No matter what you’re trying to teach your dog, from house training to “heel,” there are a few basic guidelines that will make the process go easier:

1. Be consistent.
Use the same cue for the same command, every time. Make sure everyone who’s around your dog follows the same rules and uses the same cues.

2. Use praise and rewards.
Most modern dog trainers believe that dogs learn better and faster when praise and reward them for getting it right.
The best motivator is usually a combination of a small food treat–especially if you train before mealtime–and enthusiastic praise.
If your dog isn’t that interested in food, try offering praise without the treat, or a favorite toy, or a physical reward such as a good behind-the-ears scratch or tummy rub.

3. Time the rewards right.
The praise and reward need to come immediately after your dog does what you want if he’s going to make the connection.

4. Keep it short and sweet.
Training works best if it’s fun and you stop before either of you gets bored or frustrated. Keep the mood upbeat, not drill-sergeant serious, and make the sessions short. Five to ten minutes is plenty to start with, especially if you have a puppy–like kids, they have shorter attention spans.

5. Keep your cool.
Yelling, and jerking your dog around by a leash won’t teach him how to sit on request, pee outside, or do anything else you want him to learn. It will teach him that you’re scary and unpredictable. Fair, calm, consistent training is the best way to get your dog to obey and respect you.

6. Go to school.
In-person guidance from an expert trainer is the best way to get a well-trained dog. Obedience classes are relatively cheap, a great way to learn how to train.

7. Keep practicing!
Don’t expect that once your dog has learned something, he’s learned it for life. Your dog can lose his new skills without regular practice.

Bottom line
Training is the best investment you can make in your relationship with your dog. You’ll need to do your homework first, though, to learn how to communicate what you want in a way that your dog will understand. Stay consistent and patient, reward your dog for getting it right and remember: you can train a dog of any age.