20 Training Do's and Don'ts

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Dog lovers sometimes wonder why, despite their best efforts, their attempts at pet training fall short of expectations. No matter what you try, Rex still thinks the couch is his personal kingdom and Rover roams to areas that you want him to learn are out of bounds. As you’ve probably discovered, training takes more than just hoping your dog will read your mind and obey.

To help make training easier for you, here's our list of Top 20 Training Dos and Don'ts.

First, the Dos:

  1. Do focus on your dog. Training must be about bringing him into your world by understanding his instincts and natural behaviors.
  2. Do be honest with him. Never fool him into doing what you want or tease him with commands you teach him.
  3. Do begin each command with the end in sight. Reward your dog lavishly—but only when he has completed the task you've set.
  4. Do be consistent. Always use the same words for desired behaviors and the same tone of voice.
  5. Do think ahead. Anticipate your dog's actions before he moves.
  6. Do reward or admonish your dog immediately. He needs to associate praise or admonishment with the specific act.
  7. Do teach him one command at a time. More than one command can easily confuse even the cleverest dog.
  8. Do allow enough time for him to take in your command and then act. He may not react immediately, but this is not necessarily a sign of disobedience. Be patient.
  9. Do enjoy yourself and he will too. This way, he'll associate his training with companionship—so it will become easier for both of you. And play with your dog before and after each training session.
  10. Do be kind and patient. A poorly trained dog is the fault of the trainer, not the dog.

Knowing what to do is only half the story. Coupled with that, successful training depends on understanding the Don'ts:

  1. Don't ever allow others to pamper him any more than you would. You're his master—the de facto alpha dog in your home pack—and he must look to you for leadership.
  2. Don't ever finish a training session on a bad note. Remain positive and praise him for any progress made.
  3. Don't punish him while you're angry. Training should be a pleasurable and nourishing experience for both of you.
  4. Don't lose your temper while training. He needs to understand that you are in control.
  5. Don't chase him if you want him to come. The idea is make him come to you.
  6. Don't deceive your dog. Never shower him with praise to bring him to you and then punish him because he's been naughty. Be honest with him.
  7. Don't continually repeat the same command to your dog until he executes it. He should understand you very early. Be patient but don't overuse the command.
  8. Don't discipline your dog for disobedience unless you're certain that he understood the command you gave. And remember, discipline and punishment are two very different things.
  9. Don't reward your dog for a given behavior, then, later admonish him for the same behavior. Consistency is crucial.
  10. Don't allow anybody else to command your dog while you're training him.

This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, but just enough to help direct you in the right direction when it comes to successfully training your dog. For some dogs and their owners, these tips may be enough. However, if your efforts are still unsuccessful, it may be time to seek the help of a professional dog trainer.

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