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How to Conduct a Good Training Session with Your Dog

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Training your dog should be fun, but sometimes it can be frustrating. After all, your dog won’t learn a new behavior on the first try. You have to repeat the command and then reward the correct behavior dozens of times to help your dog associate the command with the action. Here are some pointers for making the most of your training sessions:

  • Whenever your dog comes to you, be nice to him. Don’t do anything the dog perceives as unpleasant. No matter what he may have done, be pleasant and greet him with a kind word, a pat on the head, and a smile. Teach your dog to trust you by being a safe place for him. When he’s with you, follows you, or comes to you, make him feel wanted.

  • Be consistent. If any magic is involved in training your dog, it’s consistency. When you begin teaching your dog a new command, choose a short word or phrase and stick with it. Choose “Let’s go!” or “Walk!”; don’t use one command today and another next week. This just confuses your dog, who needs consistency and repetition to learn the proper behavior.

  • Consistency in training means handling your dog in a predictable and uniform manner. If more than one person is in the household, everyone needs to handle the dog in the same way. Otherwise, the dog becomes confused and unreliable in his responses.

  • Be persistent. Training your dog is a question of who is more persistent — you or your dog. Some things he can master quickly; others will take more time. If several tries don’t bring success, be patient, remain calm, and try again.

    [Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Jean Gill]
    Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Jean Gill
  • Give a command once and in a normal tone of voice. By repeating commands, you systematically teach your dog to ignore you, and changes in inflections from pleas to threats don’t help. Most people are unaware of how many times they repeat a command. Give the command, and if your dog doesn’t respond, show him exactly what you want him to do.

  • Eliminate the word “no” from your training vocabulary. All too often, no is the only command a dog hears, and he’s expected to figure out what it means. No exercise or command in training is called “no.” If you find yourself in a situation where it’s imperative to interrupt your dog’s behavior, use the word “stop” instead.

  • Avoid negative communications like “no” with your dog because they undermine the relationship you’re trying to build.

  • Use your dog’s name appropriately. Use your dog’s name once before a command to get his attention. For example, say, “Buddy, Come.” The quickest way to teach your dog to ignore you is to use his name repeatedly — and raising your voice doesn’t help, either.

  • Don’t use your dog’s name as a reprimand. And don’t nag your dog by repeatedly using his name without telling him what you want him to do. Pair his name with a command instead.

  • Understand your dog’s keen mind. Dogs often give the appearance of being able to read your mind. In actuality, by observing you and studying your habits, they learn to anticipate your actions. Because dogs communicate with each other through body language, they quickly become experts at reading yours.

  • Focus on the positive. How many times do you say “Good dog” when interacting with your dog? Positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior makes your dog want to repeat the behavior in the hopes of getting another reward. Negative communications from you have a negative effect on your dog’s motivation to work for you.

  • Don’t train your dog when you’re irritable or tired. You want training to be a positive experience for your dog. If you get frustrated during training, stop and come back to it another time. When you’re frustrated, your communications consist of “No!” and “Bad dog!” An unfriendly or hostile approach doesn’t gain you your dog’s cooperation; it needlessly prolongs the teaching process. When you become frustrated or angry, your dog becomes anxious and nervous and has difficulty learning. A better approach is to train your dog when you’re in a better frame of mind.


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