6 Tips for Training Your Dog | Humane Rescue Alliance
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6 Tips for Training Your Dog

Training your dog can be incredibly rewarding. It can help give you and your dog a better relationship, and it can also help with behavioral issues your dog may have. Our 6 tips will help you to get a better behaved pet.

1. Figure Out What Your Dog Can Do Today.
The way to master a skill is to build on success, so you must ask yourself what can my dog actually do on the first try? Every dog is different, and the same dog may be able to do more or less depending on the day – just like us! If you get it right when it’s easy, you can then make it harder. Think of differing levels of difficulty: what’s easy, medium, or hard for your dog, and then start at the level he can do today. With practice, your dog will be able to start at medium and then hard, but don’t worry if you need to make things easier.

2. Become a Consequence Machine.
There is a saying in dog training, “Novice trainers focus on cues; seasoned trainers focus on consequences.” So avoid saying “sit” multiple times or in an intimidating voice. To be a good trainer, the consequence, whether it be good or bad, must happen within 3 seconds of the behavior. That means late consequences are useless and can even damage your training efforts, as you seem unpredictable to the dog, and she may associate the consequence with the random behavior she is doing at the time. The most effective consequences are treats, praise, toys, access to wanted things, and time-outs for behavior you don’t want. Avoid consequences that will damage your dog's trust in you or make them anxious in general – there are easier, more effective, and humane ways to train!

3. Training is About Repetition, Not Enlightenment.
Most animals improve by repetition rather than leaping to an insight. This means the way they learn is akin to practicing an instrument or sport rather than studying for an exam or solving a math problem. They don’t just “know it”. If we understand this, we know that we’re working to develop muscle memory and a volume of successful repetitions that will inform future choices. To illustrate the difference between pros and novices, a study was done to see what differences there were between novice (usually owners) and professional trainers. They found that the differences were stark: Owners gave few treats for the right behavior and did approximately 3 repetitions and then often stopped training for the rest of the 5-minute period, while professional trainers were far more generous and trained much longer. They even had ringer dogs who were extremely well-trained, and those dogs showed drastic differences in performance between the two groups. It doesn’t take much to get far better results!

4. Warming-Up is Part of Learning.
Warming up is a key component of learning for dogs. Over time your dog will need less and less warm-up, but warm-up is part of the learning process. Don’t be discouraged if you need to repeat a behavior multiple times. You can gradually increase the amount of time between repetitions. This is the often-neglected secret to getting your dog to do it cold!

5. Let Your Dog Have a Nap Between Training Sessions.
For both people and animals, sleep helps to consolidate memory. By letting your dog have at least one nap, he’ll automatically get better. This is an easy trick for success.

6. To Get Behaviors in Real-Life Situations, You Need a Solid Foundation.
Add realism later in the game; don't assume your dog can do it outside in a crowd or at the door when the mailman comes because she is able to sit inside after you have asked her a few times. When you’re first training a new behavior, succeed first around basic distractions, such as both stationary and moving food and toys, and in multiple locations with ambient distractions. Not skimping on foundations will give you a huge advantage when training around more complex real-world distractions.