Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Here are 10 easy ways to train your dog so they'll be happy, confident and very well-behaved.
1. Avoid using your dog’s name in a negative way
You should try to use your dog’s name in a positive context. Don’t call their name when they’re in trouble or you need to get them to do something they won’t enjoy like trimming their nails, giving them a bath or putting them into a kennel.
2. Don't give them inappropriate toys
Giving your dog an old slipper or the kids’ old toys will just confuse your dog. They won’t know to differentiate between their toys and your belongings, or what is acceptable to chew on.
Stick to dog toys or toys they haven’t seen you using before or associate with you or family members. Kongs, sterile bones, hard dog balls and squeaky toys are all appropriate toys.
Don’t leave your dog’s toys in crates or hidden away in a cupboard, give them a home in each room that the dog can easily spot. This way they’ll know each room has something for them to play with and hopefully deter them from getting up to any mischief when they're bored.
3. Regular time allotted toilet breaks
Identify how long your dog needs outside for toilet breaks and stick to it. If 15 minutes is enough time then call them back in even if they haven’t been. It will take time to train them this way but it should teach them they only have a small window of time to do their business. This should encourage them to go as a matter of urgency when they're let out!
4. Set allotted feeding times
Decide regular feeding times for your dog and set alarms to stick to them as much a possible. Try to alert your dog to their feeding times with a bell or happy-sounding ringer they will associate with feeding time.
Only leave the food out for a space of time and always take it away when the time is up. Even if there is leftover food. Don't take away food while your dog is still eating though.
This reinforces your role as pack leader: you are the one who provides the food and you also take it away. Dogs need a pack leader to set rules, boundaries, and limitations. They'll be far more obedient and well-behaved if you establish your position early on.
5. Never neglect your pet when you come home
Your dog will have been longing for you to come home all day, eagerly awaiting your return. Show him some affection by kneeling down to his height and petting him for a few minutes.
Doing this just before you leave and mirroring the same behaviour on departure and arrival will reinforce trust. This will hopefully make your dog feel more confident and less anxious while you're away away.
Remember dogs love routine so get in the habit of these small rituals and you'll have a relaxed, happy dog on your hands.
6. Use positive behaviour reinforcers
Rewards teach dogs to think and adapt their behaviour. Remember to use these every day:
Primary reinforcer = a reward like a dog treat or biscuit
Secondary reinforcer = a happy word, clicker or vocal tone
When your dog has demonstrated the positive action that you want to encourage, use the primary and secondary reinforcers to teach your dog that good behaviour is rewarded.
7. Exercise your dog!
It may seem obvious but a tired dog is a content dog. Walk them as much as you can for as long as you can and your dog will be better behaved.
When they have too much energy they’re more likely to play up. If you can’t give your dog the regular walks they need, sign up to Borrow My Doggy and dog lovers will be more than happy to come and do it for you.
If you feel your dog has too much energy, exercise them for 30 minutes and you'll be surprised how much calmer they'll be. Play with them, throw a ball or have some rough and tumble. Anything that gets them panting for a while should do the trick.
8. Reward them when they come to you
Does your dog ignore you when you’re out on walks? You may be calling them unnecessarily. It's their time, so let them roam and explore, and only call them when you really need to.
Call your dog and reward them with excitement and a primary reinforcer. You can get them used to this at home before putting it into practice when you're out at the park.
9. Take away freedom when they’re bad
If your dog has done something bad like chewed your shoes it is important to punish them in an appropriate way. Dogs love freedom and attention so depriving them of both for a small amount of time will teach your dog what they've done is bad.
Leash them outside (or inside) and don’t pay attention to them for a set amount of time. Then gradually start paying them attention again but try not to be too enthusiastic at first as they'll only get confused.
10. Stop your dog from jumping up at guests
Teach your dog to sit or lay down to be petted. Reward them when they do it and ask your guests to lavish the dog with plenty of attention. If they jump up again, ask your guests to avoid eye contact and ignore the dog.
This will show them they only get attention when they’re on all four paws or laying down. It helps to keep a few treats by the door to aid with this training.
Thanks for reading! Do you have any advice or tips to train a dog?
Let us know in the comments section below!
I agree with most of the tips in general, but not 5 and 9. If you make a big fuss of your dog immediately before leaving and immediately when you arrive home, you’re making the whole thing into a huge drama. You coming and going shouldn’t make your dog overexcited - pleased to see you of course, but not manic. As with everything else, play it cool. When you leave, just go and when you get home, greet the rest of the family and as long as the dog isn’t bouncing off the walls, say hello when you’re ready. And while isolating the dog for a few minutes is a good way of showing him he’s done wrong, it has to be an immediate consequence so he understands why. If for example you arrive home and punish him for something he did ages ago, he’ll have no idea what it’s about and will associate you coming home as a negative experience. In this situation, what’s done is done and you just have to accept it’s too late. Perhaps try to avoid the problem in the first place - put away things you don’t want destroyed or limit the dog’s access to certain rooms. Sounds obvious the simplest solutions usually are!
That's a really interesting take on it! Thanks for sharing, Jenny!
I don't believe in treats for every time your dog has done something you like. What I do is to fuss the dog with some attention and calling Good Boy, etc. The treat rewards are for special times like when you come home after leaving him alone at home. That way the dog is rewarded for looking after the house. I agree with the reprimands but they have to be shown what they have done wrong. They understand a limited vocabulary so using the same words for the same meaning helps them understand. What you say and the way it is said means a lot more to a dog than just giving treats all the time.
Hi John! We encourage using treats in the initial training stages to reinforce good behaviour, but this can be reduced over time.
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