The Three Secrets to Positive Dog Training


Listen to your Dog
If your dog isn’t listening to you, there’s probably a reason. They’re not doing it to be stubborn or malicious. They may not know “sit” outside of the house or they may be sick or stressed or you haven’t managed to be more interesting than dirt. When we were taking Rally Fr-Ee classes, Mr. N totally shut down because he was so overstimulated due to the environment (outdoor classes) and frustrated because I was frustrated and it was a vicious loop. With our trainers’ guidance, I focused on asking for engagement and play in the new setting and for behaviors he already knew well. And our last class, he made it around the course and did about half the exercises. 
Photo by Kolu Photography

Reward Good Behavior. Liberally.

A mistake that people often make is not rewarding good behavior enough especially outside of designated training times. Mr. N regularly gets “maintenance” treats when we’re not actively training. He gets treated for being calm when the neighbors’ dogs walk by our window, for cooperating with grooming and other house manners. 
If we only notice the bad, we’re missing excellent opportunities to train and reward our dogs. Think about it. If only your mistakes were noticed and highlighted and your progress ignored, would you want to continue with whatever you were doing? I actually stopped taking a dance class for this reason. It was a small class and the instructor pointed out my mistakes and only mine for the entirety of the class. I know I made plenty of mistakes. It was my first class. But when you only hear criticism, it doesn’t make you want to progress any further. 

Have Fun

Nobody brings a dog into their household to add sorrow to their lives. At least I hope they don’t. We bring dogs into our lives because they bring us joy and laughter and entertainment. Training your dog should be fun, not arduous. I will let Mr. N take the lead in training sometimes and his tiny brain comes up with the most interesting things. 
His stomping trick came about because one day he decided that he was going to stomp at me if he thought I was being obtuse or not giving him a deserved treat while training. I thought it was hilarious and then I decided to put it on cue. 
I was trying out a training idea where you train with another dog in order to amp up your dog and/or create training interest. Due to a lack of dogs to experiment with, I made do with a stuffed panda. I started talking to the panda and asking for behaviors and treating the panda and Mr. N was like what is this? Those are my treats and my tricks and my person! I was asking the panda for a high five and Mr. N decided he did not want to be left out and started high fiving the panda.

What is your secret to being a good trainer?

Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian NomadsTenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below. Any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin Monday, Sept 7th and continues for a week. 

One of the things that Mr. N considers a fitting reward (because he is a terrible food snob) is Caru treats and we’re giving some away! 




30 Responses

  1. Emma

    August 3, 2015 10:45 am

    Mom says fun and food are the keys to learning. No dog wants to work for free or if it isn't fun. Everything can be fun if you set it up that way. Some dogs may replace the food with favorite toys or some act of play, but we use food.

  2. Chasing Dog Tales

    August 3, 2015 2:46 pm

    Great advice and I especially love your last point! Training and relating to your dog should be fun for both you and your dog. Being silly, playing in various ways and having a fun tone of voice really helps create a bond and makes training easier. Awesome post!

  3. Flea

    August 3, 2015 2:49 pm

    I love Mr. N's interpretive dance photo. Chewy has some training under his belt, but I need to get serious about his recall.

  4. Hawkeye BrownDog

    August 3, 2015 3:19 pm

    Hi Y'all!

    My Humans think I'm the "best dog ever", except when I vocalize at inappropriate times. My Humans are walkin' treats, if you get my meaning. That was a great article. Especially the part about redirecting attention when things aren't going right.

    Y'all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  5. The Daily Pip

    August 3, 2015 3:48 pm

    Love that first picture of Mr. N. We agree with your tips – fun, food, and praise are key. Ruby is so sensitive – if we even look at her with a slight disapproving look, she gets so sad and scared. We are going very slowly with the training.

  6. Janet Keefe

    August 3, 2015 7:19 pm

    What a great point about focusing on the bad…no one wants that done to them. I think when we first took Luke to training, we were kind of looking to "fix" things but we quickly learned that teaching new things could be fun and could just lead to a happier and more well behaved dog too.
    You are so good at reading Mr. N, and I think that the two of you have such a great training partnership!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  7. 2browndawgs

    August 5, 2015 12:06 pm

    Those are great tips. One thing our trainers stress is to make sure to really praise the dog when they do something right in our training. It really does help build enthusiasm.

  8. Amanda Yantos

    August 6, 2015 4:03 am

    Positive reinforcement is huge in our house. Whether we're training basic commands, playing games or competing in agility, the best way (by far) to train effectively is with lots of praise and treats!

  9. Kari Neumeyer

    August 6, 2015 11:59 pm

    Hooray for the Panda! And for Mr. N! I was thinking of the foot-stomping thing the other day, because I think Mia taps her feet on the ground to get my attention (and to wake me up to let her out in the middle of the night) I call it "tapping" not "stomping" because she is a delicate princess.

  10. Pamela

    August 8, 2015 8:02 pm

    Good tips. We like to do training in many different times and settings. It's a great way to handle a long wait.

    At the vet's the other day, we practiced walking at heel, sit and stay, and high five while we were waiting. It kept both of us more relaxed. And it's good practice in a very distracting setting.

  11. Lindsay Pevny

    February 17, 2016 6:00 am

    So true, especially about rewarding and noticing good behavior. I find that, while food is a huge motivator, Matilda learns faster when I really overkill the praise – Instead of "good" I'll tell her "Beautiful! You're so smart! Wow!" She just loves it.

  12. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    March 21, 2017 7:28 pm

    Great point about not always pointing out mistakes. It is definitely discouraging and makes one not want to continue with the activity when all you hear is negative feedback. The same holds true for animals! Positivity is key!

  13. Jana Rade

    August 31, 2017 9:06 am

    Staying positive is the key. I make a point of using that principle all day, not only when training. There is only the odd time when I might use a stern voice, such as when she ought to go potty but wants to chase a squirrel while being covered in mosquitoes. LOL


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