By teaching your dog the seven basic commands, you're setting them on the path of an easier, less stressful life.
Start your dog young
Teaching your dog can be a fun and rewarding experience. Dogs are fast learners who rely on you for their training, which also helps nurture your relationship. Together, the basic commands – "Come", "Sit", "Stay", "No", "Down", "Leave it", and "Off" – will shape a good canine citizen. Reliably trained dogs have an easier and less stressful life than their untrained counterparts and are less likely to stray.
Young puppies make eager pupils, so as soon as your new arrival comes home, it's time to start training. It's a myth that puppies must be six months or older before they can be properly trained because the younger they are, the easier it is to teach them, and the faster they learn! Puppies are like sponges, waiting to soak up all the learning you can throw at them.
Here you'll find some advice on the basics. For more detailed or advanced training advice, try contacting a professional trainer, invest in a training DVD, or read one of the many good books available on the subject.
Clicker-training your dog
A clicker is a small plastic box (available from pet stores) that fits in the palm of your hand. Press one end with your thumb, and it makes a distinct double 'click' noise.
The basics of clicker training are outlined below.
- To tune your dog or puppy into the clicker, arm yourself with a dozen treats.
- Hand them to your pet one by one, with a short pause between each one.
- At the exact moment he or she takes the treat, give a click.
- Your dog will soon realize that the click means a treat and will begin to work hard to earn his click. It becomes a 'yes' marker – a way of telling your dog he or she has done well at the moment of action.
- Many training classes use the clicker. But the exercises below can be done with or without a clicker.
- Keep training sessions short and sweet. It's better to do six five-minute sessions than one half-hour stint each day – young puppies often lose concentration easily.
- Only train when you are in a good mood, or you may take your stress out on your pet.
- Always end training sessions on a positive note with an exercise you know your dog can do easily, so you finish with the taste of success.
- At first, train with no distractions. Establish what you are trying to teach in a quiet environment and only add distractions later, so that your dog learns to respond in a range of environments.
- Training must always be reward-based – treats, toys, games, and cuddles. Negative, compulsive, punishing techniques are cruel and don't work. Never use a choke or check chain as you can injure your dog's neck very easily. If you need more physical control, fit a head collar.
- Training your dog is an excellent way for you to bond with him and ensure a strong and healthy relationship.