Dogs are generally eager and attentive learners. (Of course, it may not always seem like that when your dog is busy smelling everything in sight instead of listening to your command to “Come here!”) In addition, much like most people, dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. Follow the tips below to make learning effective and fun—for both you and your four-legged friend!
Be Consistent: Apply the same rules and the same words all the time. Also, try to keep the names of the commands to one or two syllables, which will make it easier for your dog to understand.
Be Clear: Say your command once, wait for a response, and then give a treat for a correct response. If your dog gives an incorrect response, wait a few minutes, and try again; if need be, you can also try a different command. (Keep in mind that giving the same command continuously will result in your dog listening after multiple attempts instead of the first time.) You can also pair a hand signal along with your voice command.
Keep It Short: Keep the training sessions short, up to five minutes at a time, a few times a day, so your dog doesn’t lose attention.
Stay Positive: Dogs can easily pick up on your tone of voice and body language. Staying positive will keep your dog’s attention and make learning fun. In contrast, yelling will likely only scare your dog.
Use Treats: Small, soft treats are best during a training session because they can be quickly eaten. You want your dog to focus on your commands, not on chewing a larger treat. If your dog isn’t motivated by treats, use a toy, or even just praise and a nice ear scratch may be enough. After a command has been mastered, you can wean your dog off of treats and instead use them sporadically when using the command, which will make sure the command really sticks.
Act Fast: Reward your dog immediately so he’s certain to know which command he’s doing correctly. If you wait too long after the correct response, he’ll most likely not understand the reason for the reward.
Be Patient: It might take a few training sessions over a few days, or even weeks, to really get your dog to understand what you want him to do. Remember: dogs don’t understand your language. It will take some time to get on the same page!
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