Basic dog training tips and aids

A healthy relationship will make life easier and safer for both of you

Fall 2012A Mutt is looking out the window, watching as people go by. A very funny dog, sitting like a human, perched and attenti

Dogs are loyal, devoted companions but our faithful friends can quickly become unruly hounds if not given the right training. If you have more of a pesky pooch than a considerate canine, here are a few basic training tips that will make life easier, safer and more pleasurable for both of you.

Start early
If you are welcoming a puppy into the family, you have the chance to start early with training and this can help to ensure you have a well-rounded, well-behaved adult dog. With the proper foundation, your pet will learn to respect you, listen and respond to your commands.

From toilet training to basic 'sit' and 'stay' commands, patience is the key and it is vital to avoid punishing your pup should he have a little accident. With praise and reward he will quickly learn what is acceptable and what is not.

Socialisation at an early age is invaluable for your puppy. He will have learned much from his mother and siblings but there is much more he will need to learn about doggy manners as well as how to behave with humans. Most vets will be able to advise on local puppy socialisation classes and these will not only teach your pup how to meet and greet both people and fellow canines, but often offer basic training tips too.

Be positive
There is little doubt that positive reinforcement is key to successful dog training. Whether you prefer to reward him with a treat for his good behaviour or use simple praise, your pet pooch will quickly learn that he will be rewarded for responding correctly to commands and it is a highly effective method of training.

Many trainers recommend the use of a clicker as a training aid which is useful for teaching new commands. By using the clicker the instant the dog carries out the required behaviour and then rewarding him with a treat, he will soon recognise the connection between the sound and the reward. Over time, the vocal command is added along with the noise and before long, the clicker can be dispensed altogether.

But whichever method you use, positivity is a must.

Lead training
A dog that pulls on the lead can make walks a struggle but pulling him back will only exacerbate the problem. A good technique for this problem is to simply turn and walk in the opposite direction when the dog pulls forward. As he begins to learn that pulling on the lead causes the turn, he should be praised when he is walking to heel. It may take a little time, plenty of patience and there will be times when you feel as though you are getting nowhere (quite literally) but it will be worth it.

A dog who fails to respond to a recall command will not only have you chasing around and getting frustrated, but could also run into danger. Before you can teach your dog to come back to you, he will need a solid foundation in 'sit' and 'stay' - once he is obeying the 'stay' command, you can encourage him to come to you with a whistle or whichever word you choose. Practice this at home before venturing into the park and, when you do decide to go where there may be distractions, a long line means you can continue to practice from greater distances without losing control of the dog.

Moreover, should your dog fail to respond, do not be tempted to repeat the command over and over again as this teaches him that he can readily ignore you can continue to have fun. Go and get him or gently pull him in on the lead if he's ignoring you. When he does come to your call, be sure to praise him with plenty of enthusiasm, a food treat or a favourite toy. Once again, patience and reward are essential in teaching him well.

Have fun
Remember why you got a dog in the first place? Though the methods and aids are many, training and being with your dog should be fun for both of you. - a dog that enjoys time with his owner will make a loyal friend for life.

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