Penn Vet's Training Tips for Dogs
Have a Plan That Is Practical and Pleasant: You may choose to train your dog yourself, go to classes or hire a trainer to come to your home. Trainers should use positive, non-forceful methods. Classes should be small, well-organized and held in an area without distractions. Training should be enjoyable for you and your dog.
Teach Life Skills: Basic training should focus on practical skills that make your dog a manageable and pleasant companion. “Sit” is useful to control jumping, “come” will bring your dog back to you, “stay” or “wait” will keep him from rushing into situations that could be hazardous and “look” will get his attention when you need it.
Reinforce Learning: Food treats are used to reinforce a behavior you want. They give you a way to get and keep his attention and make him an eager participant in training. Treats are given for each correct response while training a behavior, and less frequently once the behavior is well learned. Treats can be ordinary or exciting, depending on the difficulty of what you are teaching.
Train in Short Sessions: Training sessions are most effective when they are short—five minutes or less. Repeated short sessions working on a skill are most effective. Always try to end on a positive note, asking your dog to do something he already knows well.
Be Persistant and Enthusiastic: Persistence is the key to success—don’t give up after a short time. Continue to work on the things you want your dog to learn with enthusiasm and food treats. Over time you’ll accomplish your training goals.
Teach One Stage at a Time: Begin training a behavior in a setting with no distractions. When your dog is very reliable in that setting, move to settings with more distractions—for example, from a living room to a deck to a yard to a park or neighborhood. Each move will require review—starting slowly and clearly with very desirable food treats in the new setting.
Know Your Dog's Limits: Don’t try to use any training cue such as “sit” or “come” in a real-life situation until the dog is nearly perfect with it in practice sessions. If you ask for a behavior a dog is unlikely to be able to perform, you risk making the cue word meaningless or confusing. This takes patience, but it’s important.
Use Your Best Tool—Your Voice: It’s not necessary to touch a dog to train a dog. Good trainers and good books and DVDs can show you how to train “hands free."
Assess Your Progress: If your dog seems stubborn or is a slow learner, review both your training methods and the setting in which you are working. You may need a quieter area with no other people or animals present, better treats or help with your own skills.
Know When to Call the Experts! Dogs don’t know when they have done something wrong. They do know when you are upset or angry, though, and will get upset themselves. This will make training difficult and unpleasant for both of you. The Behavior Service at Ryan Veterinary Hospital can help if you encounter serious problems in training your dog. Please leave us a message at 215-898-3347 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.