Maybe you’re excited about your new puppy, but you’ve realized that you’ve just given yourself a whole lot of work with obedience training being of the utmost importance. Fortunately, we’ve been able to compile a comprehensive list of top tips for obedience training.
When is the best time for obedience training? Train your pup before they reach the juvenile stage. Familiarize your dog with different people and places, so that they are well behaved for guests as well as strangers out in public. Many professionally-recommended techniques are included below for teaching basic commands and socializing your dog.
When it comes to obedience training your dog, you may feel a little overwhelmed. However, using these top tips for obedience training, you will be able to take advantage of your puppy’s malleable mind before they begin to form bad habits.
When Your Dog Needs Obedience Training
Younger puppies have short attention spans. Still, you will want to strike when the iron is hot, as the age-old expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” holds true.
Puppies start learning about their world as soon as they are born, so professional trainers will begin handling and socialization training early on. This is contrary to the traditional approach of waiting until the puppy is 6 months old before beginning obedience training.
- Simple Obedience Commands Such As “Sit,” “Stand” or “Stay”: Starting at 7-8 Weeks
- Socialization with Others: Starting at 8 Weeks, Provided that they receive their first set of vaccines and deworming at least 7 days prior
- Crate Training: Starting at 8-10 Weeks
- Learning their Name and Learning to Come to You: Around 10 Weeks
- Stop unwanted jumping: Starting at 10-12 Weeks
- Getting Your Dog Comfortable with a Collar and Leash: Starting at 10 Weeks
- Becoming Comfortable With Strangers/Interactions in Public: 20 Weeks
Where To Find Obedience Training
You may consider looking into professional resources for obedience training your dog. If you choose to have your puppy trained by a professional, you will have the option of either having a professional trainer come to your home to train your dog or attending group training classes.
Web resources, such as the website found here, offer a director of both private trainers and group training opportunities near your zip code.
One of the only downsides of group training programs is that you may not have the freedom to pace the training yourself. You may also not be able to choose the specific things you want your dog to learn.
In this guide, you will find helpful tips on how to approach obedience training if you decide to train your puppy on your own.
Starting Out Obedience Training
You will want to start out simple since young puppies can have short attention spans. In order to avoid the frustration of being unable to captivate the ever-curious puppy:
it is recommended that you use gentle teaching methods emphasizing positive reinforcement when the puppy is 7 to 8 weeks old.
Although training sessions in the early stages will need to be brief, it is important that they occur daily.
Food Lure Training
Use food lure training to convince the dog to follow your simple commands such as “sit,” “down,” or “stay,” as is recommended here.
- To Teach “Sit”: You should hold a small piece of food or a favorite toy over a puppy’s nose and move it backward slowly while giving a sit command, rewarding them when they follow suit
- To Teach “Down: This time you will slowly bring the food towards the floor while giving the command
- To Teach “Stand”: Bring the food back up to the puppy’s nose level while making the command
- To teach “Come”: Get the puppy to stay at a location, walk a short distance away from them and give the “Come” command while enticing them with the treat
- To teach “Heel”: Hold the food lure at your thigh as you walk
How To Ensure Puppies Obey Commands
Your puppy should learn to obey your command without you having to repeat it multiple times. It is helpful to use secondary reinforcers during obedience training to ensure your dog responds readily to each command.
Secondary reinforcers include verbal praise and a gentle pat on the head.
Avoid getting into a pattern where you find yourself repeating commands multiple times to get your puppy to obey your commands. Otherwise, they may think it is acceptable to be given multiple repetitions of each command.
Recommended Pace Of Obedience Training Program
Since puppies have short attention spans, you will want to keep training sessions short early on. Only train each different command for five minutes straight before giving your dog a short break before revisiting training commands later on, as is recommended here.
Master One Command Before Moving Onto The Next
Every dog picks up training at a different pace, just like every human learns at a different pace. It will be easier for your dog to make progress if you start them out in familiar environments free of distractions, such as your home.
Training sessions should only run 15 minutes. You should try ending training sessions on a high note if possible.[Source]
Increase the difficulty of training slowly. As an example, a gradual training regimen with the “stay” command may include gradually increasing the duration of time you expect your dog to stay at once, like this:
- First Training Session: Sit for 3-5 seconds
- Second Training Session: Sit for 8-10 seconds
- Third Training Session: Sit for 12-15 seconds
Systematic training like this should be able to help you complete basic obedience training faster.
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language
Being deliberate in your body language while training your dog will help you become more effective at obedience training. Every single movement has meaning in a dog’s world.
Experts suggest that rather than begging and yelling when teaching the “come” command, you should turn your back and crouch down. This is interpreted as a less intimidating and more submissive approach. Your dog is more likely to be enticed into approaching you if your body language is more
If they still don’t come, entice them by running away from them.
When trying to stop dogs from jumping up onto people, it is instinctive to want to push them down with your hands. However, this will send the wrong message.
Pushing a jumping dog is encouraging them to horse around. Instead of pushing jumping dogs downwards with your hands, turn away from them and walk away. This should let them know that you don’t want to be bothered.
When teaching your dog to heel or walk well on a leash, you should make an effort to walk towards the opposite direction they are pulling. You want to show your dog who the one with the control is.
Keep consistent eye contact with your dog during obedience training to show that you’re serious about your commands.
How To Make Progress While Training Your Dog
It can take 60 repetitions, or maybe even more, of the same command to get your dog to obey it every time.
If you have a hyperactive dog, you will need to find a way to burn off some excess energy before beginning a training session. Playing a game with them for a few minutes will help you build up the motivation for training.
Other strategies you can to improve the effectiveness of obedience include:
- Keep a Formal Schedule (write down what you’ve done and what you would like to do)- Keeping a planner will allow you to keep track of your progress and give you a good idea of what you need to/want to do next.
- Make sure everyone in your home is on board: If you are trying to get your dog to overcome bad habits such as jumping up on people, you will want to make sure nobody in your home is rewarding bad behavior, as is said here.
- Keep training consistent: You cannot begin to compromise and choose to ignore bad behavior because you don’t feel like being the enforcer at that moment. If bad behavior is rewarded even 1 out of every 10 times it occurs, they may begin to feel encouraged to continue the behavior.
- High-Quality Rewards: Good rewards keep dogs motivated to learn what you are trying to teach them.
Check out the following treats for dog training:
- Blue Buffalo BLUE Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
- Pet Botanics Mini Training Reward
- Cloud Star Tricky Trainers Chewy – Soft Low-Calorie Dog Training Treats
How To Leash Train Your Dog
It is recommended that you wait until your puppy is at least 10 weeks to get your puppy used to a leash and collar. You can expect them to become comfortable in a leash and collar within 2 weeks using the following methods:
- Don’t buy a collar you think your puppy will grow into- instead buy a collar sized specifically for a puppy. If the collar is oversized and uncomfortable, they are more likely to shake it off.
- Choose a collar with clips rather than buckles: Using that you can take on and off easily will make it easier to train your dog by keeping the change as stress-free as possible. Your puppy will fidget around often while you’re putting collars and leashes on them.
- Make sure they know who’s leading the walk- If you don’t show them who’s boss right off the bat, they’ll think it’s ok to drag you in all sorts of directions. To establish command while you are walking your dog:
- First head into a quiet room with a leash and your puppy’s favorite treats
- Attach the puppy to the leash and let them run away from you while you stand in place.
- Apply tight pressure to the leash without pulling them towards you
- When tight pressure is applied to the leash, they will probably try to fight it. Prevent them from winning a single inch.
- Rather, gently encourage them to come towards you by calling their name and slapping your thigh.
- If they oblige, reward them with a treat and secondary reinforcers such as verbal praise and petting
- It is recommended that you perform 5-10 repetitions of this per session
When it comes to leash training, it is important that you remain patient. There are some common errors I see owners make when they are trying to train their dogs to walk on the leash. These errors will undermine your efforts:
- Pulling on the leash yourself: Dogs learn to fight the pull rather than learning how to be walked on a leash. Minor discomfort doesn’t deter them from pulling. Rather you should reinforce desired behavior using methods like the ones listed above.
- Rushing forward to relieve tension on the leash when your puppy pulls: This only encourages undesired behavior.
- Pulling your puppy towards you when they are already headed towards you: You want your puppy to feel the tension in the leash being released as they head towards you when you command them to.
How To Get Your Puppy Socialized
Having a dog that is ill-behaved around others is like having a child that is misbehaved. A dog is a reflection of its owner. You want your friends to be impressed with how well you have trained your dog.
Get your puppy gradually acclimated to an unfamiliar world full of surprises such as the ones listed on this comprehensive puppy socialization checklist.
Start vaccinations before taking your puppy around other dogs. It will be safe to take your puppy to a local dog park 7 to 10 days after she or he has received their complete set of vaccinations.
Methods that will help you ease your dog into this strange world we live in:
- Daily Walks: Exposing them to different objects and people will help the dogs become more familiar with their surroundings. They need the exercise anyway.
- Invite Friends and Family to your home to play with your dog: Exposing your dog to strangers will help them build trust with people that aren’t you.
- Tell people who are petting your dog to place their hands somewhere where your dog can see them such as the dog’s chest
- 3 to 12 weeks of age is the prime time for socializing your pup: It becomes more difficult to socialize a dog beyond 18 weeks
- Take your puppy to a friend’s house: this method is considered a safe method for exposing your puppy with unfamiliar surroundings before full immunizations are complete
- Go to the park to hangout: Go to a local park on a nice day and relax with your dog as you enjoy reading a book under the sun
Training Your Puppy To “Leave It”
Of all the basic commands you will want to teach your puppy, the “leave it” command may be the most important when it comes to your dog’s welfare. Dogs are, by nature, prone to picking up all sorts of objects in their mouths and often times chewing and consuming them.
Every pet owner has dealt with a sick dog at one point or another because they decided to eat something they shouldn’t have. Prying objects from your dog’s mouth isn’t always the easiest.
By teaching your dog the “leave it” command, you can avoid situations where your dog gobbles up a pill or chicken bone you’ve accidentally dropped on the floor.
You can teach your puppy the “take it” command using methods such as the one described here:
- Place a treat in your clenched fist and let your dog paw at it, stick their nose in your hand and do whatever else they may try to do to get the treat.
- As soon as they give up on trying to get the treat, give them verbal praise, a simple “yes” will suffice.
- Then open your fist and tell them to “take it.”
- Repeat as many times as necessary until you feel that they understand the command.
You can also teach your puppy the “leave it” command following these steps:
- Place a treat under your shoe while also concealing a treat in your clenched fist.
- You can let your dog try to paw away from the treat under your shoe, but don’t let them take it.
- Eventually, they will get bored and stop pawing at the treat.
- At this point, you will reinforce their behavior with a “yes” marker and verbal praise.
- Then you will reward them with the treat in your hand.
- Repeat this 5-10 times or until you feel that they understand the command.
This is the entry-level method for teaching your dog the “leave-it” command. Eventually, you will start teaching them more advanced “leave it” commands such as when you are out on walks.
Start young, work at your dog’s own pace and give your dog time to master one command or learning before moving on to the next. Make sure you offer rewards that make your pup come back for more training!
At the start, it always seems difficult, but as your dog picks up on different commands and “tricks,” you’ll find yourself inspired – and proud – enough to keep moving forward. An obedient dog is a happy one!