K-9 Training – 10 Simple Tips for Success

k-9 training

Dogs have been wonderful companions to people all over the world for centuries, but despite their intelligence, adaptability and long history of bonding with humans, they don’t know how to train themselves to live harmoniously in the human world. All dogs need to receive a basic level of training, not only make their owner’s lives easier and less stressful, but to ensure their safety in all situations. K-9 training doesn’t have to be a hair-pulling challenge or the herculean feat that may people imagine it is. With correct training, it is possible to have a well-behaved and well-balanced dog, regardless of your pet’s breed and temperament. Here are a few of the best tips we’ve come across to help make dog training fun, quick, easy and most of all effective.

Tip #1: Work on Training in Short Sessions

Like children, dogs’ attention spans can be short, so it’s best to keep training sessions to a maximum of 15-20 mins each, two or three times a day. You will probably find that by training in short periods you will make progress more quickly and without having to spend frustrated hours going over and over the same thing.

Also, limiting the time you spend training will help to make the sessions more focused on what you really need to work on, and will eliminate waisting time on the less productive aspects of training. With dog training, the 80-20 rule usually applies – 20% of the time you spend training results in 80% of the progress, so naturally it makes sense to focus your time on that 20%.

Tip #2: Learn a Little Canine Psychology

We don’t mean delving into college-level textbooks and learning about canine neurotransmitters – just a basic understanding of how dogs process information can make a huge difference in the results you see from your training. Many dog owners try to treat their pets like little furry humans, usually with less-than-incredible results. The best way to train is to be compassionate to your pet’s needs is to communicate with your dog in a way that he can understand.

Dogs learn primarily by association and from repeated experiences and behaviors. If you want to teach your dog to come to you on command, you can do so by giving him a reward each time he comes when you give the command, whether that’s praise, a toy or a dog training treat. He learns to associate the action of coming to you when you give the command with the reward he receives. By repeating this in a consistent manner, he will eventually automatically come when you give the command whether he receives the reward or not.

Consistency is the key to successful training. Probably the number one challenge most people have when trying to teach their pet is a lack of consistency with their commands. For example, if you are trying to teach your dog to come on command, you need to be completely consistent and use exactly the same word and tone of voice each time, and then not use that word in other contexts with your dog. Using the same word for different purposes will confuse a dog, who, unlike a person, won’t be able to understand that the same word can be used in multiple ways.

my pet dogs waiting for my command

Tip #3: Start Training Your Dog as a Puppy

Although this may simply not be possible if you have an older dog, the best time to begin to teach a dog is around 12 weeks old. Puppy training should be very simple and basic, and involve little more than house training, an introduction to crate training, and a few basic commands such as sit and down. Puppies won’t have the attention span or the cognitive development to do more than this. As a puppy gets older you can progress on to more advanced training.

Also, it’s essential that puppies are adequately socialized and put in a variety of new situations and places and meet as many different people and other animals as possible. This will help to prevent behavior problems in later life.

Tip #4: Find Your Dog’s Favorite Reward

Most dogs will love one reward more than others. By finding out which your dog prefers, you can use that as your go-to method of praising him for excelling in training. Most dogs will love a certain kind of food or have a favorite toy that will work very well as a training reward.

Dog training treats can be one of the most effective rewards for many dogs and will almost certainly make training much more fun for your dog (the smell of a delicious treat will make most dogs love their training). The reward is not used as a bribe, but rather can be thought of as “payment for a job well done”.

using dog training treats

Tip #5: Watch and Learn from the Masters

german shepherd trainingBy masters we mean top dog trainers. As the old saying goes, the only thing you can get two dog trainers to agree on is that the third one’s methods are wrong… There are many different schools of dog training, some of which are decades old and others have only come about in recent years.

There are too many great dog training books, DVDs and other materials out there too ever possibly list them all, but some of the best dog training books on the market today can be found by searching on Amazon.com or by looking for YouTube videos for training tips and hints.

One good way to ensure that you are getting good advice is to look for books and videos created for the specific breed of dog you have (if you have a mixed breed dog you can look at materials for all your pet’s different breeds). This way you can find out more about the individual characteristics of certain breeds and how to make your training a success with them.

Tip #6: Make Training “Fun Time” for Your Dog

We believe that training should be fun for you and your dog. Like people, dogs much prefer to have fun than to do work, and there’s no need to make training a chore if it doesn’t have to be. By focusing on using positive reinforcement as a training method and keeping your pet engaged and excited about learning, you can make the whole process fun for you both.

Dogs can respond and react very strongly to their owner’s level of energy and emotions, so the best way to keep training fun is by being an example for your dog by keeping your energy level up and engaging with your dog in an upbeat and encouraging manner.

Tip #7: Always Play with Your Dog After Training

Rewarding your dog after doing any training by letting him play with his favorite toy or go outside can help to make your pet even more excited about training. Also, make sure you are actively engaged with your dog in playing. This can further strengthen the bond between you both and your pet will quickly learn to love working on training if it always ends with fun.

Tip #8: Work with a Group of Other Dog Owners

If you love to work with others and enjoy the company of other dog owners, then a group dog training class could be the ideal way to progress with your k-9 training. Most dog training businesses will offer weekly group sessions for puppies or adult dogs, which are usually arranged by size of dog to ensure that your pet is working with other similar sized dogs.

dog boot camp

A beginners group training course is one of the best ways to begin to train and socialize a puppy. Other courses for older dogs get more advanced and can involve working on off-leash commands, extended sits and stays, hand commands and resolving common behavior problems. You’ll also be able to meet other dog owners (and their dogs) and this can be a great way to discuss problems you may be having during training with each other. You may find that all those challenges you thought only you were having are actually quite common!

Tip #9: Get Private Instruction

sheltie trainingOne-on-one private lessons are also one of the best ways of quickly working on certain aspects of training and resolving behavior problems. Check your area for qualified and experience dog trainers that offer private lessons, which are usually available at their training facility or in your home. Another benefit of private instruction is that lessons can be arranged to fit around your schedule.

Private lessons can help you with everything from the basics of house training, crate training and basic commands to more complex and difficult challenges. If your dog is very fearful, has developed separation anxiety, or shows signs of aggression, definitely the best course of action is go to a professional trainer to help you resolve these problems.

Also, by working one-on-one with a trainer, you can discuss your needs in-depth and the trainer can create a customized plan and provide the right solutions for you, your family’s and your pet’s needs in the long term.

Tip #10: Try a Dog Boot Camp (AKA “Board and Train”)

If you really want to see Fido make progress in training, by far the best and easiest option is to send your furry friend away to a so-called “dog boot camp” (by the way, have you ever actually met anyone with dog called Fido?). While the phrase “boot camp” may conjure up images of new recruits in the army doing pushups in a field at 6:30 in the morning and running through a muddy obstacle course, a dog boot camp is very different from that and is definitely one of the best ways to expedite the training process.

These all-inclusive dog boarding programs can be expensive, but are usually more than worth the cost. They vary in length from a couple of days to several weeks, and they also vary in what they cover. Beginner courses will cover basic obedience training, how to walk correctly on a leash, politely accepting food and water, and how to behave around other dogs and people. Advanced courses can work on resolving behavior problems such as fear and aggression, cover advanced off-leash commands, training with distractions and external noise, and polite behavior in different simulated situations.

The main benefit of a dog boot camp is that your pet will be spending all of their day training, exercising and playing with other dogs while under the supervision of trained staff. A dog boot camp will save you a considerable amount of time and energy in trying to do all that training by yourself. You can send your pet to a dog training camp while you are going on vacation, saving you money on dog kennels and other boarding costs.

Most dog owners see significant progress in their pets within a relatively short period of time when they send them to a good canine boot camp.

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