15 Ways to Train Your Dog

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January is National Train Your Dog Month and is proudly promoted by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) around the country with numerous events and educational opportunities.  This time of the year is synonymous with resolutions and plans to improve ourselves.  One of those resolutions should be to jumpstart training with your dog.  Training promotes bonding between a dog and his owner, and improves relationships, as well as the obvious – creates a well-trained dog!

To help you begin what should become a good habit, here is a list of fifteen ways to train your dog.  Some are obvious and some just seem like fun!  But here is a secret — having fun with your dog is training!  So pick one exercise every day for the next couple of weeks and see what benefits you and your dog reap.

1.  Practice sitting politely – have your dog sit when someone comes to visit; when the mailman comes to the door; when you are preparing dinner; when you are getting ready to throw his ball.

2.  Practice a Down/Stay while you are reading a book or checking your email.  Vary the amount of time you ask for a Down/Stay from a few seconds to 10 – 15 minutes (esp. good after a walk or play time).

3.  Take your dog somewhere he or she has never been.  Allow him to explore and then ask for some basic obedience responses.  Learning in a new area allows your dog to “generalize” a behavior, assuring that they will respond the same way everywhere.

4.  Play tug with your dog, using a cue like “leave it” or “all done” to let your dog know when to let go.  When he does let go, resume playing again.  If your dog exhibits any true guarding behaviors (or you aren’t sure), contact a professional!

5.  Play the Name Game with your dog in the house – call his name, and if he comes to you, reward him with a high-value treat.  If he doesn’t, go somewhere else and repeat.  He will learn that responding to his name is a rewarding activity!

6.  Practice walking nicely on leash – in the house!

7.  Retrain your dog’s reaction to the doorbell or door knock – have a family member or friend help with this.  Have the other person knock or ring while you sit quietly.  Ignore the barking and don’t go near the door.  When your dog quiets to see why you aren’t getting up, say his name and toss a treat near you on the floor.  Repeat until your dog automatically looks at you and moves away from the door when the bell rings!

8.  Play Hide and Seek with your dog.  Have a family member hold him gently while you go into another room, and excitedly call his name.  When he “finds” you, reward with play and/or treats.  Make the hiding places harder as he learns the game.  A great way to continue creating a good Recall.

9.  Create a homemade puzzle for your dog.  Use a muffin tin and some tennis balls to hide treats.  Let him use his nose to move the balls and find the reward.

10.  Teach your dog Nose Work.  Use some empty small boxes to hide treats in.  Allow your dog to find the treats in multiple boxes, and then gradually work down to only one box of the group containing treats.  Then hide the box.  Use a Find It command to keep your dog looking!

11.  Play Tag with your dog in a secure area.  Run away and let him chase you.  Stop and wait for him to approach.  If he does Treat/Reward!  If not, run again, and stop in a stooped position to encourage him to come closer.

12.  Practice all of your basic training commands without words.  See how many things you can get your dog to do without saying anything (or forcing your dog into a position).

13.  Try some Clicker Training.  Mark (click and treat) your dog for the behavior you want.

14.  Teach a new, foolish trick.  Think of something silly that your dog can already do, and put it on cue. Hint – try using your clicker training for this.

15.  Shape a behavior.  Shaping refers to teaching a new behavior, one little piece at a time.  For example, if you want your dog to put their feet in a box, you begin by Marking any movement toward the box.  Then wait.  Then Mark a touch of the box and so on.   You can find examples of shaped behaviors on YouTube–

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Now that you have made a habit of training your dog every day, you will have created a better bond with your best friend.  Use your imagination at every opportunity, no matter how small, to add to your dog’s repertoire of behaviors.  You will be happier and so will he!

Cynthia Gordon CPDT-KA is a Victoria Stilwell-Approved Positively Trainer. Check out her website: Gentle Touch Dog Training. Gordon is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, APDT Professional Member, Tellington TTouch Practitioner Apprentice Examiner and member of the American Temperament Testing Society.

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