We get many emails every day asking what is the right way to train a dog, what steps they should follow and what are the most effective techniques for the training to work. We’re going to explain step by step how to correctly train a dog, how to make sure the training is a positive experience for your pet, and most importantly, how to make sure he learns properly. There’s nothing as simple as training a dog, you just have to know how to do it correctly.
Before moving on, we’d like to make very clear what NOT to do during training, since making these mistakes when training your pet will end up costing you twice or three times the effort to train him again correctly. Let’s look at what you should never do:
- Never yell, scold or hit your dog. Physical or psychological punishment isn’t effective, it’s been proven over and over and it’s cruel. He would never do it to you.
- Don’t lose hope. Patience is essential and training a dog takes time, so you’ll have to be very patient.
- Don’t use choke collars or anything like them, it’s unnecessary and cruel. There are a thousand effective ways to train a dog and none of them is done using punishment and torture.
- Don’t use different ways to call him, always say his name and then give the command.
Now that you know what not to do, it’s time to learn how to train a dog effectively. The first thing you should do is let your dog know who is the owner, leader or alpha male in charge, whichever you prefer. We highly recommend that you read the article: How to take charge with your dog. Letting your best friend know that you are the alpha male is fundamental, both for training and for living together in harmony.
How to train a dog correctly so he learns
Training your pet should be done consistently; that is, doing a training session three or four times per week, continuously and with perseverance. You should begin the sessions after taking a long walk with your dog; it’s very important that he’s tired and that he’s run around, played and done his business before starting any training session. A dog who hasn’t gotten all of that out of their system will never learn correctly because he simply won’t be able to concentrate.
To do the training sessions, you should choose a quite location where there aren’t any other dogs to distract him, loud noises, or people constantly passing by. You need a certain amount of privacy so that your dog can concentrate and learn as much as possible.
You should bring treats to reward your dog when he does the exercises well; dog fruits, dog biscuits, pieces of sausage or bread would make perfect treats. Petting and caressing are also good rewards to complement the treats.
When your dog does an exercise well, praise him enthusiastically. “Good! Good job! That’s how you do it! Very good, Toby!” etc. Give him a biscuit or piece of sausage as a reward and pet him. He needs to know that you’re happy because he did something good – this is fundamental.
When your dog doesn’t do it right, simply return to the starting position and start the exercise again. When you get to the part where he makes a mistake, simple tell him “No!” with a firm tone. You don’t have to yell or punish him, but don’t give him a treat.
The training sessions shouldn’t last more than a half hour. If you go past half an hour, you should play for at least fifteen minutes before starting the training again. Never do more than an hour of training per day; you don’t want to stress him out.
In this article we’re not going to talk about how to use a dog for personal defense, because it’s an unnecessary risk for inexperienced people to teach such dangerous exercises to their dogs. If you want to train your dog exercises for self-defense, you should see a professional trainer, no ifs ands or buts. There’s no excuse not to; if your dog is taught defense exercises incorrectly, it will be catastrophic.
During the training sessions, you should give a single command until he learns it correctly. You can’t teach him a million things at once, or even two; you have to go one step at a time, one day at a time.
You should always use the same command for each exercise. If one day you teach him to sit with the command “Sit”, you can’t change it the next day or week to “Sit down”; you always have to keep the same commands.
The training sessions should be done in a good climate, not too cold or too hot.
How to easily teach your dog to sit
Now that all the guidelines above have been followed and you’re in a quiet place to begin the training session, let’s see how to teach your dog to sit.
Stand in front of your dog and gently hold his collar with your left hand, just so that he stays by your side and doesn’t leave. With your right hand, press down on his back near his butt so that he bends his back legs and sits. While pressing with your right hand as he sits, say the command that you want to use for the exercise in a firm voice, for example, “Sit”.
When he sits, release him and praise him, give him a treat (biscuit or piece of sausage) and pet him a bit. You should repeat this exercise constantly until your dog learns to sit just by hearing the command. When you say “Sit”, he should do it by himself, without you having to press on his back with your right hand.
It’s not an easy task, and you might need a few days before he’s able to do it right. It’s important that on days with no training session, you repeat this command at home, for example, before giving him dinner or petting him. It’s a positive and indirect way to remind him what you did in the training session.
In a few days, when he does the exercise by himself, it’s time to move on to the next step: having him stay seated until you give him the command to get up.
Do the sitting exercise with the command “Sit”, and when your dog is sitting, step back a little without turning your back to him. When he gets up to go to you, correct him with a “No!”, and tell him to sit again.
You should repeat this step until he stays sitting and you can walk away a few yards without him getting up. Do it gradually; tell him to sit and step back a foot, then tell him to come with the command “Come” or “Here” so he goes to you. Give him a treat, praise him and pet him. When he learns to do this well, repeat it but stepping back a little more, maybe a yard. When he does it well, step back five feet and so on until he learns to stay seated even if you go five or ten yards away.
Doing this exercise correctly can take several weeks. You have to have patience and perseverance. Do the exercises calmly and if your dog doesn’t learn well, it’s not his fault; it’s because we probably aren’t giving him instructions correctly.
How to teach your dog to lie down in a few steps
To teach your dog to lie down, you first have to have taught him how to sit, because this is a fundamental step to do this next exercise.
Give your dog the command to sit and when he is sitting, hold a treat in your hand and put it near his mouth but without letting him get it. Without him getting up, gradually pull the treat back so that he leans forward, and also pull it down so that he leans down. With your other hand, give him some slight, very gentle taps on his front paws so that he stretches them out in front of him and lies down.
While he’s lying down, give him the command to lie down, just once: “Lie down” or “Down” will be sufficient. When he’s lying down, give him a treat and praise him for a job well done. Before repeating the exercise, have him get all the way up and start from the beginning, giving him the command to sit and the repeating the process.
Repeat the exercise as many times and for as many weeks as necessary, until he lies down just by hearing the command “Lie down”. When he does it correctly, do the same process you did with the sit command; gradually move away from him without letting him get up until you say so.
Doing this exercise correctly will also take several weeks. You have to be patient and consistent. Never pressure your dog or stress him out. You shouldn’t force him to do what he doesn’t want to do. If one day he decides he doesn’t want to learn, the best thing is to continue the training some other day.
How to train your dog to walk by your side
You’ll need to use a short leash on your dog, no more than three feet long. Start to walk in your designated training area, being careful that your dog never tries to go out in front of you. When he tries, make a 180° turn to take a new direction. This will disorient him a little so that he will pay attention to you.
Take walks with a moderate pace, strong, making 90° or 180° turns unexpectedly. If your dog tries to go out in front of you, do a sharp turn so that he has to change and make slack in the leash to follow you. You can see all the recommended techniques in our post How to teach your dog to walk.
This type of training is perhaps one of the most complicated. Many dogs have a hard time learning to walk correctly, but when they do, it’s truly a pleasure to walk with them. If you see that your dog is too energetic and you can’t take charge of the walk, you should use the tricks explained in the article mentioned above.
There are also special “anti-pull” harnesses that will make this training task easier if your dog is overly energetic.
How to teach your dog to come when called
This technique is one of the simplest. It involves tricking your dear pet with treats and is really simple. When your dog is a little ways away from you, take out a treat and hold it in your hand so he can see it, while simultaneously calling him and giving the command to come.
It’s not enough to just call his name; you should give him the command to come. For example, if his name is Toby, you would show him the treat and say loudly, so that he can hear you, “Toby, come!”, or “Toby, here!”. As soon as he sees the treat, he’ll come running, and when he’s by your side, give him the treat and praise him enthusiastically. If your dog sees you and doesn’t come, he doesn’t care for the treat that you’re giving him… try a small piece of sausage, which they usually like a lot.
You should practice this technique over the course of several weeks. After this period, only give him the treat sporadically, so that sometimes when you call him you have a treat and other times you don’t. But always, always praise him when he comes to you, obeying the command. With time, you’ll be able to remove treats completely from this exercise, but you should always praise him.
How to train a puppy
Puppies don’t need to be trained, because all they think about is playing and having fun. It’s only beginning at five or six months old when you can start to train them little by little and in a very gentle, playful way. You shouldn’t force them or stress them out, ever. The ideal age to start training a dog is from one year old, gently and gradually.
Puppies just need to play and run, interact and socialize with other dogs and very little else. Let them be happy, there will be plenty of time to learn. However, when you see him doing something bad, like biting people (obviously he’s just playing), you can correct him with a “No!” so that he gradually starts to learn.
Training a puppy is like trying to teach algebra to a baby. It doesn’t make sense.