Teaching your dog obedience commands (e.g., sit, down, stay) and proper manners (e.g., walking on a loose leash, no jumping) is a crucial aspect of responsible pet ownership that not only enhances the bond between you and your furry friend but also ensures a harmonious coexistence. Whether you’re dealing with a rambunctious puppy or an older dog needing a behavioral tune-up, read our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team’s guide to effective training methods and make a positive difference in your canine companion’s behavior.

Understanding canine behavior

Before diving into training techniques, understanding canine behavior basics is essential. Dogs, like people, thrive on positive reinforcement and consistent communication. While punishment may seem like an effective technique for training your dog, yelling, hitting, or using aversive tools does more harm than good. These methods can cause your dog to shut down and become unwilling to learn, ultimately damaging the bond you share.

Each dog is an individual with their own personality and temperament, so you need to tailor your dog’s training approach. Learn what makes your dog tick—a mouthwatering piece of dried liver, a belly rub, or a quick game of fetch. Determining your dog’s most prized reward is essential to successful training.

Positive reinforcement training in dogs

Positive reinforcement is widely regarded as the most effective and humane dog training method. This approach involves rewarding desirable behaviors with treats, praise, or toys, reinforcing the connection between good behavior and positive outcomes. Incorrect or inappropriate actions are ignored or redirected—never punished. When your dog associates obedience with positive consequences, they’re more likely to repeat the desired actions. To reinforce your dog’s training positively and effectively, follow these tips:

  • Timing is everything — Deliver the reward immediately after your dog performs the desired behavior to strengthen the association between the action and the reward.
  • Consistency is key — Be consistent with your commands and rewards to help your dog understand what is expected of them.
  • Variety is exciting — Mix up the types of rewards to keep your dog engaged. Use treats, verbal praise, or playtime to keep the training sessions interesting, and to encourage your dog to keep working for that jackpot.

Basic training commands for dogs

Teaching your dog basic commands is essential for having a well-mannered, four-legged family member. Whether your dog prefers to stay at home or head out and about, knowing they can follow cues provides you with peace of mind and can also save their life in a dangerous situation. Important commands to teach your dog include:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Watch me
  • Leave it
  • Drop it

Addressing unwanted behaviors in dogs

When training your dog, you’re bound to encounter inappropriate behaviors, especially when teaching a new puppy the house rules. If you spot your pooch performing an inappropriate or undesirable behavior, try the following methods to address the issue:

  • Redirect attention — If your dog engages in undesirable behaviors, redirect their attention to something appropriate. For example, if they are chewing furniture, offer them a chew toy instead.
  • Ignore unwanted behavior — Sometimes, the best response to unwanted behavior is no response. Ignoring your dog when they exhibit undesirable behavior, such as jumping up for attention, can be an effective way to discourage it.
  • Remain consistent — Repetition is important when teaching your dog acceptable behavior, as inconsistent signals and actions are confusing. For example, if your dog is not allowed on the couch, everyone must follow that rule rather than occasionally allowing your pup to curl up there.
  • Practice patience — Training takes time, and every dog learns at their own pace. Patience is crucial during the process. If your dog is struggling with a particular command, go back to the basics and reinforce the fundamentals. Celebrate small victories, and remember to have fun during training sessions.

Practicing basic training at home is a great way to strengthen your relationship with your dog, but you may want to participate in more advanced training classes or enroll in canine sporting events. If your four-legged friend will be around other dogs, update essential vaccinations as necessary by scheduling an appointment with your local Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team.