Getting a new dog is a time of excitement and added responsibility. Every dog should receive basic training. Trained dogs are well-behaved, safer in public spaces and around strange humans and animals, and result in happier circumstances for the dogs and their humans alike. But for a new dog owner, it can be tricky to know where to start.
Positive reinforcement is the preferred training method for most professional trainers today. It involves rewarding your dog when the dog performs the desired behavior. This behavior can be achieved naturally or by luring. For example, to teach a dog to sit, either wait till it sits or maneuver a treat over its head in such a fashion that it sits and then reward with a positive statement that reinforces a command, such as “Good sit.” Some behaviors you simply have to wait for, such as in potty training. In that case, wait for the dog to assume the position, and then praise with the preferred keyword. Some dogs prefer different rewards than food. Favorite toys are a good reward for such dogs, or exuberant displays of affection, or bursts of playtime.
Dogs come with varying levels of intelligence, but even the smartest dog needs consistency in training. Keep commands fairly simple and do not alter them halfway through training. If you decide to teach your German shepherd to obey German commands, consistently use “Platz” for “Down,” do not switch up the commands or things get confused. If you use clicker training, be regular about your timing on the click, which should be right when the desired behavior is performed. If you use a dog training whistle, remember how many long and short whistle calls you use for each command.
Many dogs do not simply accept training but need it to stimulate their minds just as physical exercise works their bodies. However, boring repetition will stifle the most willing dog. Keep things varied to challenge your dog. Switch up routines and rewards while being steadfast in commands and expectations. Keep your attitude upbeat. If you get frustrated, take a break so that this is not communicated to your dog. Dogs are sensitive to the emotions and reactions of the people around them.
If you are positive, consistent, and fun, you should have no problem training your dog. You can teach everything from complicated tricks to long-distance recalls and up-close simple behaviors like relieving themselves when hearing a command word. And remember, whether your new dog is a puppy or a senior, all dogs can enjoy learning new tricks and behaviors.