Dog Training Tips For Beginners

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the thought of training your dog on your own? Maybe their jumping is out of control, or walks feel more like a mile-long fight than a stroll on the beach, and you’d love to be able to fix those behaviors on your own. You're not alone! Dog training can feel overwhelming for new pet owners. Not to worry, with a few simple strategies you can kickstart your dog’s training all on your own! 

So, grab your treats (we'll get to that in a sec!), and let's dive into the world of dog training for beginners!

A dog next to a woman on her computer.

Make Sure To Pay Them For A Job Well Done

No one wants to go to work and not get paid. While it can be easy to think of all those pesky behaviors as “bad behaviors”, our dogs just do what comes naturally to them. The digging, jumping, barking, pulling… it’s all just normal dog behavior. Asking them to respect your garden, greet people with all four on the floor, ignore the squirrels and walk nicely on a leash are all human behaviors, and they deserve to be paid while working for us. 

Using food in training not only motivates your dog to do the thing you want them to, but helps them make those good behaviors a habit. Of course our goal is always to get to a point where you don’t need to keep dog treats in your pocket forever, but especially in the beginning of training don’t be stingy with rewards. After all, would you continue to show up for work everyday if your boss suddenly stopped paying you?

Have Patience... For Your Dog And Yourself

Let's face it, your dog doesn't come pre-programmed with perfect manners in the same way you don’t come pre-programmed with the knowledge of how to train them.

Dog training takes time, dedication, and sometimes, some lifestyle changes. Remember, you're essentially teaching a new language at the same time you’re learning it yourself, and everyone learns at their own pace (including your dog).

Celebrate small victories, avoid getting discouraged by setbacks, and most importantly, make the process fun for both of you!

Think about it this way: Would you get frustrated if it took you months to learn a new language fluently? Of course not! And, you’d know mistakes are bound to happen. Approach dog training with the same understanding and patience.

A woman and a dog doing yoga

Keep Dog Training Sessions Short And Sweet

Imagine sitting through an entire eight-hour lecture on quantum physics… with no breaks. Your brain would be totally fried, right? The same goes for your dog!

I promise you, keeping your training sessions short and sweet will be far more effective than lengthy marathons. Aim for 5-15 minutes, 2-3 times a day. This will keep your dog engaged and prevent them from getting overwhelmed.

Shorter sessions also allow you to:

  • Maintain high-value rewards. Dogs get full and bored just like us. Shorter sessions ensure the treats you use remain exciting motivators.
  • End on a positive note. Always finish a training session while your dog is successful. This leaves them feeling good about the experience and eager for more.

Make Dog Training Fun

Training your dog shouldn't feel like a chore (for either of you!). Be creative and turn everything into a fun and lighthearted game you can play together, this will keep both you and your dog motivated and having a good time. Here are some ideas: 

  • Speed Tests: Set a timer for 30 seconds or 1 minute and see how many repetitions you can get of whatever behavior you’re working on. For example, let’s say you’re teaching your dog how to sit. How many times can you get them to sit within 30 seconds? Do it again in a week and compare your results. 
  • Relay Races: Remember doing relay races as a kid during field day at school? You can do this with your dog too! Make a little course out of whatever you have at home and decide where you want your dog to sit, lay down, heel, or if you want them to walk over or around something. Now you and your dog have a fun little obedience obstacle course you can run through together! 
  • Incorporate playtime: Treats aren’t the only thing you can reward your dog with. Bring their favorite toy into your training sessions and use play as both a reward and a fun little break in between your obedience repetitions.

Remember: A happy and engaged dog is a dog who learns best!

Take Baby Steps While Training Your Dog

Don't overwhelm your dog by asking them for complex commands right off the bat.  Instead, break down each desired behavior into smaller, achievable steps. This makes learning less stressful and allows you and your dog to celebrate regular wins (which will keep you both enjoying your training and motivated to continue). 

A dog sitting in between two standing people.

For example, let's take the classic command, "Sit." Here's how to break it down:

  1. Lure with a treat: Hold a treat above your dog's nose, slowly moving it backward until their head naturally follows, causing them to lower their body into a sitting position.
  2. Mark and reward: The moment their rear end touches the ground, click your clicker or say "Yes!" and give them the treat.
  3. Introduce the cue: Once your dog sits for the lure easily and 9/10 times, gradually introduce the verbal cue "Sit" just before moving the treat upwards.
  4. Phase out the lure: As your dog associates the word "Sit" with the action, slowly phase out the lure, rewarding them solely for sitting on verbal command.

By taking things step-by-step, you set your dog up for success and can prevent yourself from feeling defeated or frustrated.

Consistency Is Key

Imagine growing up in a house where your mom and dad constantly changed the rules without telling you. Confusing, right? One might even say that would be extremely stressful. Consistency is super important in dog training. Not only should you use the same commands, cues, and rewards every single time, but keep the same rules and boundaries every day. This helps your dog understand exactly what is (and isn’t) expected of them.

Here are some ways to ensure consistency:

  • Get your family on board: Get everyone in the household to use the same commands and uphold the same rules. Mixed messages can confuse your dog.
  • Practice, practice, practice: The more you practice a command, the more of a habit it becomes in your dog's memory. Short, frequent training sessions are far more effective than sporadic, lengthy ones.
  • Be patient with setbacks: Even well-trained dogs have occasional off days. Don't get discouraged if your dog regresses a bit. Simply go back to basics and praise them for even small improvements.

Cape Cod Dog Owners, Need Some More Help?

These dog training tips for beginners will equip you with the tools to begin the exciting journey of turning your dog into a well-mannered companion. 

However, if you find yourself needing some extra guidance, Cape Canine Academy is here to help!

Our certified dog trainer specializes in creating personalized training plans to address your specific needs and training goals. And, we’ll come to you so you and your dog can learn at home, where you’re the most comfortable.

Contact Cape Cod Canine Academy today and let's work together to unlock your dog's full potential!

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