You did it. You searched for months, online and in person, to find the dog that perfectly reflects the personality you want in a new best friend. She’s affable, fun loving and attentive. Once you get home, however, you realize she didn’t come with built-in obedience.
Now the work begins.
Before you get to the really impressive tricks – speaking! dancing! jumping through hula-hoops! – it’s important to teach your dog basic commands so she understands who’s boss and stays safe. Those commands are: sit, stay, come and walking on a leash.
What's more, getting started on behavior training right away will save you time and energy down the road when more common dog behavior problems begin to crop up and causes challenges.
Check your attitude
Begin when you have the time and aren’t distracted. Being fully concentrated on your dog’s training helps with her engagement in the process, too. Remember that the words you’re saying are another language to her. That bears repeating: She doesn’t know what these words mean because she’s never heard them. Remain patient with her; obedience training is a process.
Teaching your dog to sit can be one of the easiest tricks for her to learn, so it’s a good place to start. Remain close while teaching it to her and gradually increase your distance from her as she catches on. The better she becomes at sitting, the more distractions you might introduce, like having her sit while you hold a toy or another person enters the room. If she makes a mistake, don’t get frustrated; simply backtrack a bit to catch her up again.
Whichever words you use for your commands, it’s easiest for dogs if they’re one word and they’re always the same. “Stay,” “stay there” and “I said stay” aren’t the same to your dog, and she’s likely to become confused by what you want from her. In addition, only say the command once. When you repeat it – “stay, stay, stay” – it teaches her that she doesn’t have to obey as soon as the command is issued.
Keep training sessions short
So that she doesn’t become bored or frustrated, five to 10 minutes is a good place to start for obedience training sessions – particularly for puppies, who have shorter attention spans. Keep yourself in check, too, and stop the session if you’re feeling angry. It’s all new to her, and your calm encouragement goes a long way.
Furthermore, don't start a training session anytime that your dog has been alone, in there crate, or generally not stimulated. Training sessions are most successful after your dog has had adequate exercise.
Most manuals teach that using treats to train your pet will get you the best results, and it’s true. But what she ultimately wants is your attention and approval, so a belly rub and a “good, girl!” go a long way. After she’s caught on and has learned to obey the trick, she’ll obey you even when her performance isn’t contingent on earning a treat.
Looking for some more great info? Don't miss our guide to choosing healthy dog treats.
Remind your dog what she knows
Even after she’s learned basic obedience, it doesn’t mean she’s learned it for life. Keep her mind working by frequently asking her to perform these tricks in order to go for a walk or earn a treat.