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How To Train a Dog: A Brief Overview


Most dogs aren’t naturally well-behaved upstanding canine citizens. Even though they’re domesticated, they still have naturally wild instincts and proclivities that are often contrary to living in an orderly household. 

Many parents would say that dogs are a lot like toddlers in that regard. Both dogs and toddlers need some extra help to learn manners, solve behavior problems, and understand what you’re asking them to do. 

Dog training doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as you’re patient and persistent, you should be able to help your dog master the fundamentals of obedience training in no time. 

Understanding the way dogs learn and how to use positive reinforcement are the two most important things to keep in mind while you’re teaching your dog new tricks and combating unwanted behaviors.

Can I Train My Dog Myself?

Professional dog trainers are immensely helpful, but they are rarely necessary. In the majority of cases, most pet owners are able to train their dogs themselves, whether it be in socialization, potty training, or house training. 

There are a few exceptions where a professional dog trainer many come in handy, but the majority of the time, it is not necessary to hire a professional trainer.

If you’ve adopted a shelter dog who previously lived in an abusive home or endured a traumatic situation, consider working with a behaviorist to help your dog thrive. Traumatized or abused dogs may carry counterproductive behaviors as a result of their former situations, and behavioral experts can improve your dog’s quality of life and their new relationship with you.

Some people feel like they don’t have enough time to train their dog. If you’re very busy or overcommitted in your everyday life, a dog may not be the best pet for your household. Dogs need a lot of care and stimulation, and children aren’t capable of properly caring for dogs. Responsible teens may be better suited for the job. If you’ve found a way to make it work, a professional trainer can help you establish the basis for obedient behavior. 

Is It Ever Too Late To Start Training a Dog?

It’s never too late or too early to start training a dog. Dogs in good cognitive health can continue to learn throughout their lives. If your ten-year-old dog never learned to roll over, you can start teaching your dog today. It may take a little longer to muster the necessary enthusiasm from senior dogs who are often more interested in napping, but they’re completely capable of learning new tricks. 

In some cases, adult dogs will even be easier to train than puppies. Puppies are often rambunctious. They’re easily distracted and heavily focused on having fun, making it difficult to capture their attention and keep their focus on the task at hand. 

Although it’s very important to train puppies, things like complicated tricks are better suited for adult dogs (or at least, older puppies) who have already mastered basic commands. 

What Is the First Thing You Should Train Your Dog To Do?

The best thing to do when beginning to train your dog is to teach your dog the basics of response and reward. Dogs that don’t have any training will often respond to the positive reinforcement of a yummy food treat or high value food treat

  1. Practice the sit and stay command, making your dog wait in place while you get them their treat. Hold a treat out in front of your dog. Say no a few times and don’t allow your dog to take the treat. Say yes, and allow your dog to take the treat. 
  2. Move around and encourage your dog to walk towards you with yes and no commands, just like playing “red light, green light” with children. 
  3. Teach your dog to stay in one place with yes and no commands, using positive reinforcement to reward their good behavior. 
  4. Keep working on the same routine, as consistency is key when developing puppies are learning to master these skills. Practice until your dog understands yes and no. 

This concept will help to reinforce every part of your dog’s training. If your dog isn’t responding accordingly, they’ll know that “no” means something is wrong and that they won’t receive positive enforcement. They’ll know that “yes” means they did something right and a reward is coming. 

This skill can easily be extrapolated to almost anything you’d ever want to teach your dog. When your dog sits on command, say yes and hand them a treat. When they roll over, lay down, or come to you, say yes and hand them a treat. 

Everything will be much simpler when your dog understands the affirmative and the negative. 

How To Train a Dog to Potty Outside

If you have a puppy, you likely have puppy training pads in a corner somewhere. These pads are a temporary solution while you’re working with your new puppy. Puppies need to be taken outside to go to the bathroom every two hours or so. Take your pup out immediately after they wake up and right after they eat and drink, even if it hasn’t been two hours yet. 

Lead your dog to the appropriate outdoor area. Use a leash if the area is anywhere other than your fenced-in yard. As you’re taking your dog to the spot, use your preferred word or phrase. “Go potty” is a simple and polite command that works well for many dog owners.

When your dog relieves themselves outside, immediately reward them with positive reinforcement and a treat, and repeat some variation of “good potty” or “good boy/good girl go potty.” 

If you’re consistent with treats and praise for a few days, you can gradually stop. Over time, appropriate elimination will become normal behavior. 

How To Train a Dog To Walk on a Leash

Puppies need leash training, as do dogs that have spent the majority of their lives free-roaming a large area of land or a fenced area. 

The first step is getting your dog used to a leash or a harness. Harnesses are often the best solution for dogs who aren’t used to leashes just yet. As your dog acclimates, you can switch to a collar. Let your dog wear it for a few hours here and there until it feels normal. It’s important to make sure your dog’s leash or harness is properly fitted, especially for growing puppies. As your dog grows, their lead will need to be adjusted every so often.

Start by walking your dog through the house on a loose leash, and recall your “yes and no” command training. Have your dog walk toward you on the leash, and say “no” when your dog tugs or pushes the limits of the leash. Reward good behavior with treats. 

Slowly introduce your dog to the outside world on a leash. They may be overwhelmed by new sensations at first, but should grow out of this as they become acclimated to being outside. If your dog still feels overstimulated by new sights and smells even once they are older, consider giving your dog some CBD oil. CBD oil is great to keep adult dogs calm when they experience temporary or unavoidable environmental distress. Eventually, your dog will become acclimated to walking on a leash outdoors (though you can always continue your use of pet CBD to support your adult dog’s overall wellness). 

If your dog tries to run ahead or drag you to chase after something, don’t yank the leash back. You risk severely injuring your dog when you do so. Instead, plant your feet firmly and refuse to move. Your dog will encounter resistance independently and realize that there’s nowhere else to do. Use the “no” command to recapture your dog’s attention. 

Periodically incorporating “yes” and “no” commands while your dog is walking on the leash at a short distance will help to remind your dog that they still need to obey commands outside of the home. Bring plenty of treats with you on your first few walks to reward your dog for doing a good job. 

Training Your Dog Takes Patience, But It’s Full of Rewards

Training your dog requires patience, repetition, and lots of rewards. Give your dog ample time to learn what you’re trying to teach them. 

If your dog gets a little too excited to focus on training sessions, a little bit of CBD may help to keep your dog calm enough to focus.



Caring For A Dog With PTSD | Texas A&M University

Positive reinforcement training | Humane Society of the United States

Controlling Pulling on Walks | VCA Animal Hospital

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