Adopting a rescue dog into your family is one of the most selfless things you can do for an animal in need. However, you must continue to be selfless as you work tirelessly to train your dog basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay” and “come.” Simple commands like these can ultimately save your dog’s life if they run out the front door or into a roadway. These commands will also allow you to move onto more complicated commands, such as “eliminate” for potty training, “heel” for good walk behavior and “drop it” for those times your dog brings you a critter from the backyard. Follow the tips below when teaching these commands.
As the Humane Society states, “timing is everything” when you welcome your new dog into your home. Training should begin the first day they join your family.
Take it slow
Your dog might have come from a very disciplined home, where they already learned basic commands. However, they might have instead come from a home of neglect or physical abuse. It is safest to start slow; if your dog catches on fast, you can quicken the pace. Mercola’s Healthy Pets recommends starting with just one command a day or even for a few days. Once one basic command is mastered, advance to the next. According to DogTime.com, trainers tend to be successful when they gradually increase training duration, training distance and training distractions.
Use positive reinforcement
All the experts agree that positive reinforcement is crucial to a dog’s learning. Only when your dog completes a command correctly should she be rewarded with a treat—and immediately. Over time, increase the length of time between the correct action and the reward. You can also motivate without food; try a new toy or bone, a walk in the park or a game of fetch as a reward for your dog.
Phase out rewards
Eventually, your dog will need to follow commands without expecting rewards. This will allow them to respond correctly in an emergency situation, such as a car accident or backyard escape. DogTime.com suggests making the rewards more sporadic before eventually phasing them out.
Keep it short
Dogs can grow bored very easily, so keep training sessions short. If your dog seems to be losing their focus, take a break and try again later. Plan ahead by scheduling several mini sessions throughout the day rather than one big session. DogTime.com recommends just five or ten minutes per session starting out. It is also important to remain positive during training. Your dog will see if you are frustrated and will react negatively. If you find yourself getting heated, take a break and revisit the activity later.
Don’t repeat yourself
You should never have to deliver a command more than twice. If your dog is not responding with the action you want, it is not a matter of his not hearing you, but a matter of them not being at the appropriate obedience level yet, according to Mercola’s Healthy Pets.
Mix it up
If you are the only one training your dog and you are only training her in the living room, they will learn only to respond to you and only in that room. Instead, DogTime.com recommends training your dog in various rooms, as well as outside in the yard, on walks and in parks. Have a spouse, child, neighbor or friend also work with your dog now and then, to ensure that they will listen to others as well.
The most important piece of advice, however, is to keep practicing. Like humans, dogs are in a constant state of learning. Even the most obedient dogs benefit from continued training. Review old tasks, throw in some new ones and always challenge your dog with a more complicated set of commands every now and then. You and your dog will both enjoy the work, and it will ensure the safety and happiness of your four-legged friend.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.