Why Train Your Dog?

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Training your dog to respond to cues establishes a common language that will help you communicate with your dog. Having a common language will make it easier for you both to bond.

How else can training help my dog?

  • Dog training burns a lot of your dog's mental energy, helping to keep them calm.
  • Your dog may be less timid and less rambunctious if they understand what's expected from them.
  • Unwanted behaviors can be replaced with incompatible learned behaviors. For example, your dog can't jump to greet you and sit at the same time. Concentrate your training on teaching your dog to sit instead of continuously telling them to get off when they jump on you. Remember, "no jumping" is not a behavior, but sitting is easy for dogs to understand.
  • A dog that knows verbal cues and is obedient has a more enriched life because they can go more places and do more fun things.

Where should I start training my dog?

Start training in a quiet environment like your home. When your dog is proficient at responding to cues in your home, extend your training outdoors and in a variety of environments with more distractions. Listen to your dog! If your dog has a hard time concentrating in the new environment, lower your criteria and build up the behavior.

For example, your dog might sit and stay in the house for a full minute, but outside you might have to start with 10 second stays.

What methods should I use to train my dog?

Use humane, reward-based training which helps to strengthen and not harm your relationship with your dog. Punishment is not advised. Think from the dog's perspective: it's hard to retain new information under a lot of pressure. Stay away from using collars that you wouldn't want try on yourself: pinch collars, choke collars, and electric shock collars are intimidating and hurtful. Your dog may learn to fear you when these devices are used.

What is dominance?

Most people think they need to be dominant over their pet to get them to mind. But this only causes fear in your pet. Think of a bully at school or work. Dogs may show aggression when a valued resource (food, resting spot or a mate) is in jeopardy of being lost. This is when most common occurrences of dominate behavior in all animals occur. But it doesn't necessarily mean your dog is trying to be dominant over you. More information about dominance theory

What is positive reinforcement?

  • You work for a paycheck and for the satisfaction that you make a difference in the world. This is called reinforcement. Dogs will also work for whatever they want in the moment. For example, if your dog wants to go out, you might ask them to sit to put their leash on and at the door. When you open the door, you've rewarded their sit at the door by letting them out.
  • Training with positive reinforcement means that when your dog responds to a cue with a wanted behavior, they'll be rewarded with something they want. The reward will make the behavior increase.
  • To make it clear for your dog what behavior is being rewarded, mark the behavior when it happens. Say, "yes," "good dog," or use a clicker, followed by the reward.
  • The reward can be a yummy treat, a toy, or access to something your dog wants. What cues should my dog know?
  • Eye contact
  • Your dog should know their name
  • Recall, or "come"
  • Impulse control cues, such as "leave it" and "drop it"
  • Static behaviors, such as "sit" and "down"
  • How to walk on a loose leash

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