You know that dog training is important and you’ve decided to train your dog at home. The best part of the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to dog training that it will makes the bond you have with your dog much stronger. Training also offers both your dog and yourself mental and physical exercise.
But training your dog at home comes with its own set of challenges. And there’s so much information out there that it can be overwhelming. So let’s take this step by step and focus on what matters. That way, by the end of this post you’ll know exactly what to do to train your dog at home.
What is the best dog training method?
With so many different dog training methods and so many different opinions, it can be hard to pick one to stick to. However, if you want your dog’s training to be effective, you need to understand how dogs learn.
Dogs learn by associating consequences to their actions. So the best way to train your dog is to control what are the immediate consequences of your dog’s actions. This means you’ll need to reward positive behavior and ignore bad behavior. This will result in your dog being more likely to repeat behaviors that get rewarded.
Studies suggest the best training method is by using positive reinforcement. You should avoid using positive punishment and negative reinforcement methods as these can risk both the physical and mental health of dogs.
How do you train your dog at home?
Dog owners always want their dogs to succeed in training. But the truth is that many times, they don’t set their dogs up for success.
There are cases where dog owners ask their young pups to sit while they’re in a park full of distractions. And then blame the dogs for not listening. To set your dog up for success you need to see dog training as a process and take baby steps.
Dog training is like any other education system. You should start with the basics and only when your dog masters those basics do you take it up a notch. Here are some simple and very important tips on how you can train your dog at home:
- Whenever teaching a new trick always start in a place without any distractions.
- Slowly increase the difficulty (like holding the trick for longer) still without distractions.
- Slowly add distractions. Remember to start small and build up from there.
- Combine the increase in difficulty and distractions.
- Give praise whenever your dog nails it and give constant feedback.
- Make it fun!
During the training, there are a couple of rules you should keep in mind to make it easier for both of you:
- Never add difficulty or distractions if your dog isn’t getting it right.
- If you see that your dog is having trouble, don’t be afraid to take a few steps back in the training process.
- Always be clear and consistent with the command you’re giving your dog.
- Pay attention to your dog’s body language (link to post about body language) and stop the session if your dog is starting to feel stressed.
- Only start a training session when your dog is relaxed.
Consistency is important. Aim at having training sessions every day for at least 15 minutes. You can break these 15 minutes and spread them throughout the day. If you are struggling with what you should teach your dog next, feel free to follow this list of 7 fun tricks or reference to this puppy training timeline.
Common questions about dog training at home
It’s only natural that you still find yourself with some unanswered questions. With that in mind, here are the answers to some common questions people have about dog training at home.
What is the best age to start dog training?
You can start the training as soon as your dog is 7 to 8 weeks old. But be sure to start with the basics, be extra gentle, and rely on positive reinforcement.
Is it ever too late to start training a dog?
The short answer is no, it’s never too late to train a dog. You’re always able to make progress. However, progress may be slower as an older dog may have already learned some behaviors and created bad habits. This means you need to break these bad habits before teaching a new, positive one.
My dog doesn’t understand the command. What do I do?
Dogs don’t understand our language. That’s why it’s important to start in an environment without any distractions. Especially when teaching a new command. That way it can be easier for your dog to focus on you and learn what action results in a reward. Only after some repetitions will your dog start to understand the command. You can provide some physical guidance in the first repetitions to make it clearer for your dog.
My dog seems hurt and not physically able to follow my commands.
This is another reason why it’s important to understand your dog’s body language. If your dog starts acting differently, it can mean that something is wrong and you might want to take your dog to the vet. Don’t force your dog to do any trick while injured. This will only create a negative experience and may even worsen the injury.
In short, to train your dog at home you’ll need to start small, be patient, and take baby steps. Don’t progress in the training before your dog gets it right often. And don’t be afraid to take a step back whenever needed.