Are you struggling with your dog’s behaviour or are you looking to get your new puppy trained? Training a dog can be a daunting process and it can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have never done it before.
Whether you train your dog all by yourself, take classes or hire a private instructor, there are some basic tips and tricks you should know about. These tips can help improve the training experience for both you and your canine.
We’ve created a list of all of our favourite dog training tips that don’t warrant a full article about them. These tips can be used when training your dog all sorts of commands; from come to sit and even heel.
Before you get into the tips, let’s look at why training your dog is so important.
The Importance of Training a Dog
Training a dog isn’t just about showing how much better behaved your dog is than your friends. Teaching a dog tricks like “paw” and “play dead” are cool, but there are much more important things to teach them.
Getting your dog trained well can make owning a dog a much more enjoyable experience and can even save their life in some circumstances. Being able to control your dog in various situations is incredibly important.
For example, training to walk your dog on a lead without pulling will make taking them out for walks much more enjoyable. Additionally, training them to ‘come’ reliably can stop your dog from running away or into traffic.
A well trained dog is also a lot nicer for guests when they come to your house, because while you may love your dog’s wet slobbery kiss, your friends probably don’t.
While you may think a dog is just naughty, it is probably just poorly trained, a problem that can be solved with some patience, consistency and training.
Best Dog Training Tips and Tricks
1. Sort Out Your Dog’s Training Environment
Trying to teach a dog new commands in a place full of distractions like a dog park is a recipe for disaster. You should select a training environment that is familiar to your dog, where you can control and limit the number of distractions.
We recommend starting in a room inside your house like the kitchen. This way you will have control over any distractions and can confine them in the area, so all their attention is fixed on you.
Let other people in the house know that you will be training the dog to prevent any unwanted distractions interfering with the lesson.
2. Introduce Distractions Slowly
While starting training in a place with lots of distractions is bad, never introducing distractions into your dog’s lessons is equally as bad. Dog owners often wonder why their dog will sit at home, but never in the park and the answer is simple, they have never trained them to.
When you are at home, you are probably the most interesting thing to your dog, but when you get to the park, other dogs, smells and people are too tempting for them. So how do you fix this?
What you need to do is to introduce distractions slowly. This may be introducing new people into the lessons, changing the environment or training around other dogs. Stepping up the difficulty in training will help your dog respond to your commands in real life. You want to make their response automatic.
If you find that your dog is becoming difficult when you introduce new distractions, go back a step and try again.
3. Start with the Basics
Training your dog to ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘down’, should come before things like training them to heel. This is because your dog will grow used to your training methods and will pick up future commands quicker. Additionally, sitting is natural to your dog, while walking at heel is not.
For puppies, we recommend that you get them toilet trained, socialised and not to bite before you start thinking about more complicated commands. However, you can introduce new commands slowly as they get older.
4. Choose the Right Rewards
Simply praising your dog is a waste of time, you need to reward them. Food is undoubtedly the best reward for your dog when you start training. You may see other people use other rewards such as toys, however, these should only be used when your dog is already trained in a command.
Like humans, dogs have their preference when it comes to food. What works for one dog may not work for another. Additionally, you should select treats for the command or skill you are going to be training them.
If you really want to get your dog’s attention, use high-value rewards such as chicken or beef. These will make your dog keener to follow your commands and please you.
Check out our ‘Ultimate Guide to What Dogs Can Eat’ for more information on safe and unsafe food for dogs.
5. Train Them When They Are Hungry
A hungry dog is more likely to try and please you when they know that food is available. Place a lesson before your dog’s breakfast and dinner times to make them even more keen for training. This combined with high-value rewards will make your dog incredibly keen for training.
6. Don’t Make Training Sessions Too Long
Dogs, especially young puppies have very short attention spans. Try to keep your lessons relatively short. When it comes to deciding how long you should train your dog, there are a few factors to consider; including their age, energy level and any previous training experience.
For puppies around eight to twelve weeks, we recommend that you keep lessons to about three minutes. Any more than five minutes and your dog will start to get distracted and/or tired.
Older dogs can focus for a bit longer, so you can try sessions that are around ten minutes in length. However, we still recommend that slightly shorter sessions are better.
If you notice that your dog is becoming bored or distracted, it may be best to finish the lesson and try again at a later time.
7. Be Consistent
Consistency is one of the most important parts of training a dog. You need to set out regular daily lessons for your dog, especially when they are young. We believe that you should aim to do two to three short sessions a day, every day. However, if you can only do one lesson a day, that is better than nothing.
Being consistent is not just about setting out regular training sessions, it is also about being consistent with the content of your lessons and the commands you use. Don’t switch up words for specific commands, stick with one. If you keep on changing the word you use, your dog will become confused and not follow your instructions.
8. Pick the Right Goals
Modern dog training methods focus on training good behaviour rather than stopping bad behaviour. This is because there are often many different ways a dog can be bad, but only one that they can be good.
For example, we train a dog to ‘sit’ when we great them, rather than trying to stop them from jumping up. Jumping up can be caused by all sorts of issues, so it is easier to focus on getting your dog to sit.
9. Set Out a Training Plan
You should set out a training plan for your dog, that focuses on what and when you will be training your dog. For new dog owners, do this before or when you get your dog home, so you can dive straight in. If your dog is a bit older, you can still make a training plan.
Always start with the basics like toilet training, socialisation and discouraging biting.
If you would like to see a rough example of what you should be teaching a puppy and at what age, check out our ‘When is the best time to start training a puppy’ article.
10. Decide On a Signal
Before you start to train your dog, you will need to select a signal and be consistent with it. This signal will let your dog know that they have done something you like. It can be used for pretty much all of the commands you teach your dog.
We recommend that you use the word ‘use’. However, you can use almost any word you want, as long as it is not one you use for a command. Additionally, if you want to use a clicker you can as well.
The signal word or sound should be clear and said or used in an enthusiastic manner. A reward should immediately follow the signal to reinforce any good behaviour. Once your dog becomes used to your signal, they will soon start looking for it in your training sessions.
11. Manage Your Dog When They Are Outside
Some dogs are perfectly capable of trotting alongside their owners without causing any trouble, and some are not. Managing your dog while you are out outside can make the difference between a dog that is a pleasure to walk and one that is not.
Pestering other people on the street, chasing wildlife and just generally being annoying are common activities that young dogs will do when not managed.
What you need to do is keep your dog invested in you. That means play games and do activates with them during a walk to keep their attention focused on you.
12. Think of Your Dogs Mood
Sometimes, your dog just isn’t going to be in the mood for training. Training can be a tiring activity for both you and your dog. It requires patience, focus and can leave you drained. If your dog starts to become distracted or unruly during a lesson, consider taking a break. Your dog may be getting bored or completely overwhelmed by the training process.
Another thing to think about is that your lessons may simply be not exciting enough. To solve this, you can try and increase the value of the rewards you are offering them. Additionally, reduce the length of your lessons and move to an area with less distractions. You can also introduce games into your training sessions to increase your dog’s motivation levels.
13. Train Your Dog to Work for Their Food
We all love to treat our dogs, but sometimes we can get in the habit of giving our dog rewards for nothing. If you want to give your dog a treat, ask them to do something for you. This way you are turning it into a mini training session and it will show your dog that they have to work for their food.
You can also do this before dinner or breakfast time. For example, we get our two dogs to find their food in the cupboard and then sit and wait while we give it to them.
14. Avoid Punishing Your Dog
Modern training methods shy away from punishing dogs for bad behaviour. It has been found that punishment can negatively impact a dogs training and can even make some shut down completely.
Punishing a dog can lead to more aggressive behaviour and can make them even more unruly to deal with. Negative training methods that focus on punishment will impede your ability to become proficient in positive training methods – thus increasing the likelihood of using punishment methods in the future.
Punishment doesn’t have to be using techniques that frighten or hurt your dog. It can be anything that diminishes behaviour and is really an outdated form of training that should not be used.
15. Keep it Positive
Carrying on from above, try to always keep your lessons and interactions with your dog positive. Training should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, rather than a chore that you have to do.
Finishing each session on a positive note is the best way to get them excited for future lessons. For example, if your dog has successfully accomplished doing what you want them to a few times in a row, finish the lesson. Additionally, you can make lessons more like a game to keep them more interested in training.
Sometimes it will not be possible to finish on a positive note, and that is okay. However, do not make this a habit. If you notice that your dog is starting to become distracted or bored, give them the command a couple more times and then finish the lesson.
16. Use a Training Lead
Do not be afraid to use a lead when training. When you first start training a dog or puppy, you need to prevent them from wandering off or helping themselves to rewards. The best way to do this is with a lead or line.
A lead gives you control over your dog and puts you in charge of all of their rewards. Use a training lead or line until you are confident that they understand the commands you want to teach them. It is especially useful in places where there are other dogs or people.
17. Catch Good Behaviour
It’s so easy to focus on bad behaviour that we sometimes forget when our dogs are being good. If you notice that your dog is doing something good or behaving well, reward them for it. This shows them that you are pleased with what they are doing.
18. Keep Your Dog Exercised and Mentally Stimulated
Bored dogs with lots of energy will get themselves into trouble. Training a dog that has excessive amounts of energy can be a real nightmare, so try and burn off some of that energy before you start a lesson.
Take your dog out for a walk or play a big game with them. This will make them more controllable and easier to train. However, remember to consider your dog’s own energy levels. Certain breeds of dog and puppies will have more energy than others, so don’t go wearing out your dog completely.
19. Be Quick with Rewards and Praise
If you reward your dog more than a few seconds after they have done something you have asked them to, they will probably have no idea why they are getting it. Additionally, your dog may also associate the reward with another action that took place after the command. Your dog will only be too happy to take the reward, but they will fail to learn what you are teaching them if you are too slow.
20. Set Up Different Scenarios
How do you teach your dog not to jump at guests, steal food off of the table, or run off after other dogs all of the time? These things do not typically happen every single day, so how to you train for them?
The answer is that you need to set up fake scenarios in which these events happen. Enlist the help of a friend or family member (it’s even better if you have another dog to use as well) and run through scenarios where your dog is struggling.
For example, if your dog behaves badly around other dogs, you can use a friend’s canine to practice different scenarios that may happen on the street. This could be anything to walking past another dog to getting them to come away from one.
21. Always Be Happy When Your Dog Comes to You
One of the biggest problems dog owners have with their dogs is that they will not come when called. This is generally caused by the fact that there is something more interesting than you around or they do not like what might happen next (punishment for example).
To fix this, you need to train your dog to come, but you also need to be happy and excited when they come to you at any time (whether you call them or not). Give your dog a reward if they come and make a big fuss over them.
Never punish your dog when they come to you, no matter what they did before. Simply ignore the behaviour and carry on as normal.
22. Learn About a Dog’s Body Language
While your dog may not be able to talk, they can show you how they feel through their body language. A dog’s body language can show you when they are feeling, scared, tired, hungry, aggressive and much more. It is important to learn about a dog’s body language and it will help you become a better trainer.
If you would like to learn more about dog body language, check out this article from the American Kennel Club.
23. Get Them Socialised
Socialisation is a major part of your dog’s training and it can even help you with further training down the track. You should be introducing your dog to new people, kid, other dogs and other animals as soon as possible. Failure to do so can lead to unwanted and sometimes aggressive behaviour.
24. Choose Your Dog’s Name Wisely and Be Respectful of it
Choosing a name for your puppy is almost as difficult as deciding what breed you want, but it is no less important. While there are all sorts of different names you have probably considered, think about choosing a shorter name that ends with a strong consonant. This will allow you to say their name clearly and strongly.
You should always associate your dog’s name with pleasant, fun things, rather than negative ones. This is because you want them to think of their name in the same way they think of other things; like “dinner”, “walk” or “biscuit”.
If you have an older dog that has come out of an abusive situation it may be best to change their name. A new name will represent a fresh start and luckily dogs are pretty adaptable when greeted with a new name.
25. Consider a Professional Trainer
If you are really struggling with your dog, it may be time to consider enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer. A good dog trainer can tell you what you are doing wrong and will give you some solutions. Just remember to avoid those old school trainers who punish dogs.
26. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Unless your dog is a genius, they are probably not going to get a command the first, second or even third time. Training a dog requires constant practice and is a never ending cycle. Your dog needs to learn from consequences and from rewards for good behaviour.
Using fake scenarios, introducing distractions and reinforcing good behaviour is all part of a good training program. Exposing your dog to all sorts of different situations in training will help them when they are greeted by a distraction in real life.
You need to be persistent and use other people, dogs and the environment to your advantage when training your dog.
27. Have Fun
Training a dog should be a fun and enjoyable experience for the both of you. If you are not enjoying training, your dog will be able to sense this and they may become confused or distracted. Don’t get too caught up in progressing quickly as dog training is more of a marathon rather than a sprint race.
Concluding the Best Training Tips for Dogs & Puppies
Well, there you go, 27 of the best training tips for dogs and puppies. While all of this may seem like a lot of information, most of it is really just common sense. You need to be excited about training and focus on the basics first.
If you have any other tips or tricks for training, let us know in the comments below.