can also be caused by a number of other situations or events as well. We have listed these below:
Change in Schedule
An abrupt change in schedule can trigger separation anxiety in dogs. If you suddenly increase the length of time your dog is left alone for they can become anxious. For instance, you may get a new job and your dog has to be left alone for six or more hours at a time. If they are used to you being at home all the time, leaving them for six or seven hours can cause them to become anxious.
Change in Owner
Dogs that change owners, whether that is because they have been abandoned, rescued or even sold, can develop separation anxiety. They may need time to get used to their new owners and they will need to get used to being left alone.
Change in Residence
Moving to a new house or apartment can lead to a dog developing separation anxiety. They may be comfortable in their old residence and moving them to a new, unknown location can cause them to be anxious.
Change in Family/Pack
Dogs are pack animals and the sudden absence of a family member or member of the pack can trigger separation anxiety.
First Steps to Stop Your Dog Barking When They Are Left Alone
The hardest part about stopping your dog barking when they are left alone is finding out the reason for them doing so. You need to find the cause of your dog’s barking before you can cure it, but how do you do this when you are not at home?
We recommend that you ask your neighbours if possible. They may be able to tell you when your dog is barking, so you can pinpoint the cause. Additionally, if your dog barks when you are walking out the door you know they don’t want you to leave. Think about your dog’s behaviour, breed type and how you treat them, as these can lead to barking.
Re-read the causes of barking we have outlined above and see which one matches your dog the closest.
How to Stop a Dog Barking When Home Alone?
There are a number of steps you need to take when dealing with your dog’s barking problem. We have outlined what you need to do to fix your dog’s barking below.
Set-up Their Environment
Dogs with behavioural problems should not be given “the run of the house”. You need to keep your dog in the quietist part of the house where they can sleep undisturbed.
Limit your dog’s visibility. We don’t mean put a blindfold over your dog’s eyes, we mean that you need to close any curtains and/or shades to prevent them from being able to see outside. If you don’t have any windows or blinds, place a sheet or blanket across the window. Removing any visual stimuli will reduce the likelihood of barking from territorial/alpha dogs.
Make the environment dark. This sort of ties in with the above. A dark environment has a calming effect on most dogs.
Make some noise. You should leave a TV or radio on when you leave the house to create some noise. This will not only help to make it feel like somebody is home, but will also drown out any outside noises. Just think how quiet your house is when there is nobody in it and your dog has to deal with that all day.
Give your dog a toy to play with. When you leave the house give your dog a toy to keep them busy. Something like a KONG filled with treats is an excellent way to keep them entertained while you duck out the door. The toy you give your dog should only be used for this purpose and the treats should be special.
Leave the house quietly. Don’t make a fuss of your dog when you leave. Dragging out a goodbye can make your dog anxious for your return. Give them a quick goodbye and then leave the house.
Other Things You Can Do to Reduce Barking
Exercise Your Dog!
We can’t stress this enough. A dog that hasn’t been exercised is like a coiled spring. They are ready to pop and barking is a way to relieve the pressure. For healthy adult dogs, make sure they get at least one hour of dedicated exercise per day. You should also play games with them at other times to keep them mentally stimulated and exercised.
Those with older dogs, sick dogs, and puppies can get away with a bit less. However, they should still be exercised, but a 20-minute walk around the block may be enough for an older dog. Puppies tend to have lots of energy in short bursts, so it is quite easy to wear them out with a game or short walk.
Bring Them Inside
If you leave your dog outside while you are at work, it may be a good idea to bring them inside if possible. A dog that is out in the garden alone all day is much more likely to bark than if they are inside. This is because they can see and hear a lot more than if they are inside the house. It is also much more difficult to control a dog’s environment outside than it is inside.
Hire a Dog Walker
If you are gone for long periods of time during the day, it may be beneficial to hire a dog walker. A dog walker can take your dog out during the day, breaking up the time they are alone. They will get some exercise, which will stop them from getting bored.
Teach Them to Speak
Some breeds just love to bark. If your dog loves to talk, don’t stifle all the conversation. Train your dog to “speak” on command, as well as the “quiet” command. That way you can control your dog’s barking and still give them a chance to speak.
Help! My Dog Is Still Barking When I Leave the House
If you have done all of the above and your dog is still barking when left at home alone, they are probably suffering from separation anxiety. You need to desensitise your dog to your departure and get them used to you not being there.
To do this, the first thing you need to do is imitate your daily routine. Make your dog think that you are going out for the day. Do all the things we listed above and then leave the house quietly. Don’t beg or plead for your dog to be quiet, just give them a pat and then leave.
Leave the house for a short period of time. Just a couple of minutes to start with. If you get in your car to go to work, do that. If you take an elevator, go one floor down and wait a couple of minutes. Only return to your dog if they have not barked. Reward them for their good behaviour and try again for a longer period of time.
If your dog did bark in those 2 minutes, knock on the door (load enough that your dog stops barking) and try again. Do not enter the house if your dog is barking and when you knock on the door, do not let your dog see you. Repeat the process until you can get one to two minutes of silence. Once your dog gets to this point, you can go back into the house and reward them for their good behaviour.
Try this process again, but increase the time you are gone. Set goals for your dog; when they get to 5 minutes move onto 10 minutes, then 15 and so on. Always return after the set amount of time and reward your dog if they have not barked. Do not wait until your dog barks and then return to the house.
The first hour is the hardest. Most dogs can remain silent for around two hours and they can usually be quiet for an 8 to 10-hour work day. You will not solve your dog’s barking problem in a day. It will require patience and time.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Some veterinarians may prescribe drugs for separation anxiety, however, this will not fix the problem, only cover it up. Medication should only be used to assist the owner in rehabilitating the dog and is only a temporary fix.
The root cause of separation anxiety usually starts when the dog is a puppy. When puppies are removed from their mother and siblings, they will usually cry. To calm them down, dog owners will pick them up, talk to them and give them lots of attention. This can continue in later life as well. If your dog is in a crate and they cry, letting them out only rewards them for their behaviour.
You need to reward your dog for being quiet and settled. Teaching your dog patience and rewarding them for that will help to prevent separation anxiety. When you are with your dog, you should not always be interacting with them. They need to learn to entertain themselves.
Should I Crate Train My Dog?
Crate training can be helpful for some dogs if they learn that the crate is a safe place to go when you are out. However, the crate is not a tool that can be used for all dogs. This is because a crate can cause more stress and anxiety in some canines.
In order to determine whether or not you should use a crate, monitor your dog’s behaviour when you are crate training them. If your dog show signs of distress or anxiety, confining them in a crate may not be the best option. Instead of using a create, you can confine your dog to a room behind a baby gate.
How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Curing separation anxiety is really about getting your dog used to you not being there and rewarding them for behaviour we like. Early in this article we explained the process of simulating a working day to stop barking. This same process can be used to cure separation anxiety.
Teach your dog to sit, lie down, and stay while you go out of sight for increasing periods of time. When you come back, reward your dog if they do not bark or cry. You should also train your dog to sit and wait to be greeted by guests, rather than jumping all over them.
We recommend that you spend time obedience training your dog. This shouldn’t be a once a week type-of-thing, it should be a regular part of their day. This approach lets your dog know what is expected of them, helping their good behaviour become a habit.
The last thing to do is get your dog active. Let them play with other dogs and give them puzzles to do throughout the day. Try different walking routes or take them to new, interesting parks. You may even want to enroll your dog in a reward-based training class to keep their body and mind active.
What Not to Do When Your Dog Barks?
While there are lots of things you can do to reduce or stop your dog from barking, there are also some things you shouldn’t do. Never scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviour is not the result of disobedience, so you should never punish them for it. If you punish your dog for barking or anxious behaviour, it may only make them more upset.
If your dog does bark, do not reward them with your attention or treats. This will only encourage them to repeat the same behaviour in the future.
Additionally, never shout or ‘bark’ back at your dog. This makes your dog think you are talking to them and joining in on the fun, which will make barking even more attractive.
Some dogs get a kick out of barking, so do not allow them to continue doing so. Barking is not a problem that will usually resolve itself. In fact, if you simply ignore your dog’s barking they may turn to other more destructive or aggressive behaviours to get attention.
The first step to stop your dog barking when they are home alone, is to recognise the cause. You need to find the reason for their barking. Is it because they are anxious or are they territorial?
Once you have found the cause, you can begin to treat the problem. Control your dog’s environment and leave them in a nice, quiet place where they can rest. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and keep them mentally stimulated through obedience training and the use of toys.
Train your dog to become used to your absence. Slowly increase the time you are out of the house and never reward barking. Reward good behaviour and never punish your dog for anxious behaviour.
Solving your dog’s barking problem overnight is not going to happen. It will require patience and time on both you and your dog’s part.
Most modern dog training techniques involve giving a dog a reward when they carry out an action that we want. The reason this works so well is that dogs tend to do pretty much anything for a reward they want or need.
The desire for rewards or treats is what makes modern positive training methods better than old-school negative training methods. We can give a reward for behaviours we want and withhold a reward if they do not carry out the correct action.
The main problem is that it can be difficult to instantly reward a dog for the behaviour we want, and that’s where clicker training comes in.
Below, we have created a complete guide to clicker training for dogs and the pros and cons of clicker training. By the end of this article you should have all the information you need on how to clicker train a dog.
What Is Clicker Training for Dogs?
You have probably heard about clicker training, but what exactly is it? Clicker training is a positive reinforcement training method that was developed by marine mammal trainers (although, they use whistles instead of clickers because they can be heard underwater).
Marine mammal trainers had to use positive reinforcement methods to train their animals, as negative training techniques do not work with an animal that can simply swim away. The clicker or whistle tells the animal that the behaviour they are performing at that exact moment is correct and will earn them a reward.
In dog training circles the click sound is often referred to as an event marker. An event marker is a signal used to precisely indicate to a dog that they are carrying out the correct action at that very moment.
Without an event marker it is incredibly difficult to communicate this positivity at the right time. For example, rewarding your dog with a food treat after they have performed an action is almost certainly too late.
What Does an Event Marker Sound Like?
Well, apart from the obvious clicker sound that we have already discussed, an event market can be pretty much anything as long as it is clear and definite. Your dog needs to recognise the sound and match that to the behaviour they are currently conducting.
Event markers need to be incredibly clear and precise, and they shouldn’t be used at any other time. Long or complicated event markers can make your dog confused and they may even have the opposite effect.
If you are using your voice, something like “Yes” or “Good” are probably the best options for an event marker. The problem with these are that we often use them in other situations as well, which can be confusing to your dog.
You can select another word that is less commonly used, but we feel the best option is to use a clicker. The clicking sound is clear and your dog should not get it confused with other sounds or words.
While clicking sounds and words are most commonly used as event markers, other tools such as vibration collars or laser lights may be used for deaf dogs.
What Is a Clicker?
A clicker is a small mechanical device that fits into the palm of your hand. A clicking sound is produced from a small metal tongue that is located inside the device that can be initiated via a button.
Clickers are incredibly useful as they are small and portable, which means they can go everywhere with you. The clicking sound is also very distinctive and consistently the same, which is important for training purposes.
The reason why clicker training works so well is that dogs learn through consequences and rewards. When a dog completes an action there are three possible outcomes for them.
Things get better for them
Things get worse
Things stay the same
Everything your dog does will land in one of these three categories, whether you are training them or not. This is important because these categories will change the way your dog will behave in the future. If they do an action and things get better for them, they are more likely to do that same action in the future.
There is No Punishment
All dog trainers rely on some sort of consequence or reward to training a dog, and clicker training is no different in that regard. However, clicker training includes an active choice that avoids punishment.
Negative punishment is known to reduce bad behaviour, but there are a large number of downsides that make it a poor form of training. Training that involves negative punishment can lead to unwanted behaviour down the line and will make your dog less trusting of you.
We also know that dogs that receive no form of negative punishment learn faster and are less aggressive than those that do. You can read more about negative reinforcement dog training here.
How Clicker Training Can Reduce Bad Behaviour
As we wrote just above, training involves three different outcome categories. We know that clicker training is a great way to let dogs know that something good will happen to them, but what about the other two categories.
Negative reinforcement techniques often utilise the “things get worse” part, which is the one we want to avoid. Clicker training on the other hand makes use of the third of the three consequences “things stay the same and are unchanged”.
The benefit of this is that if things stay the same for your dog after they perform an action, they will be less likely to repeat the same behaviour in the future.
Making sure a dog does not get any rewards after bad behaviour is an important part of clicker training. It helps to train a dog quicker and will prevent bad habits from developing further.
In addition to this, clicker training gets the trainer to focus on good behaviours rather than trying to stop bad ones. This is important because dogs crave attention and any attention, whether it is good or bad, can be seen as a reward.
Focus on the Good, Not the Bad
When we train a dog we want to focus on the good things they do rather than the bad. For example, instead of trying to stop a dog from jumping up on people, you should reward them for keeping all four paws on the ground. Clicker training is excellent for this as it provides instant feedback.
So, How Do You Clicker Train a Dog?
Now that you know why clicker training is so effective and widely used, it is time to teach you how to implement it. But how do you do this? How will your dog associate the clicker with good things?
Before you can start using a clicker in regular training sessions, you need to prepare your dog for the clicker training experience. We do this through a process called ‘charging the clicker’.
What Is Charging the Clicker?
If you have decided that clicker training is for you and your dog, the first thing you need to do is make the clicking sound have a meaning. This means that you have to condition your dog to make them associate the clicker with a reward, which is usually but not exclusively a tasty treat.
Below we are going to show you how to charge the clicker in easy to follow steps. Once you successfully train your dog to use a clicker, the clicking sound alone is rewarding for your dog.
Training Your Dog to Respond to a Clicker
The first thing you need to do is find a nice quiet room or place where you can train together. The environment you are in needs to be free of distractions, so that your dog keeps their attention focused on you.
For the next step you need to have a container of treats with you and the clicker in your hand. Press the click and immediately throw your dog a treat. Once your dog has lost interest, repeat the same action.
Keep this up for several minutes, but make sure your dog is doing something different every time you click and throw them a treat. This is because you do not want your dog to associate the click with any other behaviour. You are focusing on the link between the clicking sound and the food reward.
Repeat this clicking and rewarding action about twenty times and then stop. Your dog will quickly learn that they will receive a treat after hearing a click. We recommend that you repeat this training process two or three times a day for a couple of days to really get the association ingrained into their mind.
How Is Clicker Training Used?
Once your dog associates the click with rewards you can begin to use it in other training sessions. For example, if you are training your dog to sit, click the clicker when they sit and give them a treat.
The great thing is that you don’t necessary have to reward your dog straight away. As the clicker is being charged through classical conditioning, your dog knows that they are going to be rewarded for their behaviour simply because the click was heard. All of the confusion is eliminated and your dog will learn quicker.
Clicker training can be used for almost anything. For example, you can click the exact moment your dog drops a ball, or when they fetch an item, or even when they go to the toilet. Clicker training can be used to stop your dog from pulling on their lead by rewarding them with a click when they are not pulling.
The great thing is that it doesn’t matter if the reward comes seconds after. Your dog will know that they are being rewarded as you marked the exact moment precisely. You can allow for a couple of seconds to pass between using the clicker to rewarding your dog, without worrying about whether they understand the reason for the reward.
When Is the Best Time to Use Clicker Training?
Clicker training is best used when you are teaching your dog a new command or behaviour. Once your dog has learnt the command or you are happy with their behaviour, you can begin to phase out the clicker completely. If you do not remove the clicker once your dog has completely learned a command, there is a danger they will only perform for the click and reward that follows.
Use the clicker to train a behaviour or command, and then start to use a cue word when the behaviour is performed. You can then take away the clicker and your dog should respond to the cue word.
Clicker training will not be used in everyday situations. It is a means to an end and that end is to train a behaviour.
Clicker Training Puppies
You may be wondering if you can clicker train a puppy and the answer is undoubtedly a yes! Puppies are ideal candidates for clicker training and you can start implementing it as soon as you get your puppy home. If you train your puppy to use a clicker at a young age, you can then use it for all the important commands later on down the track.
Clicker training is great for house training your dog as you can teach them to go to the toilet on command. You can also use clicker training when you are crate training your dog as well.
Does Clicker Training Work at a Distance?
One question you may be wondering is “does clicker training work at a distance?”. Can you use clicker training in a park or in a noisy environment? Does it work around other dogs? Surely it isn’t much use outside?
There are two factors that come into play here and they include:
The role of the clicker
The volume of the clicker (whether it is audible)
Your dog can almost certainly hear the clicker at a reasonable distance and they can be used outside. However, the role of the clicker is to mark good behaviour or events, not to get the dog to act. It is usually used in the initial stages of training, rather than at more advanced stages.
For example, once you have taught your dog to “come”, you should not need to use a clicker. Simply reward your dog when they return to you and leave it at that. Clicker training is used to teach the “come” command and the behaviour associated with it.
Clicker Training Pros and Cons
To wrap this article up we will finish off with the pros and cons of clicker training a dog. The benefits of clicker training are as follows:
You can do multiple repetitions of the same behaviour without your dog losing interest or motivation.
Your dog is working in a highly rewarding environment which encourages them to do better and try and please you.
Training sessions can last longer with positive reward based training methods.
Your dog will learn quicker because of the clicker. The clicker provides perfect timing which explains to your dog what was expected and what the perfect behaviour is.
It helps build a great relationship between a dog and their owner/handler.
Better than using a word as an event marker as the click is clear and concise, and won’t get confused with other things.
The most common negatives of clicker training are as follows:
Clicker training uses a reward based concept, so those with dogs that have low drive for rewards may have trouble. Some dogs aren’t driven by food rewards or games, so can be much harder to train with clicker training.
Clicker training requires are large amount of practice and precision. You need to time your clicks perfectly to match the action your dog is doing. If you do not, your dog may become confused and think that you are rewarding them for a different action.
Clicker training cannot be continuously used as a reward. Once your dog has learned a behaviour or command, clicker training needs to be faded out.
Concluding How to Clicker Train a Dog
Clicker training is often talked about and recommended in dog owner circles. Taking advantage of your dog’s desire for rewards is the fastest and best way of training a dog. You can start clicker training as soon as you get your puppy home and it can even be used for older dogs as well. This guide should give you all the answers you need to know about clicker training dogs. If you have any questions, leave a comment below.
Once you have brought your new puppy home you will want to start toilet training immediately. Puppies need to go to the toilet lots and successfully house training them depends on anticipating their needs. For many new dog owners, successfully toilet training a puppy can be a frustrating and lengthy process, especially if they have not received the right advice.
In this article we are going to give you all the information and guidance to toilet train a puppy quickly. We are going to look at when to start potty training a puppy, how to it, and how to deal with any of the inevitable problems you will face along the way.
Training a puppy to go to the toilet outside can be broken up into three different stages; learning where to go, learning self-control and independent toileting. We will be looking at each stage of the training process, so read on below.
This is a large guide to toilet training for dogs and puppies, so make sure you use the table of contents section below to find the sections you need.
What Is Involved with Toilet Training a Puppy?
Toilet training, potty training and house training are all pretty much the same thing. All of these terms are about teaching your puppy or dog to go to the toilet in the correct place, and be clean around the house. You want to train your puppy to go to the toilet outside as nobody likes to wake up to a nasty mess on their kitchen floor.
Why Is Toilet Training So Important?
This seems like a bit of a non-question, but there is a bit more to it than meets the eye. Some question the idea that it is necessary to have a structured toilet training process. They believe that dogs will potty train themselves naturally given the time.
While it is true that dogs will empty themselves as far away from their sleeping area as possible, it is best not to really on it. Many houses are too big and puppies will simply go to the toilet in a corner somewhere. Additionally, it is almost impossible to give your dog access to the outside at all times, so they need to be trained to keep it in until they can move into an appropriate area.
Puppies have little control over their small bladders, and they do not understand that there is a right and a wrong place to go to the toilet. They will simply move away from their bed and go, whether this is inside or outside.
If you do not toilet train your dog, you will probably find that they develop a habit of emptying themselves around the house. This means that you need to teach them where to go as soon as possible.
When Is The Best Time To Start Potty Training a Dog?
You should start toilet training your dog the moment you get them home. This will get them trained quicker and it is actually very important that you make an effort to avoid ‘accidents’ as well. Toilet training a puppy quickly will limit the number of times you have to clean up after them, which is a major bonus.
The Two Essential Keys To Toilet Training a Puppy
As we said above, young puppies have no idea where is the right or wrong place to go to the toilet. It is up to you to decide on an appropriate bathroom spot and train them to use it. You also need to teach them that it is not acceptable to go to the toilet anywhere inside your house.
To successfully train a puppy to go to the toilet in the right place there are two keys to success. You will find that these two pieces of advice are the same for any method or technique you will find:
Always praise your puppy for going to the toilet in the right place. Do it as often as possible and as many times as need be.
Try to prevent accidents from happening inside your home.
Taking your dog out to their designated toilet spot regularly throughout the day is a massive part of successfully house training a dog. This will give you lots of opportunities to praise them and they will be less likely to make mistakes in the house.
The second rule is just as important as the first. This is because puppies will naturally go to the toilet where they have gone before. It is better to prevent them from building up any history of going to the toilet in your house if possible.
Of course, sometimes you will not be able to take your new puppy out during the day. You may be at work that day and have to leave them for more than an hour or so. In this scenario you will need to let your puppy go to the toilet in your house, which is essentially breaking rule two. Don’t worry about this. We will be discussing ways to let your dog go to the bathroom indoors, while still ending up toilet trained.
How Long Does It Take to Toilet Train a Dog?
Toilet training can be both a quick and slow process. For some dogs it may take them a couple of months to get the hang of their bowels, while other puppies can be successfully trained in a couple of weeks.
We are going to show you three methods to toilet train a dog and we suggest you pick the one that will suit your lifestyle the best. The first method is to crate train your puppy, the second one is to train your dog to go to the toilet on newspaper or special pads and the third is constant supervision.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Puppy Access to The Whole House
Restricting your puppy’s access to your home until they are correctly trained is very important. It will speed up the training process and will limit where accidents may occur.
Before you let your dog have the full run of the house you need to convince them that your entire home is their den. Remember how we said dogs don’t like to go to the toilet near where they sleep or eat, well, you need to use this to your advantage when toilet training a puppy.
Doing this is so much easier if you initially restrict your puppy to a single room. Train them to keep that area clean before slowly expanding the areas they can go into. Dogs don’t see your home as one big place, but as a bunch of different places.
How You Should Approach the Toilet Training Process
Due to the fact that your puppy has absolutely no idea what you are asking them to do initially, you are an incredibly important part of the training process. It is up to you to teach them what is acceptable or not in an understandable, stress-free fashion.
The way you approach training can have a dramatic effect on how smoothly the process will go, and this is the same for all training. You need to be patient and understanding, yet firm and consistent with your puppy.
Equipment You May Need
We have created a list of items you may need for toilet training. Some of these items are specific to the method you are using while some are essential for both methods.
By the end of this toilet training guide for puppies you will be able to determine what equipment you need and what method you should use.
A suitable crate
Pet barriers, baby gates or a play pen
Old newspapers or puppy pads
Poo bags and something to pick up the poo
Plenty of cleaning products
Food for rewards
Tarpaulin or plastic sheets
Decide Upon an Appropriate Toilet Area
The first thing you are going to want to do is choose an appropriate area for your puppy to go to the toilet. You can even think about this before you get your new puppy home. Additionally, you want to prevent your puppy from going to the bathroom in the wrong place if possible.
At this early stage you want to restrict your puppy to a small area of your house. Try and choose a place that has washable floor as you are bound to end up with some accidents. We always choose the kitchen in our house as it has direct access to the outdoors (the toilet area) and has easily cleanable floors.
The first thing you want to do is develop a habit of taking your dog out to the designated toilet area as often as possible. Additionally, always make sure you take your puppy to the toilet after they have eaten, woken up, played or drunk.
Take note of how often your puppy goes to the toilet. You may notice that they have to pee every hour or so. Keep an eye on the clock and when you notice it is getting to about 50 minutes take your dog out to the toilet. Remember that your dog may be different so they might need to go to the toilet sooner or later than every hour.
Toilet training a puppy requires a bit of guess work and you are bound to make a few mistakes at the start. Don’t worry about these as you will soon get to know your dog’s natural toilet routine.
We recommend that you use an alarm to remind you when to take your dog out. Set it about ten minutes before they usually have to go to the toilet, as it is easy to forget to take them out.
Outside vs Inside Toilet Spots
We always recommend that you choose an outside toilet spot rather than an inside one unless you have a good reason not to. Outside toilet spots are easier for your puppy to understand and you will not have to worry about the smell as much.
However, some dogs suffer from mobility problems or live in high-rise buildings, where it is difficult to get outside quickly. In these circumstances you may have to settle for a bathroom spot inside rather than outside. Once your puppy has learnt some bladder control, you may be able to move training outdoors.
If you are using an indoor toilet spot you will need to use toilet pads or paper, otherwise there will be a nasty mess.
What Makes a Good Toilet Spot?
Many dog owners will let their dogs use the entire garden as a toilet, just as long as it’s outside. However, you may want to consider training your puppy to use one specific area every time.
If you let your dog use any old area in the yard it will be difficult to locate and pick up all of their excrement. Your dog’s urine may also cause ‘lawn burn’, which is where the grass turns brown and dies. Additionally, if your dog urinates or defecates close to a door or window it can cause quite a nasty smell to come wafting through your house.
Training your dog to use one specific area every time will be cleaner and more hygienic. Additionally, you will not have the problem of Nitrogen burned grass from your dog’s urine and it will be easier to keep the garden clean. However, if you plan to use a single spot make sure you regularly pick up what you can and keep the area as clean as possible.
How to Toilet Train a Puppy – Crate Training
This first method of using a crate to toilet train your puppy is excellent for those with a bit more time on their hands. If you can be with your dog for the first couple of weeks we suggest that you use this method.
Using a crate is the best way to prevent accidents from happing from the start and will make the training process faster. This method is laid out in two different sections:
As we wrote above, the first method we are going to look at is using a crate to toilet train a puppy. You need to learn to use a crate correctly before using one to toilet train your dog. We recommend that you check out this article from pet.co.nz to find out more about crate training.
It is important that you get your puppy familiar with a crate as soon as possible. Put it in an area of your house where people spend lots of time and let your dog explore it at their leisure. Some dogs will naturally start sleeping in a crate while others will require a bit more work.
Reward your dog with food for entering the crate and continue to give them treats when they stay inside. Once your dog shows no signs of fear or anxiety while in the crate, you can begin to confine them in there for short periods of time. Start out at one or two minutes and increase the time from there. Periodically reward your dog as they are confined in the crate and try and leave the room a few times.
Once your dog can stay in the crate for around 30 minutes you can leave them in there for short periods of time when you go out. If you are feeling confident, you can also try and let your dog sleep in their crate at night.
Make sure you do not appear too excited when you return to your puppy. Excitement can cause your dog to become more anxious over when you will return. Additionally, continue to crate your dog when you are around to prevent them from associating crating with being left alone.
Remember to Reward Your Dog
If you take your puppy to the toilet often, they will soon begin to learn where the designated toilet area is. They will happily empty themselves there when they are taken. To reinforce this, make sure you reward your dog with a treat after they have gone to the toilet.
Learn Self Control
As your dog gets older and more familiar with the toilet routine, they will begin to develop some self-control. Initially, they may be able to hang on for a few minutes before going to the toilet and with time this will increase.
However, always remember to regularly take your dog to the toilet as you do not want them to have an accident inside your house. Many new dog owners become less consistent with taking their puppies out once they start to develop a bit of self-control. If this happens, simply return to shorter periods between toilet trips and then slowly increase the time from there.
Try to supervise your dog as their bladder starts to full or when it is getting close to toilet time. You can use a crate to increase the amount of time between toilet trips as your puppy will try not to wee in their own bed. However, remember to not make them wait too long as accidents can still happen.
Increase The Time Between Toilet Tips and Open Up Your House
Now that your dog has begun to learn a bit of self-control you can continue to increase the time between toilet trips. Additionally, try and introduce your dog to other parts of your house, but try to keep them off carpeted areas. Do this one room at a time and continue to take your dog to the toilet regularly.
If accidents occur, go back to shorter gaps between toilet trips. Don’t worry if your dog has one or two accidents, but don’t let it grow into a habit. If your dog does wee on the carpet, make sure you clean it up immediately and remove any smell.
How Effective Is Toilet Training with a Crate?
Using a crate to house train your puppy is probably the most effective out of all three methods we are looking at today. Puppies will learn the correct behaviour quicker than the other techniques we will discuss below and you will probably find there will be less accidents along the way.
The crate training technique requires a little bit more work than paper training, but we still recommend it for most dog owners. However, if are at work all day we do not recommend this method as you should not leave your puppy in a crate all day.
How to House Train a Puppy – Paper Training
We’ve talked about using a create to toilet train your puppy above, now it is time to look at the second method. Puppies can’t be left in crates for too long as they need to regularly go to the toilet and they need company.
Paper or pad training a puppy is arguably the most common method for house training a dog. It is a great method if you can’t be at home all day to look after your new puppy.
Paper training involves teaching your puppy to go to the toilet on a wide area of pre-treated puppy pads or newspaper. You will want to place the pads or paper in a smallish room with washable floors (hint, your dog will miss the pads at the start). If you do not have an area like this in your home, you should purchase a play pen such as this one to contain them.
Equipment You Will Need
You can purchase puppy pads or we suggest you simply use an old stack of newspapers if you have some lying about.
How to Paper Train a Puppy?
Paper training is a simple process. Cover an area of the floor with pads or paper to begin with and encourage your dog to go to the toilet there.
Once your dog becomes more used to emptying their bladder on the paper, slowly cut the covered area down until they reliably use just a couple of sheets. You should find that your dog makes an effort to go to the toilet on the covered area, but it needs to start off large to get this behaviour started.
The next step is to slowly move the covered area towards the outside. You should find that your puppy begins to develop some self-control over their bladder. Encourage them to go to the toilet outside and move the paper outside as well.
If you are leaving your puppy inside for an extended period of time you should still use a pad, even when they start to get a bit more control over their bladder. Once they begin to get full control over their bladder and they have been taught to go to the toilet outside, you can eliminate the pads or paper from the equation.
One tip with this technique is that when you clean away the paper, keep one piece and place it in the middle of the new pile of papers. This will keep a slight scent of your puppy’s urine, which will attract them to the area. If you are using puppy pads you shouldn’t need to worry about this as most of them come pre-scented.
How Effective is Paper Training?
While paper training isn’t going to be fast as using a crate to house train your dog, it is still a very effective method. Paper training takes longer because you essentially train your puppy to go to the toilet inside and then re-train them to go outside.
You are also more likely to experience accidents with this method and you may come home to shredded paper or pads (like our Daisy liked to do when she was a puppy).
Still, if you are somebody who is out of the house for extended periods of time, this will be the best method for you to use. Paper training your dog is still helpful for those who want to use the crate method as you never know when you may have to leave your puppy for extended periods of time.
It is also a more passive method of toilet training, which is a plus for many dog owners. It requires less effort than any of the other methods in this article, but you will need to spend a bit of time cleaning up accidents along the way.
Why You Should Paper Tran Your Dog Just in Case
We feel it is always a good idea to paper train your puppy, even if you plan to use one of the other two methods in this guide. This is because depending on your dog’s age, it may be physically impossible for them to hold on for more than a few hours.
Even if you plan to never leave your dog for more than an hour or so, there is bound to be times when you have to leave your dog alone for much longer. You should plan for this not to happen, but you should be prepared if it does.
This means that you should paper train your dog as a backup solution. If you are crate training your dog you cannot leave them inside the crate all day, so it may be best to leave them in a smallish room with paper for them to go to the toilet on.
While we still feel that crate training is still the most efficient solution, paper training is useful for the odd occasion you are not home. Many dog owners use a combination of the two methods to get the best results with the least amount of mess.
How to Toilet Train Your Puppy – Constant Supervision
If you are home all the time you can try and constantly supervise your dog. You will need to work out your puppy’s toilet schedule and take them outside when they show signs that they need to go. We recommend that you set an alarm like we described in the crate training method.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Absolutely nothing. You are simply taking your dog outside when they need to go to the toilet and that’s it.
How Effective is this Method?
This really depends on how committed you are and how much time you can spend with your puppy. It is obviously not going to work if you have to go out for extended periods of time, but it is ok for those who are always home.
The problem is that no matter how good your intentions are, you will almost certainly let your guard down. It also doesn’t take advantage of your puppy’s natural instinct to not go to the toilet where they sleep, like crate training.
For this reason, it is not as effective as crate training and paper training will probably be better for the majority of dog owners. Constantly supervising your puppy can be quite tiring and you need to always be ready to take action, which is why we do not recommend this method for most dog owners.
How About a Combination of All Three?
In reality, combining all the three methods above is the best way to house train a dog. This will give you the best outcome and will get your puppy toilet trained quickly.
Crate Training is the most effective and quickest method, so we recommend using it if you can. Teaching your dog to use a crate also has a raft of other benefits which will help future training. It also uses your dog’s own natural instinct to quickly teach your dog where not to go to the toilet.
Paper training is helpful because you can’t always be there for your puppy and young dogs have almost no control over their bladder. While paper training isn’t nearly as effective as crate training, it is a great back up plan if you have to leave the house for extended periods of time. This why we recommend using it in addition to crate training.
You should be constantly supervising your dog when possible to prevent accidents from occurring. We don’t recommend contestant supervision on its own, but we do feel it is an important part of house training your dog. You should always be watchful and ready to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place.
Can You Toilet Train a Puppy in One Week?
Owning a puppy is great, however, cleaning up their accidents is not. Toilet training can be a frustrating, messy process, so naturally there are plenty of people out there who want to get their dogs trained as quickly as possible.
There are plenty of articles and guides out there that say they can get your puppy toilet trained in a week or even a couple of days, but are they telling the truth. Is house training your puppy in less than a week even possible?
In one-word no, toilet training your dog in seven days or less is not possible, but there is a bit more to it than that. A dog is not completely house trained until they can wait at least a couple of hours between toilet trips, understand where the toilet area is and try not to wee in your house if you are late home.
Many people tend to think that they have successfully toilet trained their puppy when they have not had an accident for a few days. However, a dog is usually completely house trained at around five to six months.
Quick success with toilet training is usually a case of good management and a puppy that has some control over their bladder. It takes much longer for a puppy to develop complete control over their bladder and learn where they can and cannot go to the toilet.
Help! My Dog is Pooping and Peeing in the House!
Accidents can and will occur, however, repeated accidents can set your training back. As we have already stated, dogs like to pee where they have peed before so you need to keep accidents to a minimum.
If you do find that your dog is weeing or pooing in the house, you need to take action straight away. This isn’t because your dog is being naughty, they simply haven’t learnt to control their bladder yet.
If you find that your dog is going to the toilet inside, you need to do a couple of things:
Always clean up mistakes thoroughly and remove any odour.
Increase the amount of times you take your dog out to the toilet throughout the day.
Your dog’s bladder is small and they do not have much control over it so you need to take them out regularly. Additionally, a puppy has a short memory, so they need to be reminded frequently where their designated toilet area is.
If you do not clean up accidents quickly and thoroughly, your dog will probably learn to go in the same place again. This is because dogs love to go to the toilet where they have been before, especially if the scent is still around.
How to Extend the Time Between Toilet Breaks
We have already talked about how dogs need regular toilet breaks, but how do you go about extending the time between them. While all puppies are different a rough rule of thumb is that an eight week old puppy needs to go every 30 minutes, at 10 weeks every 45 minutes and so on from there.
We talked about setting an alarm to let you know when to take your dog to the toilet earlier in this article, and that will be helpful when you want to increase the time between breaks. Increase the time between toilet breaks by five minutes every four or five days.
If you find that your dog starts having accidents, dial back the time a bit and repeat the process again.
Slowly increasing the time between toilet breaks will teach your puppy the necessary bladder control to get them successfully house trained. Additionally, as your puppy gets older their bladder size increases and they will naturally gain more control over their bladder.
Below we have listed a guide to how often you should take your puppy to the toilet up:
8 weeks old – every 30 minutes
10 weeks old – every 45 minutes
12 weeks old – every 1 to 1.5 hours
16 weeks old – every 2 hours
20 weeks old – every 3 hours.
By the time your dog is five to six months old they should be capable of holding on for around four hours.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is About to Go to The Toilet
While we recommend you set an alarm to remind you to take your dog to the toilet, you should also be observant of your puppy’s behaviour. There are a number of signs you should be on the lookout for:
Pacing or circling around an area
Barking and/or whining
Moving towards or scratching the door to the outside
Leaving the room or heading to a hidden spot away from their bedding
Biting or naughty behaviour
Any time you notice these signs you should take your dog to the toilet. While many of them can signal something totally different, you don’t want to risk a nasty mess on your floor.
Puppies will tend to display one or more of these behaviours before going to the toilet. However, remember that all dogs are different so it is important to learn your puppy’s particular behaviour patterns.
Predicting When Your Puppy Needs to Go
There is no sure-fire way to predict exactly when a puppy needs to go to the toilet, but you should expect about three to six poops a day and many more pees. Additionally, you can use your puppy’s activity schedule to work out when they might need to go to the toilet.
Puppies will tend to go to the toilet after the following:
Soon after eating or drinking
Immediately after playtime
Immediately after they get any excitement
When they wake up in the morning or after a nap
Before going to bed
How to Train a Dog to Go to The Toilet On Command
While this is not an essential part of house training a dog it can be an incredibly useful command to teach your dog. It can be helpful in situations where you do not have much time or right before bed time.
Each time your puppy goes to the toilet in the designated toilet area, you can use a cue or special word. It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it is quick to say. For example, we say “be quick” to our dogs in an upbeat sort of way.
However, remember to be consistent with this word. There is no point in training your dog to use this command if you are constantly switching words around. If you have multiple people in your house make sure they all use the same word.
After a couple of weeks, you will find that your dog begins to associate the word with the action of going to the toilet. When you say the word your dog will get the urge to go to the bathroom. Always praise and reward your dog for doing this as it will further reinforce the command.
In a couple of months, most puppies will have learnt to go to the toilet on command with this simple training technique.
Note: Do not use a word for your toilet command that gets used at other times. For example, if you use something like ‘hurry up’, you may accidentally use it when leaving the house and things could get messy. We like to use be quick because we don’t usually say it to our dogs.
Why You Should Train Your Dog to Use a Collar and Lead Early
Toilet training can be made much easier if you train your dog to use a lead and collar at an early age. Some dog owners like to pick up their puppy to take them out or just let them walk by themselves, but this can become a problem later on.
When you first get your puppy home they will probably go to the toilet as soon as you take them outside for the first couple of weeks. However, as your dog gains more control over their bladder they will want to play when you take them to the toilet.
Training your dog to use a collar and lead will mean you can keep them close until they have finished. If you don’t do this you could be waiting while your dog plays and investigates all the interesting smells, sights and sounds.
You should start training your dog to use a collar and lead as soon as you get them home. Delaying lead and collar training will just put them back and make other training more difficult. Cesarsway has a good introduction to puppy lead training which we recommend you check out.
How to Take Your Puppy to The Toilet Spot
In a perfect world you would open the back door and your puppy would quickly go to the toilet in the right spot and return to you. However, we are not in a perfect world and your puppy will probably want to play and investigate the environment when they get outside.
As we recommend above, you should train your dog to use a lead and collar as early as possible, so that you can keep them close when you take them to the toilet. This will stop them wandering off and as soon as they have emptied themselves you can take them back inside.
You should also use your toilet command or cue word when you take them outside. Remember to say this word before you take them to the toilet and when they are in the act. They will soon learn what this word means and what they need to do. Saying the word every time will lead to faster results and less waiting around outside.
Stay with your puppy when you get to the toilet spot. If you are using a lead then you will obviously be close to your puppy, so this is for those who choose not to use one. Failing to stay near your puppy while they are going to the toilet will only make them more anxious to return to you. Their anxiety may make your puppy take longer or they may not go to the toilet at all.
Do not distract your puppy. Once you get to the toilet spot, don’t do or say anything that may distract your dog. Be as uninteresting as you can possibly be until they start to do their business, then you can praise and reward your dog.
Rewarding and praising your puppy will show them that you are happy with what they are doing, and that they are doing the right thing. A reward can be anything from playtime, to food to cuddles, so remember to mix it up.
What If My Puppy Just Doesn’t Want to Go?
You are probably going to come across and the first thing we recommend is making sure you are spending enough time outside with them.
Many dog owners will take their puppies outside for a minute or two and then come back inside. This is simply not enough time, as a dog will not go until they are ready to do so.
Some people recommend that you stay outside for as long as it takes whether it is 5, 10 or 15 minutes, and then reward them once they have relieved themselves.
We feel that waiting more than five minutes is probably a waste of time. If your dog hasn’t gone in five minutes, they probably aren’t ready to empty themselves yet.
While you are outside, say the toilet command every 30 seconds or so and don’t do anything else. Just stand there holding their lead, so they cannot move away.
If your puppy doesn’t relieve themselves within five minutes, bring them back indoors and then closely supervise them. Keep a look out for any signs (like we discussed earlier) that they may want to go to the toilet. Take them to the toilet spot again 10 minutes later to see if they want to go.
For those using crate training: Put your puppy back in their crate and leave them for around 10 minutes. Once ten minutes is up or they start to show signs of needing to go to the toilet, take them outside again. Do not leave them in the crate for too long as they may be forced to soil themselves in it. Avoid this at all costs if possible.
For those using paper training: Bring your puppy back in and confine them to an area that has paper or puppy pads. Then take your dog outside again after ten minutes or when they start to show signs of needing to go.
Remember to not take your eyes off your puppy as you may have just brought them back in with a full bladder.
How to Toilet Train a Puppy at Night
Young puppies will usually not be capable of lasting all night without going to the toilet. However, some lucky owners may find that their puppies can last six or seven hours before needing to go to the toilet at night. For most puppies around eight to ten weeks old you should expect them to last around four hours before needing to empty themselves during the night.
The reason for this is that a dog’s body slows down during the night and they do not need to go to the toilet as often.
Remember to take your puppy to the toilet right before they go to bed so they can empty their bladder. We then recommend that you set an alarm for about four hours after their bed time and then take them to the toilet.
If your puppy has made a mess in this time, you should set your alarm slightly earlier for the next night. Increase this time by 15 minutes every successful night where your puppy has not had an accident.
While it is a pain to wake up in the middle of the night to let your puppy go to the toilet, it is necessary for house training purposes. Luckily, the time that your puppy can hold on for overnight will increase rapidly. By around 10 weeks you will probably find that your puppy can last around seven hours without needing to go to the bathroom. However, not all puppies are the same, so yours may be capable of lasting longer or shorter.
Puppies that are 16 weeks and older should be capable of lasting a full night, especially if you do not feed them for 3 hours prior to bed time. Always remember to let your dog go to the toilet before bed time as well.
Using this method of gradually increasing the time between toilet breaks at night will limit the number of accidents that occur. There will be a couple of inevitable accidents along the way, but don’t worry about these.
What to Do When You Take Your Puppy to The Toilet at Night
As hard as it may seem, night-time toilet trips are not a time to play with your new puppy. You need to teach your puppy that night-time is for sleepy and not cuddles or playtime.
When your alarm goes off, quickly take your dog outside and say the toilet command. When your dog goes to the toilet, praise them and say the command again to reinforce it. Following this, simply take your puppy back inside and put them to bed. Do not make a fuss of them and avoid any games.
If you start playing or cuddling your puppy at night you will soon come to regret it!
For Those Using Crate Training
Letting your puppy go potty in their crate is a big no-no. If your puppy is forced to go to the toilet in their crate it can ruin their natural instinct to keep it clean. Your puppy’s natural instinct of keeping their crate clean is the single biggest advantage of that method.
The odd accident is fine, but if it starts to happen more than once in a given week you need to progress slower. If your puppy does make a mess in their crate, set your alarm back 30 or 45 minutes and move from there.
Try and add 15 minutes every two days instead of every one. Additionally, you may want to forgo the crate at night and simply use an exercise pen or a small room. You can then place paper or puppy pads down on the floor, so that your dog can empty themselves there if they really have to. Keeping your dog’s natural instinct to keep their crate clean is incredibly important.
Puppy Toilet Training While Working Full Time
The reality for most of us is that we have to work full time or be out of the house for extended periods of time. This means that we have to leave our puppies for quite a while between toilet breaks.
If this is you, you need not worry. We have touched on this earlier in the article but we thought it deserved its own section.
For those that want to use or are using crate training, you cannot leave your dog in the crate for an extended period during the day. Your dog will be forced to empty their bowels in the crate, which will be upsetting for them and will ruin the crates power as a toilet training tool.
Some families or people may be able to enlist the help of other people or work out a schedule so somebody can be home at all times of the day. However, this isn’t possible for everyone but we recommend that you give it your best shot.
With that in mind, what if you simply can’t get anyone to help or everyone is out for the day?
Confine Your Puppy
We don’t mean confine your puppy in their crate, but in a much larger space. We recommend somewhere like a kitchen with hard, easily cleanable floors. If you don’t have a room like this, we recommend using an exercise pen or a baby gate to lock off an area of your house.
For those who plan to use an exercise pen, make sure you place their bedding, toys and a water bowl in there.
Additionally, confining your puppy to an area of the house will keep them safer. Puppies and adult dogs can get themselves into all sorts of trouble if they are left alone in the house. Keeping them in one area means that you have control over everything they have access to.
Use Paper Training
In the confined area or exercise pen you should place some paper or puppy pads, so that your dog can go to the toilet on them. This is why we recommend you train your dog to use paper or pads, as it should stop them from going to the toilet in places you do not want them to. Additionally, it will be much easier to clean up when you get home.
What If I Find an Accident but Didn’t Catch My Puppy in The Act?
If you find a wee or poo, but didn’t see your dog doing it, there is nothing you can do about it. Do not try and punish your dog or get angry at them. Your puppy will not be able to connect your displeasure with going to the toilet in the wrong place.
Getting angry at your puppy may encourage them to start eating their own poo as a means to hide it. Additionally, they may try to go to the toilet in a secret place to keep it hidden from you.
If you do stumble across an accident on the floor, simply clean it up and move on. Remember to also check your schedule to see why the accident may have occurred. Are you leaving your dog too long? Or are you not taking them out to the toilet after they have had dinner? If so, correct these mistakes or reduce the time between toilet breaks to prevent any accidents from occurring.
Food and Water Are an Important Part of House Training
While you may not think it at first, food and water has an incredibly important role when it comes to toilet training a dog. After all, what goes in must come out!
You need to select a food product that suits the breed and age of your dog. Food is something you shouldn’t cheap out on and higher quality dog food products have their benefits.
High quality food can result in less bowel movements. Interestingly, higher quality food products will almost certainly result in fewer number 2s. This is because lower quality food is harder to digest and is full of cheap fillers that pass through your dog’s digestive system quicker. Higher quality food is more easily digested and more nutrients get absorbed from the food, which will result in fewer stools throughout the day.
High quality food has a higher nutritional value. A higher nutritional value food product is better for growing puppies and adult dogs alike. It will lead to less health complications down the track and your dog will thank you for it.
High quality food can help your dog last longer. As it takes longer for high quality food to be digestive, your dog’s stools will be firmer, which can help teach your dog bowel control. Firmer stools will also be easier to clean up than soft or liquid ones.
Don’t Change Dog Food Brands
Well, within reason. If you really have to change the food you feed your dog then go ahead, but there is a good reason why we suggest you keep the same one.
Dramatic or constant changes in a dog’s diet can often cause diarrhea or loose stools. Your puppy may simply not be capable of holding it in, which is obviously a bad thing when it comes to house training.
Pick a good, high quality dog food that is nutritionally complete for your dog. You may want to select the same one that your puppy’s breeder is using or you may want use one that is recommended by your vet. Changing once is usually fine, but if you are selecting a new dog food every week or two than problems will begin to appear.
Feed Your Puppy to a Schedule
If you feed your puppy at the same time every day they will begin to develop a toilet pattern. They will go to the toilet at roughly the same time every day, which makes house training a lot easier.
Base your schedule around the times you feed your puppy. Your puppy will soon learn your schedule and will try and hold on until a toilet break.
Additionally, you should not free feed your dog. This is where you leave food out for your puppy all day and they can come and pick it up at any time during the day.
If your puppy eats at random times they will need to poop at random times as well, making it impossible to create a solid schedule. With no predictable pattern it will be much harder to toilet train your dog.
Remember to always stick to a feeding schedule. Whether that be twice or three times a day at set times. It is often recommend to feed a young puppy three times a day until they get older and then you can move to twice a day.
What About Water?
Unlike food, you should certainly not limit your dog’s water to two or three times a day. Your puppy should have water freely available to them throughout the day. Remember to monitor their intake of water to see if they are drinking too much or too little.
The only time you may want to restrict water is for a couple of hours before bedtime. If your dog drinks too much before they go to bed, you are probably going to wake up to lots of little puddles all around the place. However, when we have house trained our dogs we have never worried about restricting water and we have never run into a problem.
A Toilet Training Checklist
Before you get your puppy home, you should make a checklist to make sure you have everything you need to toilet train your dog. If your already have your puppy don’t worry, it’s never too late to make one.
We’ve created an example checklist that you can use if you want. This is just a simple guide so chop and change it as you see fit:
Decided upon an appropriate bathroom spot
Decided when you will feed your dog and the food product you will be giving them
Purchased a collar and lead
Trained your dog to use a collar or lead, or are in the process of training
Selected the appropriate training method. We recommend using a combination of all three, but sometimes this is not possible
Purchased a crate and bedding
Purchased an exercise pen or chosen a place of confinement
Decided on any commands or cues if you will be using them
Purchased puppy pads or have old newspapers on hand
Bought a tarpaulin or protective sheet to use under the crate or exercise pen
Purchased some dog treats
Worked out a plan with your family and friends, or those in your house
Purchased cleaning products and stain removers
How to Know When to Stop Toilet Training?
The simple answer is when your dog stops having accidents in the house. However, as we discussed earlier there is a bit more to it than that.
While your puppy may not have had any accidents recently, it does not mean they are house trained. Most dogs can be house trained by about five to six months, but some may take longer than that.
A toilet training dog should be capable of lasting at least four hours without needing to go to the bathroom. You need to watch your dog’s behaviour and only stop when you know you can trust them.
Mistakes can set you back, so avoid them at all costs.
The odd accident is bound to happen but you should avoid them at all costs. Many dog owners become complacent too early and give their puppies too much freedom. This leads to accidents which can set you back a couple of weeks.
Stick to your plan and slowly increase the time between toilet breaks, always reverting back to a shorter time if an accident does occur. Don’t every punish your dog or rush them at any point.
We recommend that you keep on house training your dog as normal until they haven’t made a mistake for around six to eight weeks. This will ensure they are trained and you can trust them.
Summing Up How to House Train a Puppy
As you can see there is quite a lot of information to take in about toilet training a puppy. You need to keep accidents to a minimum and make sure you heavily reward your dog for doing the right thing. The more you do this, the quicker they will learn.
Always keep an eye out for your dog’s behaviour and if you notice any changes take them to the bathroom spot as soon as possible.
Remember to keep a schedule and make sure you feed your dog at the same time of the day every day. Take them out to the toilet regularly and take into account your puppy’s capabilities, age and natural instinct.
Toilet training is probably one of the lest enjoyable parts about owning a dog, but it is incredibly important. This guide should cover everything you need to know about house training a puppy, so make sure you share it with anyone who may need it if you get the chance.
The call of ‘come’ is a common sound in dog parks all around the world. You will always here dog owners calling their pet to ‘come’, but a lot of the time they don’t. While it can be an amusing sight to watch this spectacle, the reality is that it is frustrating and potentially dangerous.
Teaching your dog to come is one of the most important things you can do and in this guide we are going to show you how to do it. We will take you through a step-by-step approach that will get your dog coming to your call in no time.
Additionally, we are going to cover exercises you can do to enforce the ‘come’ command, what rewards you need, and potential problems you may face.
This may be your first time training your dog, or you may have already taught them to ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’. If you have already taught these two commands to your dog, you will probably find this guide a little bit easier than if you haven’t.
If you haven’t taught your dog ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’, don’t worry, you can still follow this guide. However, we do recommend you check out our guide to “Training Your Dog to Sit”.
Why Is Training Your Dog to Come So Important?
Along with ‘Sit’, the command ‘come’ is one of the most important things you can teach your dog. The ability to reliably call your dog back to you can keep them safe in dangerous situations or prevent them from doing things like running in the road or chasing a cat.
Additionally, the ability to get your dog to come back to you will help in situations like dog parks, where there are a ton of distractions. You will also need a strong, reliable ‘come’ if you ever want to walk your dog off a leash.
It can be incredibly frustrating if your dog does not come to your command and in some cases it can be downright embarrassing.
Best Tips and Tricks for Training a Dog to Come
Dogs have a short attention span and they can become easily distracted when you are trying to train them. However, dogs are always keen to please their owners and you can use this to your advantage when you are training them. You should always know your dog’s limits and never give them too hard a task straight off the bat. This will only confuse them and make progression much slower.
Pick a Good Environment to Train In
Training in a busy environment or place where there are lots of different distractions is a recipe for disaster. Think about your dog’s attention span and how they react to the world around them. You want to pick a place that is familiar to your dog, but also quiet.
Try not to train in places that are full of distractions like other dogs, humans, food or toys. You want to have your dog’s full attention when you are training them. This will give you the best progression and make the training process less frustrating. Below we have listed some tips to finding the right training environment:
Use a large room indoors as you have more control over you dog and you can confine them in an area. You can also control the distractions, so that your dog finds you the most interesting thing. You will probably need a large room as you need to put a bit of distance between you and your dog.
Avoid training outdoors if possible. While it is nice to train outside, there can be far more distractions that are less controllable. Outside training also limits your ability to confine your dog in a single area, which will make training a lot more difficult. If you can only train outside, try and use a lead to keep them close to you.
Eventually you will want to start training your dog outside and in places with more distractions to reinforce what you have been teaching them. However, you want to train them in a low distraction environment when you first start. The ultimate is to try and train your dog in places like dog parks, where there are lots of interesting pooches around.
Regular Short Training Sessions Are the Best
Like we said above, dogs have short attention spans and can become easily distracted. To combat this, you want to use regular, short training sessions to help them learn. When it comes to deciding how long a training session should be, you should also consider your dog’s energy levels, age and ability to focus.
For puppies, aim for sessions around three to five minutes in length. Spread two or three of these short sessions throughout the day and try and train them when they have energy, not when they want to sleep.
If your dog is older, you can probably get away with training sessions that are up to ten minutes in length. However, we still believe that slightly shorter, more frequent sessions are the way to go. Additionally, you can increase the frequency of the training sessions, but two or three a day should be enough to train your dog to come.
While it is good to set out a time limit for your training, if your dog is becoming bored or distracted it may be best to try again later.
Remember Your Dog’s Mood
Just like humans, dogs can get pretty tired. Sometimes they just don’t want to train and you need to remember this. If your dog just doesn’t seem in the mood to train, give them a break and then try again later. A tired dog can become more easily distracted or disobedient, which can make training them frustrating.
The other thing to remember is that they just might not be excited to train. While dogs love to please their owners, they also like to have fun and tasty treats as a reward for their hard work.
Supply Your Dog with High Value Rewards and Praise
There is no doubt that dogs love food and they love to be rewarded with tasty treats when they have been well behaved. Giving your dog nice, delicious treats is a crucial part of training them.
A great way to get your dog more invested in the training process is to use higher value rewards such as beef or chicken. You may need to try a few different types of treats to get the best response from your dog.
Before giving your dog any food item, always check to make sure it is safe for them to eat. Many food items like onions, grapes or chocolate are dangerous for dogs to eat.
Another way to reward your dog is to use their favourite toy or play a game with them. This is an excellent method of rewarding your dog, however, we do not recommend it when you are just starting out with training. Using toys or games can cause lengthy interruptions in the lesson, which can slow progress.
For this guide we want to make rewards as quick as possible and food is definitely the best way of doing this. If you are looking for a great pre-made treat, try ‘Zuke’s Mini Naturals Dog Treats’.
Praising your dog is another important part of the reward process. Your dog wants to please you, so make sure you give them lots of praise when they do the right thing. This lets them know they are doing the right job and will make them even more keen for training.
Watch Your Attitude
The way you speak to your dog and the tone of your voice can have a big impact on training. You should be firm but kind and calm.
You must never shout at your dog and end the lesson if you are getting upset or frustrated with your dog. Canines have significantly better hearing than humans and giving them an earful will seem aggressive and frightening to them. Always use a clear, normal tone that your dog can easily understand and listen to.
If you are frustrated, your dog will be able to tell and that can negatively impact the training. It can confuse your dog and turn the lesson into a disobedient mess. Always keep calm and it will help your training progress.
Carrying on from above, always make sure to keep the training positive. Training your dog should be a fun, enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, rather than a job.
Try to always finish the lesson on a positive note, rather than a negative one. Take this for example, if your dog comes to you on request a couple of times in a row, you could in the session there. We are ending the session because the dog has done what we asked and has followed the command a couple of times.
Another tip is to make the training more fun. To do this you can turn it into a bit more of a game. This will make your dog more interested in the training and they will look forward to the next lesson with you.
Occasional, you will not be able to finish a lesson on a positive note and this is ok. What you don’t want to do is continually finish on a negative experience. If you find your dog is getting distracted or the lesson is going south, try get your dog to “come” a few more times to see if you can finish positively.
The last thing you can do to keep the lesson positive is to finish with a game. Dogs love to play and finish with a game of tug will keep them excited for future training sessions.
Think About a Signal You Want to Use
Before you even begin training your dog, you want to decide on a signal that lets your dog know that they are doing the right thing. This is not a treat; it is something you use or say to give an instant reward.
We use the word ‘yes’.
Say ‘yes’ in a clear and enthusiastic manner, and then follow this with a treat or other reward. Your dog will eventually start to look for the signal in your lessons to know they are pleasing you. Using a signal will reinforce good behaviour and gives instant gratification.
In this guide we will be using ‘yes’, however, you can use your own word or even try clicker training.
Questions About Teaching a Dog to Come
We’ve put together a number of questions owners commonly ask about teaching their dogs to sit. Some of the questions below relate to owners who have already tried to teach their dogs to sit, but are having difficulties doing so.
When Should I Teach My Dog to Come?
Training a puppy can be easier than training an older dog, however, the belief that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is entirely wrong. Puppies may learn quicker, but if you have an older dog that won’t come, you can still teach them to do so.
You can start training a puppy as soon as they come home. While you may not want to introduce the ‘come’ command immediately, you can reward them for naturally coming to you.
How Long Does It Take to Train a Dog to Come?
Teaching a dog to come is not instantaneous. It will take time and patience on both you and your dog’s part. However, the amount of time that it takes can depend on a few factors:
The age of your dog
Any previous training
If you have tried to teach them to come already
Your dog’s energy levels and nature
How often you train your dog
Any mistakes that are made during the training process
Where you want to use ‘come’ (eg, It’s easier to get your dog to come in a house, rather than the park).
My Dog Won’t Come When They Are Called
This is a common problem people have with their dogs. You may find that your canine companion will come sometimes, but will ignore you on other occasions. This is because they have not been trained to come correctly. You want the response to the command to be automatic.
Dogs usually will ignore your command when there is something more interesting than you. This could be other dogs, people, food or smells. You need to train your dog to ignore these distractions and that you are the most interesting thing to them.
Many owners train their dogs to come in somewhere like their house or garden, and then expect them to do it in the park. This is not going to happen, so you need to gradually increase the intensity of the distractions around you dog during training.
Don’t worry if your dog is like this. If you follow this guide you will have your dog coming in no time.
How to Train a Dog to Come?
Most dogs do not come because they have not been taught to automatically respond to the ‘come’ command. When training your dog, you want to create a trained response that they do not have to think about.
Once you have trained you dog correctly, they will not ask themselves “should I go to my owner or is that other dog or human more interesting?” They will just come and will not be able to stop themselves.
Before we start training, let’s look at why ‘come’ can be associated with bad things in your dog’s mind
Why Come Can Be Bad to Your Dog
Dogs associate one thing with another, and commands are no different. The word ‘come’ and running to you can be associated with all sorts of boring or even unpleasant experiences. For instance, think about the following:
Discipline or being told off
Finishing a walk
Leaving the park
Coming inside from the garden
Going back home
The above and more can often be seen as negatives to dogs. Your dog doesn’t want to go home from the park, because they are enjoying their time playing with the other dogs. They don’t want to be told off or finish a walk.
In the situations above we often tell our dog to ‘come’ when we want to take them home, tell them off or get them inside. Dogs will associate the negative feelings they get from these actions with the word ‘come’. They realise they get no benefit when they come to you and while you may think your dog loves praise, studies have shown that praise alone is not effective at changing a dog’s behaviour.
To change your dog’s behaviour you have to reward them with something like treats and give them physical affection, such as petting.
This makes it difficult when it comes to training a dog to come, as we naturally want them to follow the command in those situations. What you need to do is make coming fun and exciting for your dog. They need to think that if they come to you, it will be the best thing that they have done all day.
How Do I Make ‘Come’ Fun?
So how do you make ‘come’ fun? Well, that’s actually easier than you may think. What you need to do is create a situation where your dog runs to you and then turn it into an incredible experience for them.
This, of course, will require food, games and lots of fun. You are trying to create a memorable experience for your dog that puts a big smile on their face. What you are not doing is using the ‘come’ command at all during this time.
We are not barking out orders or forcing them to do anything for us. This stage of the training process is about getting them to chase you, and luckily dogs love chasing people.
Remember the High Value Rewards
We can’t emphasise this enough, you need to have treats that your dog gets excited about. They should be small pieces of food or small treats such as ‘Zuke’s Mini Naturals’, otherwise your dog may experience weight gain.
Walk Away from Your Dog
The first step of this guide is to simply walk away. You want to wait until your dog is a short distance from you with their attention focused solely in your direction. When they are looking at you, just walk away.
You should find that your dog starts to follow you. As they do this, increase the speed you are walking and then quickly turn around and give them a nice tasty treat when they get to you.
In addition to the treat, make sure you give your dog the biggest fuss. Pat them, play with them and praise them, so they know that following you is a good thing. Feed a few more treats to your dog and then repeat the process a few times.
What You Shouldn’t Do at This Stage
While this stage of the training is pretty straightforward, there are a few mistakes you can make. We have listed some of the things to watch out for below:
Don’t go towards your dog – Moving towards your dog at this stage is a big no, no. Taking steps towards them, will tell them that they get a reward for nothing. Think of yourself as the reward, and they have to come to you to get it.
Don’t use the word ‘come’ – Like we said earlier, you are not using the word ‘come’ or any other command to call them over to you. We are not saying the command because if your dog doesn’t come to you, they have just learnt to ignore it. If you make the mistake of using the ‘come’ command, you may need to think of another one.
Don’t use food as a bribe – The food you give your dog should be a reward, not a bribe. Always keep the treats out of sight before giving it to them as a reward. Don’t wave them about or stick them in front of your dog’s nose, as this will only set you up for failure in the future.
Don’t try to train without food rewards – Training without food is always a recipe for disaster. It is a super common mistake and it will lead to poor progress. Many people try and just pat or praise there dog as a reward, however, this just isn’t good enough. The quickest and fastest way to train the ‘come’ command is to use food. Once you have taught your dog, then you can change up the rewards.
Don’t use low-value treats – Low value treats are ok, but when you really want to get good progress, use high-value ones.
Don’t train around distractions – At this early stage of training, you want your dog to simply follow you. If there is something more interesting, your dog may follow that.
Don’t train a full dog – Training a dog just after they have had dinner is a big mistake. While some dogs are never full, it is always better to train them before meal time rather than after. This will make them more willing to follow your instructions and the treats will be more valuable to them.
Help! My Dog Won’t Follow Me!
You may find that your dog simply won’t follow you. This might be because they feel you are boring or uninteresting, and can’t really see any point in following you. If this is the case, you can get your dog’s attention by making noise or having your arms about. Your pup should see this and start to move towards you to find out what is going on. When they do this, walk away like we described above.
Introducing The ‘Come’ Command
Now that your dog knows that moving towards you or following you is good, it is time to introduce the command. You need to be careful at this stage, don’t start shouting at your dog to come. This is because your dog does not understand ‘come’ at the moment and using it can ingrain bad habits.
What you need to do is use the ‘come’ command when your dog is already doing the action. For example, if your dog is coming towards you, you can say the word come. We are teaching the dog that ‘come’ means run towards my owner.
Continue doing this for about a week. Your dog will eventually start to associate the word with the action. Make sure you continue giving them treats when they do come towards you, especially when you are using the command.
Training The Come
If your dog decides to naturally run towards you, that’s great, say the word ‘come’ and give them a treat. You are probably going to find that you either forget this in naturally occurring situations or they just don’t happen that much at all. Like we did before, you want to engineer these situations so that they happen.
Wait until you have your dog’s attention and begin to move away from them. As soon as your dog commits to running or walking to you, give the ‘come’ command. Do this is a clear manner and only say it once.
When your dog gets to you, reward them with a treat and make a big fuss of them. This shows that you are happy with their behaviour.
Mistakes You Can Make When Introducing the Come Command
Again, this part of the training is pretty straightforward. It is almost exactly the same as the first stage, but with ‘come’ thrown in there when your dog starts moving towards you. However, there are a couple of mistakes you can make.
Don’t give the command to come too early – Saying the word ‘come’ before they have started moving is a big mistake. You should only say the word when your dog is fully committed to coming to you. If your dog decides to change his direction after you have said ‘come’ it can create bad habits.
Phasing out treats – You need to continue to use treats at this point. If you remove treats from the training process, your dog’s interest level in the training will nosedive. Try to use high-value rewards as well.
Not giving them enough attention when they come – Along with rewarding your dog with food, you need to make sure to give them lots of attention. Making a big fuss of them is an important part of the training process.
Teaching Your Dog to Come On Command
Here’s the part you have all been waiting for, teaching your dog to come on command. We have already taught our dog that coming to you is a good thing and they also now associate the word ‘come’ with the action. Now we are going to teach our dog to respond to the ‘come’ command.
You need to start in the same locations as you have already been training in. Remember to remove any distractions or train in a place that has no distractions already.
Wait until your dog is a small distance away from you and paying some attention to you. Your dog should not be moving towards you at this point. Give the come command.
You should find that your dog runs straight up to you to collect his reward. If they do, give them a treat and make a big fuss of them.
Once you have got your dog coming back to you on command in a controlled environment, it is time to change it up a little. Surprise your dog with a ‘come’ command when they are not expecting it. Don’t do it in an environment where there are lots of distractions, but it could be in another room or in the garden of your property.
Try it when your dog is lying down, walking about and sitting, and then heavily reward them when they come to you.
My Dog Didn’t Come!
So, what happens if your dog doesn’t come at this stage. If they do not come to your command, there are a couple of things you can do:
Run away – Like we have done before you can run away, wave your arms, jump up and down, and just generally act silly, so that you get your dog’s attention. You will be far more interesting to your dog if you move. When your dog does get to you, make sure you heavily reward them and give them a good old pat.
Revert back to the previous stage – Sometimes your dog just might take a bit more time to associate the word ‘come’ with the action. Go back to the previous stage and spend another week or two getting them used to the word.
You need to be clear – You must make sure you are saying ‘come’ in a clear, concise manner, with no other words attached.
Increase the value of your rewards – If you are failing to get the desired response, it can be a good idea to try some different treats. If you are just using biscuits, try and use some chicken or beef.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
You need to practice the command regularly. Don’t think that because your dog has successfully come on command once, they will do it again. You need to continue with regular and random training sessions to ingrain the command in their mind.
What Can Go Wrong
Do not repeat the command and do not bribe your dog. Shouting come repeatedly is a major no, no. Your dog will learn to ignore the command if you continually shout it at them, which will cause you further headaches.
When training goes wrong, many owners resort to showing their dog food to get them to carry out the command. This will only set you up for failure in the future and will make progression much slower.
This is where things can go really wrong. Introducing distractions is an important part of the training process and it can cause problems. You need to slowly build the intensity of the distractions around your dog.
Changing the location, introducing new pets or people, using smells and food are all great ways to challenge your dog. Eventually, you want to be able to call your dog to come when you are at a park with other dogs around, or when there is food about and much more.
How Do You Introduce Distractions?
Before you go testing your dog at the park with other dogs around, you need to start small. Gradually introduce distractions in an area you have already been training in. Start with something like adding another person into the mix.
What you need to do is get your dog sitting beside the person helping you. The helper must ignore the dog completely and should be a short distance away from you.
Call your dog to come and reward them heavily for doing so. To change the intensity of this, add more people or change the person who the dog stands next to. Try adding an extra person in a triangle formation, so that there is another person your dog could potentially go to.
If you find your dog is failing to come to your command, reduce the intensity of the distractions.
Using Food as a Distraction
Another great way of getting your dog more used to distractions is by using food. While you probably won’t be calling your dog away from food that often, it is a nice way to train your dog to come away from something they want. Dogs love food and if you can get them to come from it, then you are probably on the right track.
Initially, use a food item that is not that interesting to your dog. You don’t want to use food that is more enticing than the treats you are giving to them as a reward.
Along with food, there is probably nothing your dog likes more than their own kind. Training your dog to come away from other dogs can be difficult. If you have ever been to a dog park, you will know that it is full of people trying to get their canines away from other dogs.
The best way to train this is to enlist the help of a friend with a dog. Start off with asking your dog to come away from one dog and then eventually you will be able to train them to come away from many.
Get your friend, their dog and your own dog standing a short distance away from you. Your friend should be ignoring your dog and they should make their pup sit. Ask your dog to come and if they do, then heavily reward them.
Remember to only say the command once and do not try to bribe your dog with food. Additionally, after calling your dog to come, remember to let them go back and play with other dogs. This shows them that coming to you doesn’t mean the end of playtime.
Using a Long Lead or Leash
When you are moving to new locations or trying ‘come’ in somewhere like a park, it can be a good idea to use a long lead or rope. Start off with a short distance and gradually increase the distance that you are training at.
The process is exactly the same as we have outlined above in this article, except you have a bit more control over your dog. Using a long lead is a great way of keeping your dog relatively close to you when you are adding in new distractions such as other dogs, or changing location.
The lead should not be used as a tool to force your dog to come to you. Your dog should be willing to come and the lead should only be used as a last resort if things go bad.
Games to Play That Reinforce the Come Command
Training your dog should be a fun experience. If you make training fun, your dog will be more motivated to listen to your commands. Creating games is also a great way of reinforcing commands when the bulk of the training is over. We have listed a couple of games below that will help with your dog’s come command.
In The Middle
You can play this with your family or a large group of people. Place your dog in the middle of everyone and make sure all the people in the circle have treats.
Take turns asking your dog to come and then rewarding them as they do. Only one person should be calling them and if they go to the wrong person, they should ignore the dog until the find the right person. Remember to keep this game nice and short, you don’t want to exhaust your dog.
Hide and Seek
Everyone loves a good game of hide and seek, and it is also an excellent way of training your dog to come. Either get your dog to sit and wait, or get someone to hold them in place and then run away with a high-value reward.
When you are just out of sight, call your dog to come. Only say the word once and when they find you, praise and reward them generously.
When Can I Get Rid of Rewards?
Now that you have finished the bulk of the training, you are probably wondering if you can get rid of treats. Completely removing treats can do away with all your hard work. It is one of the most common mistakes people make and it can be really frustrating.
Once you have taught your dog to come, you can reduce the amount of treats you give them, but do not get rid of them entirely. You still want to reward your dog for their good behaviour. If they never receive any rewards and you only use ‘come’ in situations like returning home from the park, your dog will start to become less motivated to follow your command.
The other thing you can do is to start using toys as a reward. Take their favourite toy with you on a walk and when you call them to come, play a game with them.
Wrapping Up Teaching a Dog to Come
Training a dog to come is certainly one of the more important commands to teach them. It can keep them out of danger and can save you from frustrating or embarrassing situations at the park. Remember to take the training slow and always have fun.
While this guide ‘to train a dog to come’ is long, it should cover everything you need to know about the subject. If you have any questions about teaching a dog to ‘come’, leave a comment down below.
We all envy those with a well-trained dog and it can be frustrating when you can’t get your dog to behave the way you want them to.
The ‘lie down’ command is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. It allows you to control your dog in certain situations and push the pause button when things are heading south.
If you are looking to train your dog to lay down, then you have come to the right place. This is the ultimate guide to getting your dog to lie down and stay until you decide when they can get up again.
While training your dog to lie down isn’t the most difficult command, you are going to need time, patience and a whole lot of treats.
The Benefits of Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down
Before you even think about teaching your dog tricks like ‘paw’, you want to teach them basic commands that let you control them in different situations. Commands like ‘lie down’ and ‘sit’ are essential to dog control, and they open the door to more advanced forms of training.
Training your dog any command, including ‘lay down’ will also help you and your dog form a closer bond. It feels great teaching your dog a command and they will love to please you.
Let’s look at why the ‘lie down’ command is so great to teach:
Down commands can help calm an overly excited dog. If your dog is bouncing off the walls or gets too excited in general, teaching them to get down is a great way to get that excitement under control.
It helps dogs stick to one spot. Just like the ‘sit’ command, teaching your dog to lay down will help them stay in one spot. This can be really beneficial in all sorts of different situations and will help you get better control over your canine companion.
It can be used when guests come to your house. While you might not mind your dog jumping all over you, your guests probably will. Teaching your dog to get down and stay calm is a great way to stop them giving your guests a big wet, slobbery kiss. It is also great for when your dog meets children or new puppies.
A good down command will give you ultimate control over your dog. The ability to teach your dog to stop and get down is the best way to prevent them from moving towards a dangerous situation.
Your dog can hold the position for a long time. Just like humans tend to find lying down relaxing, dogs are the same. If you need to get your dog to stay for a long time, this is the position to get them into.
It keeps their brains working. Teaching your dog any command is a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Think of training as a fun, play session with your dog.
Common Questions When Teaching Dogs to ‘Lie Down’
Some of the questions below are related to owners who have already tried to teach their dog to lie down, but are having some issues with their behaviour.
Why Does My Dog Not Get Down When I Tell Them to?
Teaching your dog to lie down isn’t actually that hard. The problems start when you ask your dog to do it in different situations and with distractions around them.
While you may think that this is just a case of bad behaviour or that your dog is trying to be dominate, you would be wrong.
Your dog knows the ‘lie down’ command but fails to action on it because you have not reinforced it. You need to teach them to get down in all kinds of different environments with different distractions. Dogs do not understand this automatically, so you have to train them to understand it.
Many dog owners will teach their canine companions to lie down in the kitchen or somewhere in the house, but then expect them to do it in the park. In reality, teaching your dog to get down is not that easy.
My Dog Doesn’t Stay Down?
Another problem people seem to face is when their pups simply won’t stay in the down position.
This might be because someone touches the dog and they get excited, which can be incredibly frustrating. While this is annoying, it is perfectly natural for our dog; however, we are going to teach you how to stop this.
Another reason why your dog doesn’t stay in the ‘lay down’ position is because of the command they have been taught. Many owners teach their dog two commands ‘lie down’ and ‘stay’. This does work, but we want to take a different approach.
We want to teach our dog to lie down and then stay until we use a release cue, rather than asking them to stay. It may be a small difference, but it can have a big impact.
Remember that your dog doesn’t know how long they should lie down. If you teach them to wait for your signal, then there is no confusion and your dog will understand your command.
My Dog Won’t Lie Down When There Are Other Dogs Around?
Most dogs will not stay in a lying down position when there are other dogs around, they are just too interesting. It is only in a dog’s nature to want to play with other dogs and your command is much less interesting than them.
You will find that dogs that stay lying down when there are other dogs around are either really well trained, or just not interested in other canines.
When Should I Teach My Dog to Down?
Starting early is always the best option when it comes to training dogs. While puppies do tend to learn quicker than older dogs, you can certainly teach an old dog new tricks. Teaching an older dog to lie down may take a bit longer and a may require a few more treats!
Some Helpful Tips for Teaching Your Dog How to Lie Down
Pick A Good Place to Train
Establishing your training environment is incredibly important. Before you begin training your dog, think about where you are. Dogs can be easily distracted, so try to find a quiet place to train. Remember to try and use an area that is familiar to your dog as well.
Avoid any areas that have a lot of distractions when training. Things like food, toys or other dogs can easily ruin a training session. Your dog’s attention should be solely on you during the lesson.
A room inside your house is a great place to train your dog initially. You will have loads of control over your dog and can confine them, so that all their attention is fixed on you.
Tell other people in your house that a training session is going on. This will help to prevent any unwanted distractions from butting into the lesson.
Training outside, especially in the early stages of teaching your dog how to lie down can be problematic. It is much more difficult to control distractions outside and it is harder to confine your dog. If you have to train outside, use a lead to keep your dog close to you.
When you have progressed and your dog is comfortable lying down in a low-distraction area, move the training sessions to a place with more distractions. Increasing the difficulty will help reinforce good behaviour.
Remember that the floor your training on can also have an effect on your dog’s behaviour. Some dogs don’t like to lie down on a cold or uncomfortable floor. Teach your dog somewhere comfortable like on carpet or a rug.
Reward Your Dog with High-Value Treats
It’s so important to reward your dog and praise them when you are training. Dogs love treats and they love pleasing you, so let them know they are doing the right.
If you find that your dog just isn’t interested in training, it may be because you are not using the correct treats. Higher-value treats will make your dog more excited to please you and perform the task you want them to do. You may need to try a few different treats before you settle on one that works for your dog.
Remember to check that the food you are giving your dog is safe for them to eat. There are a whole host of different dangerous foods to dogs, so be cautious.
Another thing to remember is that rewards don’t always have to be food. A favourite toy is also another great option, but at this early we recommend you use food to train your dog. Food is probably the quickest way of rewarding your dog, which is important when training.
Don’t Make Training Sessions Too Long
Always remember that dogs usually have short attention spans and can get distracted easily. Keeping your training sessions short can help to keep your dog focused on you, rather than other things.
Consider your dog’s age, energy level and focus level when deciding how long you should make your lesson. Puppies that are about 12 weeks old should be trained for no more than five minutes. Keep the training sessions to about two or three times a day, and remember to train them when they have energy.
For older dogs, you can get away with extending their training sessions to around ten minutes in length. Additionally, you can increase the number of sessions in a day, however, we think two or three, five minute lessons in a day should be more than enough to train your dog to lie down.
Keep It Positive
Training should be a fun positive experience for the both of you. If you turn it into a chore, both you and your dog will become fed up with it and the lesson will suffer.
Remember to always try and end your session on a positive note. For example, if your dog is lying down when you ask them to, you can end the session a bit earlier. Make the lesson more of a game as this will keep your dog more interested, and they will look forward to the next session with you.
If the lesson is headed south, give the command another couple of goes to try and see if you can finish on a positive note. You can also finish the training session with a game as well, which can help to make the lesson more positive.
Also remember to be positive yourself. Your dog will sense when you are not happy and they will get anxious. Try to remain calm and don’t get frustrated. If you find yourself getting annoyed, end the training session and try again later.
Think of Your Dog’s Mood
Sometimes, your dog just won’t want to train. They may be tired or they may be the opposite, overly excited. If your dog is sleepy, let them rest and train when they have a bit of energy. Dogs with too much energy can be a real handful, so try wearing them out a little bit before you train. Take them for a walk or play a game to expend some of that excess energy. Read this article for a bit more information on a dog’s mood and training.
Think About the Signal You Want to Use
The last tip we want to give you is to decide upon a signal before you start training. This guide requires you to use a signal for part of it, so think about what you want to use.
We recommend that you use ‘Yes’ as your signal. A clicker is another great signal you can use as well.
Always say ‘yes’ in a clear and enthusiastic manner, and then follow with a treat. Once your dog learns the signal that you use, they will begin to look for it when you are training. Using a signal will make the training easier and will reinforce any good behaviour.
We will be explaining how to use the signal as we progress through this guide.
Train Your Dog to Lie Down
Teaching your dog, the ‘down’ command is a fairly straightforward process. The position is completely natural for your dog and it is pretty comfortable as well. No one had to train your dog how to lie down, they just did it. All what you are doing is associating a command with the action.
There are a few different methods to training your dog to get down. Different methods can work better or worse with different dogs and their owners.
The main two methods we are going to look at in this guide is ‘luring’ and ‘capturing’.
You can also force your dog to get into the down position, however, we would not recommend this method.
Why You Should Never Force Your Dog to Lie Down
Old school trainers sometimes forced a dog to get into a position by forcing them. They would push and pull on parts of the dog’s body to get them into a position they wanted. This is not what we want to do.
Imagine if somebody much larger than you pushed down on your shoulders to force you to lie down. If you didn’t understand what they were asking for, it would be pretty scary, wouldn’t it? Your natural instinct would probably be to resist and fight this person.
Your dog will almost certainly feel the same way. They do not speak your language and forcing them into the down position can make them fearful. This sort of training method can reduce the trust your dog has for you, which can make future training sessions even more difficult.
Rather than making our dog do something out of fear or force, we want to teach our dog to listen to the command we give them. Your dog should happily listen to the down command and enjoy the training process. Forcing your dog into a position is counter-productive.
Check out this article for 13 effects of negative training methods with dogs.
The positive training methods we are going to show you in this article may take a bit more patience on both you are your dog’s part, but it will produce a better outcome. Your dog will be much happier about the down command and it will be a great bonding session for the both of you. If you follow the methods we give you in this guide, your dog will learn how to get down and they will enjoy it!
Train Your Dog the Lie Down Command with Capturing
The first method we are going to look at is ‘capturing’. Capturing works by waiting for your dog to lie down naturally, and then rewarding them when they do. You are also using the signal word or sound as we discussed earlier.
Your dog will learn that the signal (In our guide we are using ‘yes’) means that they are doing the right thing.
In most cases, it can be hard to give your dog a treat at the exact moment they are performing the desired behaviour. This is why we use a signal like ‘yes’ or a clicker to let them know what behaviour you are rewarding them for.
This same training method can be used for a variety of different behaviours. In this guide we are only using it for the down command, but we have also discussed it in our other training guides like ‘how to teach your dog to sit’.
Getting set up
The first thing you want to do is to get in a suitable training area. As we wrote earlier, avoid high distraction environments for this stage of training. If your dog is overly excited or has too much energy, take them for a walk or play a game with them. This will make them a bit more settled and controllable.
Capturing A Lie Down
Now that you are ready, the next step is to wait for your dog to lie down. Once your dog goes down, use your signal and then reward your dog immediately with a treat. You should wait for your dog’s elbows to touch the ground before doing this.
When you say ‘yes’ and give your dog a treat, they will almost certainly get up. This is perfectly fine and is actually quite helpful, as it sets you up for the next capture. Wait for your dog to lie down again and then repeat the same process.
What you are doing is essentially creating a ‘snapshot’ in time that lets your dog know that you liked it when they went into a lying down position.
You may find that your dog tries to offer you different behaviours to get a reward. While this is cute, you must ignore all other behaviour until they lie down again.
Once you have ‘captured’ a lie down around five times, your dog will start to realise that they are triggering the rewards you are giving them. Your dog will then try and figure out what they are doing that pleases you, so they can get more treats.
This is why we give a dog a signal. It tells them what you liked, so that they know to do it again in the future.
If you have used this method to teach your dog another command, then they will catch on pretty quick. Dogs that have not experienced this training method may take a bit longer.
Adding The ‘Down’ Command
The last step of this training method is to add the ‘down’ command. Your dog now understands that lying down is a good thing, but you now need to add the command into the mix.
You need to say the word ‘down’ just a fraction before your dog goes into a lying down position. We are still going to reward the dog and give them the signal just as before, but we are adding the command.
Eventually, your dog will associate this command with the action and they will begin lying down at your request.
Luring Your Dog into the Down Position
Luring is a pretty simple technique. It uses your dog’s love of food and their nose to get them into the right position. Your dog will follow the treat until they are lying down and then be rewarded.
Just like the previous method, you are going to need a lot of treats and you need to be in a low distraction environment.
Using the Lure
The first thing you need to do is get your dog’s attention with them facing you. Hold a treat in your hand, but don’t let your dog see it. Let your dog smell the treat, you should have their full attention at this point. If your dog doesn’t seem interested, you may have to try a different treat.
Once your dog’s nose is locked onto your fist, move your hand down towards the ground. Your dog’s head should follow your hand down, following the smell of the treat.
At this point, your dog will probably be in some strange position with their head on the floor and their bum up. What you need to do now is move your hand away from your dog along the floor. The movement of your hand and the treat should look like an “L”. Your hand moves directly down and then away from the dog.
Avoid moving your hand in a diagonal movement. If you have done the movement correctly, your dog should quickly drop to a lying down position and follow the treat.
Another tip is to ask your dog to sit before you get them to lie down. This way, your dog’s backend is already on the floor. If you haven’t taught your dog to sit already, we recommend you do this before teaching them to lie down. Check out our ‘how to teach a dog to sit guide’.
You may find that getting your dog to sit first doesn’t help. If this is the case, don’t worry just be patient. Some dogs may stay standing and paw at your hand rather than lying down. While this can be a bit frustrating, eventually your dog will lie down to get the treat. Remember, don’t give your dog a treat until they are in the position you want them in or if they attempt to get in the correct down position.
A Different Approach to Luring
If your dog isn’t responding to moving the treat in an ‘L’ shape away from them, you can go the opposite way. Rather than moving the treat away from them, try and push the treat towards them – aiming at a spot between their rear paws.
Most dogs will lean back, causing them to fold together into a lying down position. This can be an effective method if the above isn’t working for you.
Reward your dog as soon as their tummy meets the floor.
Getting Rid of the Lure
Losing the lure is an important part of this technique. While the foundation of this method is based on the lure, you do not want to rely on it for too long. This is because you and your dog can become dependent on the lure, which is not a good thing.
For this next stage, you are going to want to ditch the lure in your hand. However, remember to keep a treat hidden away in your other hand or close by.
Once your dog has moved into the down position around five times with a lure, repeat the process with an empty hand. Show your dog that your hand is empty and let them sniff it.
The next step is to move your empty hand in the exact same pattern as before. If your dog moves into the down position, reward them and give them the signal.
You may find that your dog does not follow your empty hand. If this is the case, give it another couple of goes and revert back to the lure if you are still not seeing any progress.
Carry on practicing without a lure, your dog should soon move into the ‘down’ position when you put your hand close to their nose.
Adding the ‘Down’ Command
Now that your dog understands that getting into the ‘down’ position is a good thing and they can do it without a lure, it is time to add the command.
Just as with the ‘capturing’ method, you need to say ‘down’ just a fraction before your dog’s tummy hits the floor. You are still going to reward your dog and give them the signal, but we are just adding the command into the mix.
With a bit more practice, your dog will soon begin to associate the word ‘down’ with the action of moving into a lying down position.
Why Does My Dog Not Stay in the Down Position?
So you’ve now taught your dog to get down, but they won’t stay. Most people want their dogs to stay when they ask them to lie down. Your dog isn’t going to know how to stay naturally. What you have taught them above is just moving into a lying down position.
In this next section we are going to teach your dog to stay, but before we do that let’s talk about the command.
In this guide, we are not going to use the word ‘stay’ or any sort of stay command. We think it is a waste of time and will actually hinder your training. Telling your dog to ‘stay’, whether it is in a lying down, sitting or any position can be confusing to them.
When you ask your dog to stay, they do not understand how long. To them, staying could mean a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes before they get up and move.
What we want to do is give them a release word or signal, that tells them when to get up.
Increasing Duration While Lying Down
Once your dog has got the hang of lying down on command, it is time to add some duration to it. We want to teach our dog that the down command means, “Lie down until I say you can get up and move.”
As we mentioned above, we need to teach our dog a release command or signal that lets them know when they can get up.
With a release command, you should ideally choose something that is not frequently heard in conversation. This is to prevent any confusion. Below we have listed a few common release commands:
‘off you go’
This release command can also be used for other positions where you want your dog to stay. If you have taught your dog one already, you can use that again.
When you first start, your dog probably isn’t going to stay in the down position for long. What you need to do is increase the duration that your dog can stay before you release them. Do this inside in a low distraction environment.
To start, ask your dog to lie down and simply wait a couple of seconds. Give the release signal and then reward your dog.
If your dog gets up before you release them, they get no reward. Tell them to lie down and try again. If you are successful, gradually build the duration of the stay before you give the release command. Move it from two seconds to three, then five and so on.
Mix up shorter stays with longer ones to keep the training interesting. Don’t expect a whole lot from younger puppies. If you can manage a thirty second stay before they are released, you are doing well.
Once they are trained. Older dogs should be able to easily stay in a lying down position for around thirty minutes. While this seems like a long time, by gradually building up the duration you should eventually get there.
Getting your dog to stay in the down position for thirty minutes is no use if you can’t walk away without them getting up. Creating distance between you and your dog is an important part of getting them to stay. For this phase of the training you should start inside.
Once your dog can stay for about half a minute in the down position, you can start to introduce some distance into the mix.
To start, ask your dog to lie down and then take one step away from your dog. Return to your dog and reward them if they stay lying down.
If you are successful, gradually increase the distance you move away from your dog over the course of several training sessions. Always remember to return to your dog and reward them if they stay.
Failing to return to your dog can make them ‘break’ the stay, which can hinder the training process. You want avoid telling your dog to ‘come’ as well, as this can have the same effect. For this training guide we are simply walking away and then returning to them.
Eventually, you should be able to walk a couple of meters away from your dog and then return to them, while they are lying down.
Now that your dog knows the ‘down’ command, you can mix it up a little. Switching commands is an important part of making sure your dog understands what you are asking of them.
Ask your dog to ‘sit’. You may find that your dog lies down instead of sitting. This is because your dog does not fully understand the commands you are giving them.
If your dog does not sit when you ask them to, lure them into a sitting position and reward them. Throw another treat away from your dog so they have to get up and move to get it. When your dog comes back to you, ask them to sit again and repeat until your dog stops lying down.
The next thing you want to do is ask your dog to lie down. See if they sit or lie down. If your dog sits, repeat the same process as above, expect you are getting them to lie down.
Eventually, your dog will begin to understand what command means sit and what one means lie down. You can start to alternate the two commands, until your dog can respond to each one correctly.
This process can take a couple of training sessions to get right, so be patient.
Introduce Some Distractions
Now that you can get your dog to lie down and stay, it is time to add some distractions. People often forget that this is an incredibly important part of the training process. Your dog may lie down in the kitchen, but making them do it in the park with other dogs is a whole different ball game.
What you need to do is slowly introduce distractions into your training sessions. These could be family members walking in and out of the room or even another dog.
If your dog is finding the distractions too tempting, try and reduce their intensity. For instance, if you have another dog in the room try and move them further away from the dog you are training.
The other thing you need to do is reduce the distance and duration when you are making them stay. Don’t make your dog wait too long, as the distraction will become more interesting than you. Additionally, if you move too far away from your dog, they may go to the other person or dog in the room instead.
Break your training sessions down into easy stages and go back to a previous stage if your dog fails. Teach your dog to lie down when guests come to the house or when you move in and out of doors.
The general rule of adding distractions is to only add one at a time. Don’t try to add too many at once as this can be frustrating and can make your training go backwards.
Moving Your Training Outside
At this stage, you’ve probably only trained your dog inside (unless you don’t have enough room). Now we are going to move outside, which introduces a whole lot more distractions.
The distractions you find outside on walks are less controllable than the ones in your house. It may be another dog walking down the street or an interesting new smell. You need to teach your dog to lie down when these distractions are around and make them stay.
The best thing to do is start in a quiet corner of a park. This way you can avoid the majority of the distractions around your dog, but they are still in a new environment. You can slowly move towards the distractions when your dog successfully lies down and stays.
Remember to avoid long training sessions. Take your dog for a walk and then spend five minutes in the park teaching them to lie down with distractions around.
When you first start training your dog in an area like a park, you can use a lead as this will prevent them from running away.
Increase the intensity of the distractions until your dog can lie down and stay with other dogs and people around.
Don’t Become Dependent on Treats
While treats are a great way of training your dog, you do not want to become dependent on them. Eventually, you will want to phase out treats. Once your dog understands what you are asking them, you can get them to do it a few times before rewarding them with food.
This is important because sometimes you will want your dog to lie down, but you do not have any treats available. It will also wind up saving you money in the long run and can help stop your dog’s waistline from ballooning.
You can replace food rewards with something else that motivates your dog. For example, you could praise your dog or find a toy they get really excited about.
Treats can still be used, just less often. Don’t be predictable with your rewards, keep your dog guessing and they will love it. Mix up praise with food rewards, toys and games.
In addition to mixing up their rewards, you can also ask for a series of behaviours before rewarding your dog. For example, you may ask your dog to sit, then lie down and then sit again before rewarding them. This will further ingrain the commands in your dog’s mind and will help them understand what you are asking for.
Summing Up How to Train Your Dog to Down
Teaching your dog to lie down will require patience and commitment on both you are your dog’s part. Just like teaching your dog to sit, getting them to lie down on your command is one of the best things you can teach your dog.
It can help keep your dog safe and will make them better around people. Tell your dog to lie down when people came to the house and everyone will love your dog that much more.
When it comes to the two training methods we’ve gone through in this guide, we feel that luring is probably the quicker method. Both methods should work fine however, and it should be great fun training your dog.
A signal like ‘yes’ or a clicker are useful aids when training. They will let your dog know that they are doing the right thing instantly. In addition to a signal, don’t forget high-value rewards to make your dog even more exited to train.
Train your dog two or three times a day to bring on fast results, without overwhelming them. Remember that the most important part of training is having fun!
If you have any questions or other tips on teaching a dog to down, leave them in the comments below.