Positive reinforcement training is the most recommended dog training technique consisting of rewarding your dog with toys, games, affection, or treats.
Choosing the Right Training for Your Dog
Dogs are wonderful companions. Training your dog helps build a stronger relationship that allows you both to live together harmoniously. There are many types of dog training available, which can be overwhelming when determining what to choose.
You have many options ranging from group classes to private training, virtual training, or board and train/residency programs. There are also options for what types of training methods or techniques may be used in a training program.
Training with a focus on positive reinforcement is recommended for basic training, problem behavior, and more advanced training.
Consider Your Dog’s Age and Breed
Dogs have been selected for different purposes. Some breeds like golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers have been bred to work closely with people to accomplish tasks. Some breeds like beagles or dachshunds have been selected to work independently of people to complete a task. While all dogs can learn, keep in mind your dog’s specific breed history and how that may play into the behaviors that are easier or harder for him to learn.
Dogs may learn differently depending on their age, learning history, and motivation level. Puppies may have a shorter attention span and benefit from shorter training sessions. Adult dogs may need short sessions if they are new to training or if the training activity is challenging. This can make a traditional hour-long group class a challenge for many dogs in the beginning. As dogs gain experience, they can focus for longer periods of time.
Determine Your Training Goals
Your training goals will help you determine the type of training program you choose. The appropriate program will help you take actionable steps towards those goals. Some pet parents may be focused on early socialization and training for a puppy under 14 weeks of age and others might want basic training such as sit or stay. There are also behavior focused goals such as reducing barking at strangers or being more confident at home. Some families also choose to work on goals such as training dogs for agility or scent work.
Answering the following questions can help you learn more about your training goals:
· What age is my dog?
· Is my dog house trained?
· Does my dog pull on a leash?
· What commands would make everyday life easier with my dog?
· How do I want my dog to behave at home? With other people? With other dogs?
· Would we like to work towards specialized training for fun or competition?
Understanding what your goals are can help narrow down which training programs are best for you and your dog.
Research Different Training Methods
Within reward-based training, there are several types of rewards or systems used by trainers and pet parents including:
· Clicker Training: A specific signal, sometimes a clicker or a word, will help identify the moment your dog has done the correct response.
· Luring: Food or a toy in your hand can be used to guide your dog into a specific position or to do a specific task. This training can get very fast results in the beginning, though some care is needed to fade out the food or toy as the prompt.
· Toy games: Using play can be a great way to teach a dog to focus, listen with distractions, or have more intensity. This is especially used in situations where dogs should be fast, such as come when called or agility training.
Clicker training is a popular form of positive reinforcement training that uses a dog training “clicker” or another sound to mark the desired behavior. The signal helps the dog to connect the moment with the reward. This method of training is a great option when you need precision or need to be very clear to your dog. For treats, most pet stores and e-commerce pet stores sell “training treats,” or low calorie treats for your dog that you can use repeatedly throughout a training lesson. Rewarding a dog for “good behavior” with training treats is helpful in the early stages of training something new or adding challenge to a task your dog already knows.
Toy games can be another way to keep your dog’s attention and reward them for their behavior. They can also be used to teach certain commands, such as “leave it” or “drop it”.
Online Dog Training vs. In-Person Dog Training
The biggest benefit to online dog training is that you can train your dog within a familiar environment. With in-person dog training, you may have to go to a facility or public location for training lessons. The downside is that even though your dog may be learning in that environment, it could be entirely different from the environment that they experience every day.
Online dog training allows you to work with the distractions of your day-to-day life and in the comfort of your home. While an in-person trainer may come to you, the presence of that person might be a distraction or challenge for your dog’s learning.