1. Begin training at a young age, generally around six or eight weeks. Remember, however, that the old adage does not hold true: you really can teach an old dog new tricks. Never despair that your pet is simply too old or set in his or her ways for training.
2. Exercise the greatest patience with your dog. If you feel frustrated, take a break rather than forcing more training. Your dog will notice your emotions and in turn become discouraged or distressed, which only multiplies your problems.
3. Allow your dog to focus completely on training by removing all distractions, such as outside noise or other family pets. Choose a secluded location, such as a fenced yard or even an enclosed room.
4. Limit training sessions to a single skill and try not to force the dog to concentrate for more than 20 minutes. Praise the dog whenever it responds to your command correctly and set aside time to play after training, so that the dog associates training with rewards and recreation.
5. Avoid negative reinforcement. Rubbing your dog’s noise in his accident or using physical force not only fails to teach correct behavior, but also instills fear in your pet. Eventually, your dog will ignore you for fear of punishment.
6. Change your voice to convey the seriousness of the command. “Come” and “heel” lend themselves to a friendly voice, while “sit,” “down,” and “stay” benefit from a stern, low voice. Be consistent in the voice that you use for each command and avoid using aggressive or angry tones, even if the dog fails to obey immediately. For more information about talking to your dog, watch the following video:
7. Remain positive about the training and focus on what your dog has learned. Reinforce training with verbal praise and treats, especially outside of set training sessions. When training, you may benefit from a “treat bag” that you keep with you while walking your dog. Reward good behavior consistently.
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