How to train your dog to behave well

How to help your hound behave well

As dog owners, we have a responsibility to teach our pets how to behave well at home, around people and when coming into contact with other animals – the sooner we begin to train them the better.

Training your companion can be fun for you and them, and a well-trained dog who knows how to please their owner is a happier one.

Here’s what you need to know to help your four-legged friend be their best self.

Pet potty training

When bringing your new dog home, avoiding messy accidents is a top priority so you’ll want to start toilet training immediately. In all instances, try to be patient and avoid shaming your pet or getting too cross with them over toilet mishaps, which could result in them being scared to go in front of you.  

Most dog owners want their pet to go to the bathroom outside, so it’s usually best to skip any indoor training devices and begin training outdoors right away.

Take your dog outside often – don’t wait for them to indicate their need to go. Puppies will struggle to hold their business, so taking them out every 1.5 hours is ideal, plus immediately upon them waking up, shortly after eating or drinking, and at times when they might get over excited (at play or when receiving visitors).

When doing their business outside, it’s important to remain close by and praise them when they’ve finished – reinforcing their good behavior.

You may find that toilet training an adult dog who has developed bad habits is a longer process than a puppy, and training dogs in general can take longer than other animals. In all cases, consistency is key to making it as quick and painless as possible.

Modifying bad behaviour

The level to which you train your furry friend is entirely up to you. For instance, if you want your dog to fetch your slippers (or join in with the conga line at your next party), your programme could be pretty extensive. Dogs can be trained to do many things, whilst other animals are less responsive to being taught commands and tricks. As a minimum, there are some natural yet unpleasant tendencies that you’ll want to correct.

Chewing

From their rubber bone (to your not-so-rubber work shoes), dogs are born chewers. In the short term, it’s a good idea to puppy-proof your house, covering cables and wires for safety and removing footwear or children’s toys when your pet is unsupervised. Chewing aids will help, and be sure to praise when they use their own toys, but talk firmly if they damage your favourite pair of boots.

Noisiness

Whilst we don’t expect our pets to be quiet all the time, barking throughout the day and night, and for no good reason, is less than ideal. When our dogs make a racket, we’ll often give them exactly what they want: attention. Break the habit by ignoring the noise and refusing to engage with them at all until they hush up. Then, once they’ve gone quiet, praise them – it’s all about reinforcing positive behaviour.

Begging

As much as having a four-legged hoover is handy to have around, begging at the dinner table (or during any mealtime) is a habit dogs should drop. Not only does feeding them human food send the wrong message – often compromising their health and nutrition – but it can also prove disruptive to family life. When sitting down to eat, try occupying your dog with their own fun activity or – even better – a food-based puzzle to keep him occupied.

Digging

Whether in the garden or at the park, a dog’s instinct to dig can sometimes be to the detriment of your flower beds (or worse, a public place) if not put right. Rather than discipline your dog for digging in the first place, give them a place they can dig in your back yard, such as a sandpit, and reward them when doing so. A walk through woodland or taking the public footpath means they can let off steam and dig to their heart’s content.

Teaching dog obedience

Teaching your puppy to obey you will make the time you spend together more enjoyable, and help keep them safe when out on walks. Choose short command words, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’ or ‘wait’, and be sure not to confuse your dog by having multiple meanings for a word (or vice versa). For example, if you use the word ‘stay’ to discourage your dog from bounding across the road or up the stairs, don’t expect the same response from the word ‘wait’. It’s also important not to assume ‘stay’ will discourage your dog from eating a dropped sausage. Practice your command training in short bursts and use very small treats to reward good behaviour.

You may wish to enlist some help in training your dog, and there are many training classes available, from puppy and beginners to more advanced guidance. You will need to book ahead and prices will vary from a joining fee and then weekly payments to a one-off fee for a certain length of training.  The important thing to remember is that these courses don’t train your dog, but teach you how to, using tried and tested techniques. 

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