Train Your Dog in a Way That Works

We all know how difficult it can be when your dog just won’t stop barking after the doorbell rings, or will only sit for a treat. Professionals cite various ways to correct your pet and reward them for good behavior, but sometimes, nothing seems to actually work. And while the most important aspect of your dog’s life is for them to stay happy and healthy, a well trained pet can help alleviate stress for you and your furry friends, leading to a better life for everyone.

Why is Training Important?

Doing your research before adopting a pet also plays into the training process. The dog’s breed greatly influences their energy level and which tasks come easy — or not so easy. Countless dogs are returned to shelters due to issues that can be fixed with training, leaving the dog without a family and a lower chance of finding their forever home. Work to find which breed and individual animal will fit best in your family and environment, and anticipate their needs by training as soon as you can.

Many experts recommend starting the training process when your puppy is just 8 weeks old in order to put good behaviors in place and stop bad habits from forming. But regardless of your dog’s age, it’s important to start training early. Old dogs can learn new tricks, it just takes patience and persistence. Trained dogs often have an easier time regulating their emotions and maintain a more trusting relationship with their owners. And in times of distress, a calm dog rather than an out-of-control one can make all the difference.

What’s the Best Method?

Ultimately, there isn’t one perfect training method that will work for every dog out there. Each dog has a unique personality and unique needs, so they will learn differently. There are countless forms of dog training, all with their own advantages and drawbacks. For example, training for service dogs often looks much more intense than something you’d want for your lapdog. As a fear-free clinic, we recommend training your pet in a positive-only style. This teaches your dog what to focus on and do more of rather than punishing them. You can train your pet to redirect their energy, such as finding a toy to bring to visitors at the door instead of barking and jumping on them. Plus, when yelling or correcting with a leash, your dog can “become confused and unsure about what is being asked of them,” according to The American Kennel Club. But in order to find a specific method that works with your dog, it’s best to find a trainer that connects with you and your dog.

How Do I Find a Trainer?

Though the internet offers training ideas, an in-person trainer adds the unique benefit of building meaningful relationships, both for your dog and yourself. When looking for a trainer, find one that you connect with. Do your research. You should trust them and feel like they can be there for you and your pets. 

The key goal of training is to teach your dog how to be okay in different environments, and your trainer should know how to work with your dog to achieve this goal. Training can seem overwhelming, sometimes feeling like a laundry list of things to fix. Find a trainer that breaks down your goals and takes everyone through the process step by step. Instead of feeling like a chore, training should be fun for the pet, the trainer, and you. 

Find a trainer online through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) or ask community members for personal recommendations. Many of our veterinarians and technicians have experience with various trainers, or consider our own staff member Amaya Parsons, one of HVC’s Customer Service Representatives who specializes in dog training outside of work at the clinic. Regardless of who you chose to work with, the most important aspects in a trainer are a relationship with trust, communication, and a love for your dog.

What Does a Training Session Look Like?

You don’t have to train for hours a day — about 15 minutes each day is best for your dog’s attention. Still, dogs have good days and bad days just like humans. Pay attention to when your dog stops engaging with the training and appears frustrated. Give them breaks, and continue training after a few minutes. Some days will look more productive than others and that is okay. However, try to end each training session on a positive note, like rewarding them for a more basic command.

What your dog will work on depends on their personality and environment. Some may need redirection when it comes to jumping on human companions, personal space, or being overly excited, and some families pursue crate training to build independence and practice respect. But training is not about overloading your pet with too many tasks. The most important things to tackle with your dog are sit, down, come, stay, and loose leash walking.

  • “Sit” is the most well known command, and for a good reason. This helps your pet calm their bodies and minds in various situations and often comes in handy when training in other areas. As time goes on, your dog will become more confident in this command and be able to stay sitting for longer periods of time.
  • “Down” should be differentiated from “sit” clearly, as many pets will get so excited they will combine the two commands when just asked to sit. It requires your dog to be in a submissive position, which can be difficult at first. Achieving this command will promote obedience when it comes to other training goals.
  • “Come” can help keep your pup out of trouble and establish a loyal bond as they recognize their name and feel comfortable coming to you. Practicing “come” often minimizes danger, like if your dog decides to run out the front door or is in an unexpected situation.
  • “Stay” helps your furry friend understand self control and can also keep them out of trouble, such as a delicious-smelling but hot oven. It’s important to reward your pet for staying for just a moment, then slowly increase the time they rest in one place.
  • Loose leash walking allows for a more comfortable and stress-free walk for everyone involved. The leash should make a U shape rather than a straight line to reduce tension on your dog’s harness or collar. Otherwise, your pet can become confused or hyper, zig-zagging or sniffing the grass for a little too long.

If all else fails, remember:

  1. Give yourself the same patience that you give your dog.
  2. Don’t correct out of emotion. Take a break when you need it.
  3. Hands are for affection, not correction. 
  4. Do not yell when your dog is barking. They’ll think you’re barking right back at them.
  5. Have fun!! Training should be enjoyable for everyone involved.