“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.”
~Bradley Millar

Unless you have trained a half dozen dogs to the CGC level, the best training tip I can give you, is to find a trainer.

Reading is always a good thing but, it is difficult to learn most tasks just by reading. With dog training the more you read, the more confused you will become. There are so many techniques for training a dog and so much conflicting advice. Find a trainer you can trust and stick with them until your dog is happily well behaved. You will be glad you did!

The second best tip I can give you is to throw away the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” Training a puppy (6weeks – 1year) always takes longer than training a more mature dog. Puppy’s have shorter attention spans and lower levels of concentration. I have trained dogs at 8 and 10 years old. A dog will learn from the first day of their life until the last.

The difference in training a young dog (6weeks – 6 years) and an old dog (6 – 16 years) is the dog’s level of determination and the amount of incentive. An old dog (like an old man) sees no reason to change something that has worked just fine for 6,8,10 years. To train an older dog you need a greater incentive for the dog (dry biscuit vs turkey), and more determination on your part than theirs.

Whether you already have your dog or you are planning to visit the shelter tomorrow. Whether your companion is 8 weeks or 8 years old, the first thing you will need for training is a schedule. Dogs adjust more quickly, learn faster, and behave better, when their life has a regular routine.

All dogs have a surprisingly accurate internal clock. If your dog knows there is a regular bathroom break coming, they will quickly learn to wait for it. The same holds true for exercise, they will be less likely to be destructive and/or anxious if they can count on regularly scheduled exercise. If you already have a dog and you are having behavioral problems, take a look at their routine, it may very well be the answer you are looking for. When you are planning your dog’s routine, keep in mind the major differences in your own day to day life. Try to set a routine that your dog can count on whether you are working or off for the day.

After a routine, you will need a leash. The leash is your most valuable tool for good communication! Of course, the leash is for walking. Walking together advances the bonding process, provides exercise, socialization, and if done properly promotes respect. Done properly? This simply means your dog walks calmly and loosely by your side, not in front of you and definitely not pulling you down the street..Many dogs try to become the leader while walking, by pulling out in front. Never allow this, if your dog moves out in front, change directions, cross the street, take a left or simply turn in the opposite direction, put your dog back behind you. Once they are behind or beside you, praise them. In a dog’s way of thinking, to be in front, is to be responsible for all the family members (pack) that are following behind. A dog that is trained to walk at your side will be less assertive and less reactive to strangers, strange dogs, or other unexpected encounters and changes as you walk.  If you are having trouble with your dog trying to lead, consult your trainer.

Here is an important leash secret…when you bring home a new dog have them wear their leash around the house. That’s right, drag it around the house. When your dog joins your family, EVERYTHING is new. New name, new rules, new smells, sights, sounds…sensory overload!! By having your dog drag their leash (or a cheap tether for chewers) you provide yourself with a means for teaching. This will work any time you want to teach a new behavior or break an old habit. Fluffy jumps up on the counter, say “Off” take the leash show Fluffy off and praise. Rover is trying to eat from your son’s plate on the coffee table, “Leave It” pick up the leash, move Rover away and praise. You see Matilda start to squat, grab the leash, “Outside” show Matilda to the bathroom and praise, praise, praise. Grabbing for a collar makes most dogs duck or dart away, by the time you’ve caught them, they have forgotten what they were doing and the lesson is lost. Also grabbing the collar to move a dog, creates a constant pressure on their neck. This pressure prevents the dog from learning and could cause serious injury.  To have your dog wear a tether around the house makes teaching the law of the land, simple, safe, and quick.

Your next necessity is a crate. Many people have an adverse reaction when they hear crate…until they have used one. I ask you, would you move another person into your home and not provide them with a room? Of course not. Your dog’s crate is their room. It is where they can go if they are tired, nervous, or don’t feel well, it is a space of security, for you and them. If you cannot watch your dog and they have not yet learned the rules of the home, crating will keep them out of trouble and save you from frustration. Crate training will help your dog throughout their life, by keeping your dog’s stress level down, during boarding or an overnight hospital stay away from you, Also, if you are having a large party, where over feeding or escape could be an issue. Once your dog has adjusted to their new home and the rules of living there, you will be able to put the crate away, if you prefer, except for emergencies or traveling,.

Important things to remember when crate training:

  1. If you give your dog an interactive toy or treat, each time they are asked to go into their crate, they will quickly look forward to the experience. Do not throw the toy in for them to follow, have them enter the crate, when asked, then give them the treat or toy.
  2. Don’t open the crate to let your dog out if they are barking, digging, whining, or fussing. If your dog is behaving in this manner when you are ready to let them out, unlatch the crate door but, hold it closed with your foot. Tell your dog quiet and turn your back to them. They will eventually quiet down, (this happens faster and faster with practice) once your dog is quiet, say “good quiet” as you walk away, without looking back, letting the door come open. Your dog will follow. You can also use this method, to prevent a dog from becoming overly excited at being let out of their crate.
  3. Have your dog spend time in their crate while you are at home. Put them in while you shower, cook dinner, or just to have a special treat. If you only use the crate when you are leaving the house, they will begin to associate the crate with loosing you. This always leads to anxiety.

If you have any trouble with crate training consult with your trainer.

Ahhh, the trainer, To pick a trainer, first find several that are conveniently close, with classes that suit your schedule. Ask for recommendations from friends or people you meet in pet stores (with well-behaved dogs).

Talk to the trainers you are considering, about the methods they use and why? There are as many different training techniques as there are dog trainers. Watch one or more of the trainer’s classes. Talk to other students, any good trainer should be able to give you a list of names, you can choose from at random. If a trainer will not explain, why they use a certain method, allow you to speak with former students or watch their classes, move on to a different trainer.

Make sure the trainer is someone you feel comfortable talking with, someone you can freely ask questions, and someone, that you feel, really cares about your dog. To best train your dog, you must feel at ease asking your trainer “why?” or “how to?” for anything, when needed It is very important to pick a trainer, with a technique you feel relaxed with and stick with that trainer until your dog catches on. Training a dog, does not happen.overnight  Each dog is different, even if they are the same breed, from the same litter, each dog will learn at  their own pace. Changing training techniques once you have started will only confuse your dog and the training process will take longer. Do keep in mind, any technique that includes pain or extreme force is the wrong technique.

Now that you are armed with your routine, your leash, your crate, and your trainer. Add patience, consistency and a sense of humor, you and your companion are ready to get started.

We will try to help here on a few common problems, but once you have picked your trainer listen to them over anyone else.