Basic Dog Training 101

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts

Basic dog training is not complicated. To train a dog is simply to teach him to do something. Dog training is often seen uniquely as teaching a dog to behave nicely, or do specific tricks to impress. What many people do not understand however is that is just as easy, if not easier, to train a dog to misbehave.

Simply put, much of the dog training that happens within the average home is not of the formal variety. If we react to our dogs behavior in a way that he finds rewarding, then we are training him to repeat that behavior. To a dog there are no good and bad behaviors, simply rewarding and non-rewarding behaviors. If we keep this in mind we can never accuse our dog of naughtiness for he is only carrying out an action that benefits him, often with reinforcement from us as his handler.

Unplanned rewarding behavior

With basic dog training, we need to work out what the dog may see as a reward. You may be surprised by the amount of human reactions that the dog may see as rewarding for instance;

  • Pushing the dog off when he jumps up – the dog receives physical interaction
  • Shouting at the dog – vocal interaction
  • Chasing the dog if he is running away – A really fun game

When interacting with your dog in any way begin to assess whether he sees the interaction as a reward. You will then be able to work out whether you are unwittingly reinforcing his behavior therefore encouraging it to continue.

One simple rule

A great rule to adhere to throughout your life with a dog, is simply ignoring the unhelpful behavior and reward the behavior that you would like him to repeat.

This rule is probably the most important thing to learn when you are carrying out basic dog training with a pet dog. Professional dog trainers that use reward and reinforce techniques apply this rule to everything they do.

Add motivation to the rule and you can teach your dog everything from perfect pet dog behavior to competition obedience and everything in between.

Positive dog training

The best basic dog training is positive and reward based. There is no room for any type of punishment within positive dog training. Punishment does not work and will produce a confused and unhappy dog.

Basic dog training commands

Basic commands can be easily taught in a positive manner. By reinforcement of a particular behavior, or specifics that may lead to the behavior, you are allowing the dog to work things out for himself.

Here are some of the most basic dog training commands and how to teach them using positive reinforcement:

  • Sit – Show the dog a reward then wait for him to sit. That’s it! Do not ask him to sit or lure him, do not touch him in any way and if he tries to jump up to get the treat hold it up higher. Take the treat further away if he tries to help himself to it.

Your dog will eventually sit. It is inevitable and when he does sit then reward him with the treat immediately.  Timing must be perfect for him to make the connection between action and reward. When you reward him add the word sit.

Repeat this and soon your dog will be sitting much sooner. He will work out what prompted the reward previously and offer the same behavior, easy.

  • Down – The down command can be taught in the same way. It may take longer as lying down will take more thought than sitting. An easy cheat to provoke your dog to lie down is to pop the treat under your foot. He will then lie down in order to try and get to the treat, when he is on the ground reward by lifting the foot and add the command word.

You can even tap your foot whilst it covers the treat. This will associate the tap with the lie down for a treat in your dog’s mind. You can then use the foot tap without a treat and reward the lying down directly from your hand.

  • Leash walking – Positive reinforcement can be used to encourage a slack leash when out walking. Simply by using reward when the leash slackens. There are various ways to encourage a slack leash. Changing direction, stopping walking and calling the dog back will all slacken the leash and then correct timing and reward can reinforce the behavior.

Basic dog training should always be a positive experience for both dog and owner.

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