If you’re the proud pet parent of a canine, you’ll know you can never have too many tips for training your dog. Dogs are brilliant companions, they make for the best of friends, but these fur-bulous four-legged creatures do require some training. And some, much more than others.
In the world of dogs, there are five golden rules when it comes to training. For starters, it’s important to go at your dog's pace. You’ll also soon learn that consistency and patience are key. And, to really get your dog on board, it’s always best to make the reward worthwhile — which is where the best dog toys and best dog treats come in. The fourth point is to set your dog up for success and, just like you’d never punish your best friend, never do the same to your dog.
Whether they’re begging at mealtimes, excessively barking or pulling on their lead, we’ve rounded up the top tips that should do the trick. From big dogs to small and every pooch in between, try out these tricks to help them behave, train well and stay healthy.
25 of the best tips for training your dog
1. Consistency is key
Just like humans, when it comes to training your pooch it’s super important to be consistent. For example, when you’re asking them to ‘sit’, always use the same word. When you’re training them to ‘stop’, use the same hand signals. Dogs like repetition.
2. Keep it short
In other words, train little and often. It’s thought that five minutes maximum is the magic number. Too much longer and your four legged friend might become frustrated or lose interest.
3. Reward right
Whether they are motivated by the best puppy toys or the tastiest of treats, when the reward is right, dogs will be all for that five-minute daily training session that’s coming their way. Some fur friends might even just get a buzz from some extra love and attention.
4. Tire them out
Wondering how to get a puppy to sleep through the night? The answer lies with exercise — and lots of it. Extended play times, long walks and other mental stimulation will help burn off some excess energy and prepare them for the Land of Nod in no time.
5. Choose a dedicated sleep spot
Pup still not sleeping? It could be because they don’t have a dedicated sleep spot. Just how we associate our beds with catching some ZZZs, dogs do the same. But instead of allowing your pup to catch 40 winks in your bed, set up a quiet, safe and cozy sleep space of their own. If you ask us, sweet dreams are guaranteed with the best dog beds.
6. Avoid rewarding bad behavior
This tip is easier said than done, especially when they look at you with those puppy eyes. But pups need to learn right from wrong and tending to their whines will do more harm than good.
7. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques
Positive reinforcement for dogs works and there’s science to back this up. The technique involves rewarding your pet in return for the ‘correct’ behavior which should encourage your pooch to repeat the behavior again (and again) later down the line. The longest lasting dog chews should keep them happy!
8. Remember to start small
Easy does it! Your dog might not necessarily nail their training the first, second, third or 30th time. But try breaking down positive behaviors and taking the small wins as they come. For example, if you’re training your dog to ‘come’ remember to reward even if they take one step forward.
9. Create a routine
We’re all creatures of habit, including our four legged canine friends. So gradually introduce five minute bursts of exercises each day and stick to a routine. Then sit back and watch your little furry learner improve little and often each time.
10. Add in hand signals
While we’d love to think otherwise, dogs don’t understand language as humans do. But they do seem to respond better to hand signals. So instead of just speaking, signal too.
11. Set them up for success
If today is the day you’ve decided to start training your pup, start them out on the right foot. Instead of taking them somewhere they have never been before, choose an easy environment with minimal distractions. This could be your back garden or living room.
12. Provide framework
If you’re left wondering why your dog’s recall isn’t reliable and what you can do about it, wonder no more. It might be because when you’re out on a walk you’re letting your dog, well…be a dog. Providing some basic framework during your walks can be hugely beneficial for both of you. Here are some rules to live by: interact with your dog, keep them close to your side and reward them for good behavior.
13. Shorten the leash
Does your dog seem to growl, bark or lunge when in a certain environment? Or when walking past another canine? Then learning how to calm a reactive dog could be very beneficial for both of you — and others. One tried and tested tip is to put your dog back on the leash or shorten it.
14. Prepare a safe space
If you live in a thunderstorm-stricken area, or there’s news of a forecasted bad spate of weather, being able to calm your dog down is always a handy trick to have up your sleeve. Just like us, dogs like to feel comfortable in their surroundings so having a safe space (like their bed or a covered corner spot) can ease anxiety.
15. Provide some background noise
Or, you could always try muffling or disguising the thunder with some white noise or classical music.
16. Offer up distractions
Offering distractions to your dog can help to soothe your pup until the patchy weather has passed. Healthy chews and snacks could work, a new toy might do the trick or you could always keep them mentally active using one of the best dog puzzle toys.
17. Add in a positive interrupter cue
Got a barky dog? If this is down to bad behavior, think of the number of barks you’re happy with and then introduce a ‘thank you’ cue that directs your dog to another behavior. Consider practicing this when there are no external disruptions.
18. Make a cozy den
Crate training your pup, but it’s not going too well? We’ve all been there. To overcome this, try making their crate into a cozy den to make it feel safer and more secure. Throw a towel or blanket over the top, put a dog bed inside, and throw in a few of the best dog toys. They’ll feel right at home.
19. Don’t shut the door
Whatever you do, don’t throw treats inside the crate and then slam the door shut behind your pup. When your pooch enters the crate willingly, leave the door open the first few times. Then try pushing the door shut but don’t lock it. Build up to closing the crate door slowly over a week or two of daily practice.
20. Never use the crate for punishment
This will undo all of your hard work in training your dog. Yes, the best dog crates can be used to prevent toileting accidents, chewing, and other destructive behaviors. But it should never be used to punish a dog after these have occurred. If you discover a chewed slipper, quietly clean it up, ignoring your four-legged friend completely.
21. Use a clicker
Clicker training for dogs can help speed up the training process by helping your dog associate good behavior with rewards in a much more effective way than simply offering high value dog treats and praise alone.
22. Finish positively
Always end with something your dog knows, so the session finishes positively. Because we all like a happy ending, right?
23. Train yourself
It’s not just your pup who is learning here. Teach yourself a few new tricks by getting to grips with dog body language for a better idea of how your pup is feeling. This should help you understand what your dog wants and needs from you.
Excited dogs often jump up on people during greetings. While raising your knee, grabbing your dog’s paws, or trying to push the dog away might work, it doesn’t always teach them right from wrong. Instead, the easiest way to stop this behavior is to ensure that you don’t reward your dog by giving him attention. When your dog jumps up, try to completely ignore him.
25. Have fun!
And lots of it. Playtime helps to build the bond between you and your pooch. Plus, it will make training a lot less boring for them (and you), and help to get them focused and excited to train — so it’s a win win.
For even more tips on why your dog barks at everything and how to stop it, keep reading. Or visit our guide on how to crate train a dog.
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Becks is a freelance lifestyle journalist who has more than 9 years of experience in the world of digital and print journalism. She covers health, wellness and family interests for a range of titles. When she's not putting pen-to-paper (or finger-to-keyboard) she's reading, in the gym, or taking her Dog Aunt title very seriously looking after the handful of four-legged creatures in her life.