Training Your Dogs


Training Your Dogs

June 20, 2017
Peter Nelson
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I thought about it and I might as well talk about general training, not just house training, while I’m at it. Some of these tips will overlap with the potty training ones, because I chose to do it in this order but don’t want to give you incomplete information. I’m not going to talk about things you can train your pet to do, but instead I will give general tips that are applicable to almost anything you’d like to train. So, here we go!

1: Resist the urge to scold.

For most puppies, it’s confusing more than it’s helpful. If a pup is doing something you don’t like, chances are it falls in one of two categories: behavior that’s intended to be social, like nipping and jumping; or self-rewarding behavior, like chewing inappropriate objects.

  • For social—but undesired—behavior like nipping, nothing is more powerful than removing your attention (voice, eye contact, touch) for a moment and then giving it back when the puppy does something that’s social and desired, like a polite sit. That way, you’re punishing the undesired behavior with a gentle but powerful punishment, and you’re rewarding an incompatible and desired behavior.
  • For self-rewarding—and undesired—behavior like chewing electrical cords, interrupt and redirect. It helps if you redirect to something that’s similar to the undesired thing, so for bad chewing, redirect the pup to something that’s good to chew. Removing your attention doesn’t work for these because your attention isn’t the reward the pup is seeking.

2: Reward what you like.

We naturally have a tendency to focus on what the puppy is doing wrong, so we forget to give puppies a little treat or a little praise for things like settling quietly, playing with a toy, etc.

3: Start short crate sessions (2-5 minutes) frequently so the crate just becomes part of his daily routine.

It also helps to do sessions when the pup is mellow and sleepy so he starts to associate feeling safe and sleepy and warm with the crate.

4: Train in short bursts of 5-10 minutes (or take ten treats and train until you run out).

Puppies learn better in short sessions throughout the day than in one big one. You can teach a pup more in 6×5 minute sessions (30 minutes total) over the course of a day than you can in a single 60 minute session.

5: Decide what your pup’s name means.

For us, it means “look the person who said your name in the eye,” so we teach it as a cue. Getting your dog’s attention is the foundation of a lot of behavior (loose leash walking, recall, etc.), so you want some kind of cue that makes your dog give you his attention. Most people say the dog’s name all the time, so it doesn’t work well as a “look at me” cue. So decide if you want the dog’s name to mean “look at me” (in which case, don’t use it all the time), or if you want a different word. I accidentally taught my dogs that “ready?” means to look at me, because I have a tendency to say it before I do awesome stuff, like run around, release them from a stay, etc. So that became our “look at me” word. Their names I just say all the time, so they don’t make great attention words.

Good luck in training your pups!


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