In order to teach a dog how to get on in a human household, we need to work with their natural behaviour. The most effective way to do this is to make sure the behaviour we are trying to teach them gets them the thing they like. What do dogs like? Food! Food is definitely the number one priority in the mind of most dogs. You can literally train your dog up like Lassie with a few simple tricks and the help of food. Here we go…
The most important thing to remember is to be generous. Something might seem simple and reasonable to you, but your dog will often think it’s difficult and weird. In fact, owners can often make it more difficult when a cue is changed or the tone of voice. Even our body language can confuse a dog.
If you see behaviour from your dog you like, you should reward your dog quickly and often. Try something like Lick N Mix from Wuffitmix. The smaller the dog, the smaller the treat should be. You’re trying to build habits for a lifetime here, so the more generous you reward your dog’s good behaviour, the stronger these habits will be.
A popular form of dog-friendly training is called lure and reward. If you’ve ever lured your dog into performing an action with a treat, you’ve used the lure and reward method. For example, let’s say your dog is sitting, and you hold a treat out for him and then bring it slowly to the ground to get him to lie down.
Obviously there is a downside to using treats, and some could look at it as bribery. You don’t want to have to bribe your dog whenever you want him to sit or lie down. To avoid always having to use the treat as a part of the cue, you need to learn a technique called ‘fading the lure’. When you start teaching your dog a command, only use the lure the first couple of times. Next time, make the lure gesture with an empty hand, and then say ‘yes’ and give the dog your treat with the other hand. When you begin to fade the law this way, you are able to gradually morph the movement into whatever cue you want to use.
Teaching your dog to walk nicely on the lead is another tricky situation. You should deliver the treats at your side, because that’s where you want your dog to be.
When your dog responds to a cue 90% of the time, you can start making your rewards more random and less frequent. However, remember to stay generous with your treats. Sometimes reward your dog with food, sometimes with play, sometimes with a fuss.
When you’re consistent, you’ll find that your dog begins to listen to you more and responds to every command you give. It’s important that you establish yourself as the master, so stick to these rules and you’ll get it right!