How to Train Any Dog Like a Pro

a silhouette during sunset next to a lake with a reflection of a man squatting with his arms out as a dog walks toward him

Successful training requires three critical elements. If you are struggling to train your dog, reassess your training plan and ask which of these three elements is lacking.

#1: Motivation

Motivate your dog to WANT to learn. Choose your reinforcement, wisely. Top trainers pull out all the stops. They are likely to use tennis balls or tug toys for dogs with high toy drive. For dogs that are highly food driven they use boiled chicken, liver treats or anything that is moist, meaty and carries a strong aroma. If your dog has low drive and you would like an article about how to build drive, leave a comment below.

#2: Timing

Dogs have a very small window of opportunity where they are pairing cause with effect. Research studies have shown that window to be somewhere between 1 and 1.5 seconds. This means that to be a good trainer, you have to have good timing. When your puppy goes pee in the yard, you should be standing 5 feet away, reinforcement in hand. Waiting to reward the puppy until he comes trotting back into the house will not teach your dog to potty in the yard. In fact, doing this does nothing more than train your dog to walk outside, and walk back in 10 seconds later.

#3: Consistency

Dogs thrive when given routine schedules and clearly defined boundaries. Sit down with your family and come up with a list of house rules for your dog or puppy. These rules are especially important for the first 6-12 months that a dog is in a new home. I’m curious to know which rule you think is most beneficial to raising a dog, leave a comment below.

My Dog House Rules:

  • Play structured games of tug, fetch, or hide and seek Q: Why are these games better than the rest? A: These games reinforce your dog for coming to you, finding you, bringing and dropping valued items to you. 
  • Avoid rough housing Q: What’s wrong with rough housing? A: This is mostly a problem for dogs that are extremely excitable and have not yet learned how to inhibit their play. Rough housing reinforces dogs for mouthing and jumping.
  • Train dog to wait before walking through doorway to go for a walk or jumping out of car. This is a potentially life saving habit, that will teach dogs to practice impulse control in and around busy streets.
  • Have dog sleep on dog bed, instead of on couch or human bed. Q: Is this necessary for every dog? A: No, but it is especially beneficial for dogs prone to separation anxiety, and for dogs that are not 100% house trained.
  • Ignore dogs for 10 minutes prior to departure, and for 10 minutes after you return home. Q: Why is this important? A: This minimizes the contrast between alone time and together time and is useful for dogs prone to separation anxiety or that jump excessively during greetings.
  • Teach your dog to eat on a schedule. This means that dogs learn to eat breakfast and dinner at set times. Q: Why is this recommended? A: Because it helps to monitor your dog’s health. If your dog is on a set schedule it is immediately obvious when your dog loses his or her appetite. You lose this indicator if you are free feeding your dog or if they have developed the habit of grazing on their food throughout the day.

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