No matter what you’re trying to teach your dog, from housetraining to
“heel,” there are a few basic guidelines that will make the process easier:
1. Be consistent.
Use the same cue for the same command, every time. If your dog is allowed to
pull on the leash sometimes but is jerked by the collar when he pulls at
other times, you’ll confuse him. Make sure everyone who’s around your dog
follows the same rules and uses the same cues.
2. Use praise and rewards.
Almost all modern dog trainers believe that dogs learn better and faster
when we praise and reward them for getting it right, rather than punishing
them for getting it wrong. 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.
3. Time the rewards right.
The praise and reward need to come immediately after your dog does what you
want him to do.
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 and make the sessions short. Five to ten
minutes is plenty to start with.
5. Make it easy for your dog to get it right.
When you let a dog who hasn’t pooped all day have free, unsupervised run of
the house, you’re asking for a mistake that can turn into a bad habit. When
you start practicing the “come” command in a dog park, where there are a
million distractions, you’re asking for a mistake that can turn into a bad
Train slowly, starting in a quiet, familiar place with no distractions, and
gradually make it more challenging for your dog. Don’t progress to the next
step until your dog has mastered the current one.