K9 Training – Everything You Need to Know

k9 training

Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, it’s essential to put your pet through basic obedience school and to choose the training style that best fits you and your dog’s personality. Two of the leading methods of dog training are positive reinforcement and clicker training. No matter what age your dog is, it’s never to late to start a good training program and get the well-behaved furry friend you’ve been dreaming of!

Obedience Training

Obedience training is a fairly general term and refers to the level of training your dog has received, encompassing basic manners and commands and more advanced topics such as dog agility sports. A dog must its owner’s commands reliably and be well-behaved both in private and in public to be considered obedient and well-trained.

As you will be spending the most time with your pet, you probably want to be an active participant in your dog’s training. A well-trained dog is a joy to be with, and your relationship with your pet and the level of mutual trust between you will be enhanced by undergoing a good dog training program.

The amount and quality of training your dog has received will play a huge role in deciding the qualify of and how easy it is to get along with your pet. Having a well-trained and well-adjusted dog will not only make your life easier and less stressful but will help your pet live a much happier and more fulfilling life.

Most dog behavior problems are the result of a lack of communication and understanding between the human and the canine, or, in other words, a lack of training for both the dog and the person. Dogs need leadership from their humans, in addition to a healthy diet, love and affection, a structured household and socialization with other dogs.

Ttraining-labradorshe relationship between human and dog should be based on mutual respect and trust, and the most effective way to train a dog is by using appropriate motivations and rewards. A complete course in dog obedience will lay the foundation for a great human-canine relationship as well as prevent behavioral problems before they ever arise.

A dog obedience program should teach your dog basic manners, all the standard obedience commands and how to walk properly when on a leash.

Usually, basic obedience training involves:

  • How to walk politely on a leash with an automatic sit when stopping
  • Sit (for an extended period of time)
  • Down (for an extended period of time)
  • Place (for an extended period of time)
  • Politely waiting for food
  • Thresholds and boundaries at home and outdoors
  • Entering and exiting crates and kennels
  • Entering and exiting vehicles safely

The basic obedience commands are: “heel”, “sit”, “stay”, “down”, and also silent hand signals. Obedience training should also teach your dog to consistently respond immediately to the command “no”, and that when you say “no” he or she is expected to stop doing whatever he/she is doing right away.

To complete basic obedience school, you will need to get a sturdy but comfortable collar for your dog, a leash, some dog training treats and a few toys (preferably toys that your dog loves to play with).

From there, you and your pet can move on to more advanced training and commands, including: “sit & down-stay” from a distance while on leash, “come” with an automatic sit, and “sit” from down. Each command can also be taught with a silent hand signal that is as effective as the corresponding verbal command.

Obedience training can also involve teaching your dog ignore distractions when out in public and on a leash and to perform all commands from a distance without a leash. If your dog excels at training, you may decide to take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test and get official recognition for you and your pet’s hard work and practice.

Some dog breeds due their natural traits and temperaments are easier to train than others. For example, breeds such as border collies and jack russell terriers are much easier to train (if done correctly) than great danes or akitas. You should choose accordingly if you are thinking of getting a new dog.


Basic Manners

All dogs need to be well behaved at home and when out in the big wide world. Ever dog needs to be properly socialized and be able to walk calmly on a leash, know basic commands including sit, stay and heel, and be fully house-trained. Nearly all behavior problems such as chewing and barking can be resolved by the correct training, and this is all part of raising and keep a healthy well-mannered pet.


Teaching Your Dog the Basic Commands

It’s essential that your dog knows these basic commands, which can help with later help with keeping your dog safe and under control in public and resolving behavior problems.

Training your dog can be (and should be) fun! Just remember to relax and your dog will mirror your energy and you can both enjoy the process of raising a healthy and well-trained pet.

The most essential K9 training commands are:

  • Sit – Every dog needs to know how to sit on command. Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest commands to teach and usually the first command a puppy will be taught.
  • Stay – The stay command should be taught after your dog knows how to sit. This command is an exercise in discipline for a dog, and some dogs find it easier to master than others. It can make your life much easier by keeping your pet patiently waiting for you to finish a task or prepare food, as well as keep your best friend safe if there is traffic or other dangers nearby.
  • Come – Another essential command, come can also help keep your dog out of harms way by having your dog automatically come to wherever you are when not on a leash.
  • Down – Some more assertive dogs find this command a challenge to learn, but it can be a great way to promote a sense of trust between you and your pet.
  • Stop or Leave It – This command is crucial for feeding time to ensure that you are in control of when the dog can and can’t eat, and make your pet patiently wait for meals (making it a much more relaxed and less stressful time). It can also protect your dog from trying to sniff or chew on something dangerous or drink dirty water from puddles or fountains.

Teaching a dog these commands can take time and patience, and it’s wise to continue to practice them at different times of the day in different locations so they are fully engrained into your dog.

In order for a dog to live a well-balanced life, a responsible owner will need to do more than just teach basic commands. Having your dog know these commands is just a part of the entire range of skills and tools dog owners have to make their pets’ lives as fulfilling as possible.


Resolving Dog Behavior Problems

Behavior problems can range from simply over-reacting when greeting people and other dogs to severe aggression and biting; other dogs are highly sensitive and reactive to unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents, or highly fearful of normal everyday events. Most behavior problems in dogs are the result of mixed signals given by owners, and most can be corrected through dog obedience training and clear and consistent communication between human and canine.

Behavior problems are not usually easy for pet owners to fix themselves. Instead, it’s recommended that you seek the services of a qualified and experienced dog trainer close to where you live. A good trainer will be able to assess your pet’s needs and create a training program to resolve them, whether that is through private lessons, a boarding program or with a group of other dogs owners in weekly sessions. A good dog trainer will put your pet through different scenarios and situations to resolve challenges and also teach you tools and the correct mindset to effectively prevent any future problems before the escalate.


Also, many behavior problems can happen because of health and genetic problems resulting from bad breeding. For this reason, it’s wise to only get a new puppy from highly experienced and reputable breeders where you can see the dog’s parents and their health records. Also, if you intend to adopt a dog, you should try to learn as much as possible about the animal’s current state of health and previous owners (which sometimes isn’t possible when dogs are rescued from difficult households by animal shelters).


Grooming and Bathing

Different breeds of dogs require different kinds of grooming (for example, some breeds with double coat will need a regular full brushing to prevent matting). Your dog will also need nail trimming and regular ear and teeth cleaning, and bathing, which is also an necessary part of the grooming process.

You should consult with a good book written about your dog’s breed to determine how frequently your pet will need to be groomed and bathed. It’s generally recommended that you find a friendly and reliable professional dog grooming service to save yourself the time and energy necessary to properly care for your beloved pet.

Your pet may need to be trained to courteously handle grooming and bathing, which should be a easy and stress-free time without your dog trying to escape or showing signs of aggression. Your pet should be comfortable being handled by your or by someone else. If grooming is a problem, then you should seek a trainer to help you to resolve these issues before they become more serious.


How to Train a Puppy

how-to-train-a-puppyPuppies grow quickly, and puppyhood is the essential time to teach your dog crate training, the feeding schedule, how to properly play with toys, and to stop play biting. Most puppies are only sold to owners at the age of 10 weeks or older.

Puppies are very social in nature and will need to be correctly socialized with people and other dogs. Puppies that are socialized with humans from a very early age are more likely to develop better manners when interacting with humans and less likely to develop behavior problems in later life. Puppies that haven’t interacted with many different people and other dogs during their first eight to twelve weeks may later become fearful of humans or other animals.

By training a puppy correctly from the very beginning using a reward-based method, you can avoid potential behavior problems that may start to crop up. You should spend a great deal of time with a new puppy to direct his or her behavior and teach the basic commands of “sit”, “stay”, “down” and “off”. You can also help your puppy to become confident while in new situations and when meeting new people.


House-Training and Crate Training

Housebreaking or puppy potty training is teaching your new pet to only urinate and defecate outside or on an absorbent puppy pad. Housebreaking a puppy can be a stressful and time-consuming task. It requires you to show consistency and patience. All dogs can be house-trained if you begin at an early age.

Crate training is a process of teaching your new puppy to regard his or her crate as a safe “den” and a place to relax and sleep. This is crucial because when you need to have your dog travel in a car or on an airplane, a crate is the best way to ensure your dog’s safety. The generally held belief is that dogs are den animals by nature and that they can come to consider their crate in a human household as their own den.

Most puppies can quickly learn to accept being in their crate. It’s best to start by feeding your puppy inside his or her crate while leaving the door open, and then later closing the door for short periods of time and gradually increasing the length of time the door is closed. This will allow your pet to become familiar and comfortable with being in a crate while not being under any stress. Your dog should come to view the crate as a place of safely and comfort.


Crate training can be one of the best ways to house train new puppies. Dogs instinctively don’t want to eliminate where they sleep, so they will try and hold it in while they are inside their crate. Puppies can hold their bladders for only a short period of time, so you will have to take your puppy outside frequently.

If you dog barks or whines while inside a crate, this will create a negative association with being inside the create. The best way to avoid this is slowly introduce your pet to the crate and reward him/her for entering and remaining inside for brief periods of time. Also, make sure the crate has a comfortable soft floor, water and your puppy’s favorite toys inside.

Also, make sure you purchase a crate that isn’t too small or too large for your puppy’s breed. Many crates come with a divider to make the interior smaller. A good rule of thumb to judge whether a crate is the right size is there should be enough room for you dog to stand up without his/her head touching the top and enough room to lie down without his/her paws reaching the edges. Crates come in a variety of sizes and styles, and more robust crates should be used for traveling than for at home training.


Puppy Training Classes

Most dog coaching schools will have weekly class dedicated to training new puppies. These classes usually involve:

  • Crate training your puppy
  • How to arrange a food and water schedule
  • How to exercise your puppy
  • Cleaning up after your pet
  • How to correct play biting
  • Choosing the best toys
  • Socializing with people and other animals

These are the basic puppy training requirements necessary to make life with your new pet the best it can be, but you may need to attend additional sessions to work on any other challenges you face.


Testing Your Puppy’s Temperament

You can “test” your puppy to get a glimpse of what kind of personality he or she will have as an adult dog. By closely observing your puppy’s:

  • Reaction to being approached by different people and other animals
  • Sensitivity to different sounds and sights
  • Sensitivity to being touched
  • Ability to learn basic commands

You can get an idea of what your puppy will be like as an adult dog. The best way to ensure that your puppy becomes a well-balanced and happy dog is to start training from the earliest age possible and to work with an experienced trainer to help guide you and resolve any problems that may arise.



It’s crucial that your puppy be adequately socialized when you first get him or her. Most dog researchers recommend that puppies only be taken from their mothers at 10-12 weeks old, and this is when they should be exposed to new and unfamiliar places and situations. Puppies will need to be exposed to many different people, sounds, sights and smells, as well as interacting with other dogs of different ages and other animals (especially if you have other pets in your house). Dogs who were properly socialized in puppyhood are much less likely to develop aggressive or fearful behavior when older.


puppy-playingExercise and Play

In addition to training, all dogs need plenty of exercise and time to play, both indoors and outdoors. Some breeds are much more energetic and require a lot more than others, but daily walks and time to run and play are necessary for all dogs. Also, you can give your dog a mental workout by creating or buying dog puzzles and hide and seek games, which can help to make your pet more intelligent and observant.


Establishing and Maintaining Leadership

Dog owners need to be provided with the knowledge and necessary skills to make for a harmonious human/pet relationship, and need to understand that their pets need compassionate, understanding and consistent leadership from all members of the family, including children. Establishing leadership when your pet is a puppy lays the foundation for a stress-free and peaceful life with your pet.


Finding and Working with a Dog Trainer

It’s a good idea to look for a K9 training business that’s owned and operated by highly qualified, licensed, insured and experienced experts in canine behavior and instruction. Make sure that the staff of the company have completed some kind of education and schooling in dog handling and care. Many dog training companies will also offer other products and services such as kennels and dog boarding, play parks, and doggy daycare at a discounted rate if you have had your dog trained at their business. Many also offer in-home sessions if you prefer to train at home.


All things considered, it’s better to work with a company you know and trust, and has your pet’s best interest at heart and produces visible improvements in your dog’s behavior. You can search for reviews online and ask other dog owners for recommendations for the best provider of k9 training and behavior modification services in your area.

Make sure your you and your dog attend all dog training classes and practice what you’ve learnt at home – both you and your dog will love spending time together learning and you can impress your friends and family with all the tricks your dog has learnt!

dog-training-classesIf you are looking into private one-on-one training, the trainer will be able to evaluate your dog’s personality and the kind of relationship you have with him or her. Every dog is unique and has an individual personalty, so it’s necessary for a trainer to judge what exactly what training your pet can benefit from. It’s best to meet a potential trainer in person before deciding whether or not to pay for a training program.

You will usually have the option of enrolling your dog in a group training program (which is ideal for puppies and very young dogs) or taking private instruction with a customized regime. Depending on your dogs current level of progress, either or both may be a good option. With young dogs, a series of group sessions is probably the best way to quickly get your dog to a basic level of training, to meet other dog lovers and for your to meet other dogs.


What to Look For in a Dog Trainer

The bond between man and dog is stronger than that of any other two species, and the perfect pup you may have been dreaming about isn’t just a dream, it can be achieved with the help of an experienced and qualified professional canine trainer. To drastically improve the relationship you have with your dog (or to create an amazing right from the beginning), the best course of action is to look for a great dog trainer in your area.

professional-dog-trainerA great dog trainer will know and understand the importance of establishing a unique training program that brings real results quickly, and allows every dog to fulfill his or her potential by becoming the beloved family pet they deserve to be, living in peace and harmony with their human family (yes, that does mean they don’t eat the sofa or chase the cat…).

Good trainers won’t just focus on teaching your pet basic commands, but will provide guidance and support in your dog’s development, be able to answer your questions and be a go-to resource for you to help with any challenges you may face in the future.

Every pet owner wants a loving pet with a calm and relaxed demeanor who lives in harmony with all of your family (and other pets if applicable). Dogs need and want a human to be their firm but fair leader and guide, and most top dog trainers agree that dogs want to love and be loved by their humans.

Some trainers specialize in only training certain breeds, while others will turn away “difficult to train” breeds. Some will accept any breed or size of dog, including dogs with a history of aggression or biting. Some of the top training schools in the country have successfully trained and rehabilitated very aggressive and violent dogs. As with all products and services these days, you can search online to find the most accredited and suitable training school and trainers for your needs.


Dog Boarding and Boot Camp Training Programs

dog-training-campSome dog training businesses offer both boarding programs and boot camps for dogs where they will work with a group of full-time trainers for the duration of their stay. These courses can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks. When dogs in these programs are not directly working with an instructor, they are playing with dogs of other breeds and ages, which helps them to learn to socialize with many different kinds of dogs. Some dog boot camps have facilities to allow owners to see live video feeds of their pets online, giving you absolute peace of mind that your pet is in the best care.

Many people worry that their dogs will miss them or be angry at them when the boarding program is over, but most training camps keep the dogs so busy with schooling and having fun that they don’t have time to miss their families at home!

Putting your pet through dog boarding usually gets the best training results in the shortest period of time. These courses are an intense but fun way for your dog to go through basic training. By being with qualified professionals 24/7 at a dedicated training center, your pet will learn a lot in a short period of time. These courses can cost roughly between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the length and the quality of the instructors and the facilities.

Some boarding programs cover just basic obedience training, but others go more in depth into resolving behavioral problems and teach more advanced commands. More advanced boarding programs are often offered to cure dog aggression, separation anxiety and cure biting, growling or highly fearful behavior.


Positive Reinforcement Training

The methodology know as positive reinforcement training (also called simply positive training) is a training process that involves rewarding your dog for performing the behavior you desire. When your dog performs the behavior you want, you show that that behavior is what you want by rewarding your dog with praise, a toy or a treat (the best reward is whatever your dog enjoys – some dogs prefer food, some prefer a specific toy). By repeating this process your dog learns what is and isn’t desirable behavior. This can be used to teach your dog everything from basic housebreaking to performing complex tricks.

Positive training is a very effective and fun way to train your furry companion. Based on the scientific learning theory, positive reinforcement training is supported by countless studies and is praised by dog trainers the world over.


Clicker Training

Cclicker-traininglicker training is a very popular method which can be used with dogs of all ages and breeds. This method uses positive reinforcement with a reward (praise, a favorite toy or a training treat) and a clicker (a small handheld device that makes a click when pressed). The clicker is used when the dog performs the desired behavior and helps the animal to easily identify the action that resulted in the reward. Many professional dog trainers use this method to successfully train their client’s pets.

First, your dog learns to associate the clicking sound with receiving a reward (usually a treat). The clicker is then be used while your dog performs the desired behavior. The animal learns to associate that action with receiving the reward and repeats the behavior each time you give the cue (a voice command or hand signal).


The Kochler Training Method

The Kochler Training Method, based on the book The Kochler Method of Dog Training written more than 50 years ago, is based on the belief that every dog chooses its own actions based on previous experiences. When a dog performs an action with the expectation of receiving a reward, he or she will more readily repeat that behavior than any other. Conversely, when a dog believes that punishment will follow an action, he or she will not repeat that action. In other words, an animal learns that its choices result in either a reward or a punishment, and to chooses accordingly. These days, the punishments recommended in this book are generally considered unnecessary or inhumane.


Traditional Dominance-Based Training

This school of K9 training is based on studies of wolf packs and wild dogs. This method considers the relationship between human and dog to be a mirror of the alpha male dominance over a pack, and usually states that the human must be the pack leader or the alpha male while all the dogs in the household must be submissive pack members. This theory also claims that most dogs are constantly trying to become the pack leaders themselves and testing humans for signs of weakness. However, more recent studies have shown that wolf packs are more complicated and diverse than previously though, and in some cases wolf packs have both a male and female as pack leaders.

This method of training can sometimes result in dogs becoming increasingly fearful, anxious or aggressive, as it often involves the use of force while trying to establish dominance over the animal. Some dogs may also respond to a perceived threat by biting or growling.

Also, this theory can be unhelpful in trying to correct behavior problems or when trying to strengthen a bond with a dog, and is often difficult for children or elder dog owners to consistently use.


Agility Training

Dog agility is a popular sport where a handler directs the canine on a timed run through an obstacle course. Teaching your dog to do an agility routine can be a highly rewarding activity for you and your pet, as well as great exercise for you both. It can build confidence in a dog and is one of the best ways to give your companion a great physical and mental workout.


An agility routine, unlike just going for a walk or run, will give your dog some mental stimulation to make him or her much more calm and relaxed (i.e. tired) at home. It’s one of the best combinations of physical exercise and mental activity for dogs; dog agility increases a dog’s coordination and stamina, and is also a fun way to challenge your dog with something new and different (and possibly win a few prizes along the way).

A beginner agility course will introduce your dog to all the agility equipment and obstacles (tunnels, the dog walk, the a-frame, the jumps and the teeter) and help your dog gain a greater self-awareness and self-control. It’s a great way to release your pet’s pent-up energy and give him or her some new mental challenges. Intermediate-level agility courses will show your dog how to navigate the obstacles and how to perform a short sequence (at a slow speed). Here, the emphasis is on teaching your dog the correct technique needed to master the course at higher speeds later on. Advanced agility courses will teach you and your canine how to accurately run through full sequences at high speeds and run through more difficult obstacles such as high jumps, though weaving poles and how to turn at sharp angles.


“High Caliber” and “Difficult to Train” Breeds

Some dog breeds are much harder to train than others (these are often called “high caliber breeds” or “bully breeds”). German shepherds, pit bulls, bull dogs, rottweilers and dobermans are often considered “high caliber breeds”. These dogs usually have a much higher prey drive and intelligence than most pets.

Standard food reward and positive reinforcement training sometimes ins’t very effective for these breeds, and they generally require much more work and stimulation, a stronger owner and a trainer who is used to handling these kinds of dogs.

These breeds of dogs will usually require a much more advanced and specialized instruction program and most pets. Many trainers will turn down these working with these breeds as being “too difficult”, so you may have to search for a training school that specializes in working with these kinds of dogs. This will likely be more expensive that a standard dog obedience program.


Police, Military and Protection Dog Training

Training police and military dogs is much more complex and in-depth than working with pet dogs and should be done only by professionals who are experienced at handling working dogs. Police and military k9s are trained for tracking, explosives detection, narcotics detection, human remains detection and trailing. The training courses for these dogs is usually done before their handlers ever get to work with them.

Police and military dogs are expected to perform their jobs well and reliably in a variety of situations and in various conditions. They are required to do such tasks as: find a person through scent, protect their handlers, find hidden objects in a small area, remain calm when under fire, and search for explosives or drugs.


A police officer or soldier should be fully trained in handling the dog and able to keep the animal under control at all times. Training police and military dogs involves both training the animal and training the handler. Law enforcement and military personnel usually undergo instructional programs at dedicated facilities or in large rural or urban spaces where they learn how to handle these working animals. They are trained to handle the different situations that they may encounter during their work.

Military and police k9s undergo a complete obedience course (these dogs should respond to any command that is given by their handler), and their handlers receive instruction in how to care for, feed and groom these working canines, how to use the equipment necessary for them to do their job, and how perform first aid on them in an emergency.

A K9 handler should be familiar and comfortable with the dog he or she works with, and the animal should be able to perform its job under all conditions in all situations. Problems can occur if the handler isn’t correctly and properly trained to work with these animals, or if the handler lacks the right skills to handle these dogs. If both the dog and the handler are not fully trained and prepared, the animal may not be able to perform its job well when required to.

You should check the references and qualifications of any trainer before working with him or her. Many people become enticed by the idea of owning a highly-trained police dog as a pet, but these animals require specialized and professional handling. Make sure that your police or military dog trainer has strong credentials and a track record of training and working with police dogs and their handlers, and is able to provide proof of being fully licensed, bonded, and insured upon request.


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