1. Listen To Your Dog
If your dog looks uncomfortable when meeting another dog/person/animal then don’t insist that they do. Get some advice/dog training and avoid a potential future problem.
2. Don’t Forget To Reward
Most people are very good at letting their dog know when they’re doing something they shouldn’t be, but not so good at praising them when they do well. Make sure you praise your dog and give affection to reward desired behaviours even if it’s a behaviour you haven’t asked for.
3. Choose Desirable Rewards
All dogs are different and will work harder for different rewards. Just because you bought treats that say on the packet “All Dogs Will LOVE These Treats”, that doesn’t mean they will. Pay attention to what your dog loves the most – treats/toys/praise etc.
4. Tell Your Dog What To Do
It’s very easy to say “No!” to an unwanted behaviour but that doesn’t really help your dog or give him enough information. Avoid confusion by asking for an alternative behaviour e.g. “Sit” when your dog jumps up to greet people and then reward the Sit.
5. Be Consistent
It’s very important to be consistent when training your dog and every family member should be involved. If one person says “Off” when your dog is on the sofa, while another says “Down” and a third is happy to let him hang out on the sofa, how will he learn?
6. Have Realistic Expectations
Changing behaviour takes time. You must have realistic expectations re changing your dog’s behaviour and how long it will take. Often the behaviour we want to change is just normal dog behaviour e.g. barking, digging, chasing or has been ‘allowed’ for a long period of time. Once you decide, after 5 years, that jumping up on visitors is inappropriate, you’ll probably have to allow longer to modify that behaviour than if it was taught as a puppy.
7. Feed A High Quality Food
Don’t be swayed by the apparent ‘good value’ of cheaper foods that give you more kg per £. These are often bulked out with cereal/grain/maize and can cause problems physically and behaviourally for your dog. Not only will your dog appreciate good quality food, you will save on vets bills as they get older!
8. Be Careful What You Reinforce
Be aware that your dog responds to your actions all day long – not just while you’re at your dog training class! If your dog brings you a toy, barks at you and you throw it for them, they’ve just learnt that barking at you gets them what they want. Now let’s say you decide to ignore that behaviour in an attempt to extinguish it, but get fed up after 5 minutes of constant barking and throw the toy. Guess what? They’ve just learnt that persistence pays off!
9. Reward Or Bribery?
Once you’ve taught a behaviour using a treat as a lure, make sure you start to reward that behaviour in other ways. Dogs will also perform behaviours in return for praise/affection/walks and games and this is valuable tool in dog training. You can still give treats but just not every time. Remember: the behaviour should produce the treat, not the other way around.
All too often, owners fall into the trap of giving their new puppy/dog too much freedom within the house and this can lead to housetraining or chewing problems. Start off with a defined area that you’ve puppy-proofed and use child gates etc to create boundaries. Another useful technique to minimise accidents is to tether your dog/puppy to you in the house and/or use a crate/playpen when you can’t supervise them.