Housetraining and basic commands like “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Come” are essential skills for your dog’s safety and your sanity. If you find yourself constantly trying to correct your dog’s bad habits with no success, consider sending her “back to school.” Whether you choose to enroll your pup in an organized class or prefer to train her on your own time, our guide to canine training basics can help. 

A pet’s school supply list

Before heading off to school with your dog, you’ll need a few tools to help you both get through the session. Some helpful items include:

  • Leash and collar — Slip leads, martingale, or Gentle Leader head collar styles are great for training. Choose a leash that is four to six feet in length and steer away from the retractable leashes and choke-chain style collars. 
  • Training treats — Choose something tiny yet delectable.
  • Clicker — This will be necessary only if you choose this training method.
  • Appropriately sized crate — A crate is needed if you are working on housetraining.

Subject matter for pet’s behavior classes

Now that you have gathered all your supplies, it’s time to decide what you want to work on with your dog and how you want to do it. Consider the following: 

  • Positive reinforcement 101 — Over the years,  dogs have been trained using many different styles, but positive reinforcement is currently a widely popular and effective choice. This training style emphasizes rewarding positive behaviors rather than scolding negative ones, which encourages your pup and sets her up for success rather than being fearful of making a mistake.
  • Clicker training —  Using a clicker, a small tool that elicits a quick, gentle noise, is an excellent way to put positive reinforcement into action. When your dog performs the desired action, you click and immediately reward her with a tasty treat. Clicker training is effective in dogs, as described in Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning.
  • Crate training — If housetraining is on your to-do list, definitely consider this method. Dogs naturally prefer to keep their immediate space clean, and a crate will discourage your pet from eliminating in that dedicated space. Crates also provide your dog with a safe, comfortable space at night and when you are away. Never use a crate as punishment. 

  • Introduction to sociology — Like people, dogs learn how to behave around other dogs by watching and interacting with them. Acceptable behaviors are best learned early in life, so socialization is especially important in puppies. Older dogs who were not well-socialized as puppies can still learn these behaviors, but they may require extra time, attention, and careful monitoring, as some dogs become overwhelmed or fearful in social situations.  

Homework for pets

As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. Few skills or commands will be learned in only a couple of hours, because training requires diligence and repetition for learned behavior to stick. Practice the desired skills often, reward your dog consistently, and enjoy the bonding experience that training your dog can create. Also, accept that you may need to ask for help at times. Training your dog can be a frustrating process that requires immense amounts of patience, and if you find yourself becoming angry or discouraged, ask a private dog trainer for help, or enroll in an organized class. 

We hope you enjoy the rewarding bonding experience that comes with training your dog. If you have additional questions, or would like recommendations for area trainers, contact us.