Dog training tips, part 2

In yesterday’s post, we mentioned five dog training tips. Here are five more that will hopefully make training and everyday life easier.

1. Have realistic expectations

Changing a behavior takes time, especially if it’s a deeply rooted habit that has been going on for a long time. Re-training an adult dog takes longer than teaching a puppy the first time. It is never too late to change a behavior, but some things will take longer than others.

For example, if you’ve allowed your dog to jump up to greet people for five years,  but decide that the behavior isn’t okay anymore, it will take a while to learn a new way of greeting.

2. Some behaviors are harder to change

Barking, digging, and jumping are “normal” behavior for a dog, and these things will take longer to change even with diligent training than re-learning a trained behavior. Be patient and consistent.

Barking, digging, and jumping are often considered problem behaviors. In order to teach a dog not to bark, it can be useful to teach him or her to bark on command first. If your dog loves to dig, it can help to give an allowed digging spot, like a doggy sandbox. If your dog jumps on people, try teaching a good “sit” and give the command “sit” before he actually jumps.

3. Watch what you reinforce

The philosophy, “do as I say, not as I do” will not work on a dog. If you accidentally encourage an unwanted behavior, it will take a long time to “un-train” it.

For example, your dog jumps on the door to make you open it. If you give in, the dog will know that jumping on the door makes it come open. Instead, make your dog sit before you open. It might not work at once, but dogs are smart and good at making connections.

Another example is if your dog brings you a tennis ball and barks to make you throw it. If you throw the ball, the dog learns that barking makes you play. The next time he comes with the ball and barks you say no, but he keeps barking. If you throw the ball now, your clever pooch will know that persistence pays off. Ignore the barking and tell your dog to sit before you throw it.

It is much easier to handle a dog who thinks sitting brings good things than one who knows that barking or jumping brings good things.

4. Rewards are good

Many dog owners feel that using treats to train their dog is the same as bribing the dog. You don’t have to use treats for training, but there’s no harm in it if it helps you keep your dog’s attention. Other good rewards are a toy, praise, and play. As long as the behavior you want produces the reward you’re good.

5. Give new dogs and puppies limited freedom

Limiting freedom to the house can sound harsh, but when you bring home a new puppy or a dog from a shelter, both your life and the dog’s will be easier if you start with a small area and gradually open up your home. Let your new furry friend get used to the new place, the family, and your rules.

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