21 Popular Dog Training Methods
Many new dog owners think that dogs know how to walk on a leash or harness naturally. But it’s a learned skill that your dog needs to be trained for properly. Dog training can seem overwhelming because how to train your dog is a big project to take on. But if you take your time and do it step by step, then it will be less daunting.
Types of Dog Training Techniques
There are a lot of different types of methods on how to train your dog. Deciding which one is the best how to train a dog method for you and your pet can be a difficult choice. Even within the professional dog community, there are arguments about which training method is the best. Below is a list of dog training methods:
The theory behind this how to train my dog method is that a dog will repeat a good behavior that's rewarded. Bad behavior doesn't receive a reward. If your dog needs a correction, then the discipline isn’t harsh physical punishment but a removal of the reward.
Your dog associates good behavior with a reward. You give the reward within seconds of your pet performing what is asked of him. When you use positive reinforcement, it requires consistency. So, everyone who interacts with your dog needs to use the same commands and reward system.
Whenever your pet does the correct command, give a reward. Then as the behavior starts to become consistent, only give your dog a reward intermittently. Only the behaviors you ask for will receive the reward. Rewards can be toys, praise, treats, and petting. If you give food as a reward, only use small treats, so he isn't overfed.
It’s difficult to explain sometimes what strictly scientific training entails. It's because this type of training relies on information that is continually changing and building. It works to understand your dog's nature, his ability to be conditioned, and how effective rewards and punishment work for him.
There are new studies and experiments by animal behaviorists to shape the understanding of dog psychology. Some trainers rely on these studies when working with dogs. So, everything about the behavior has to be understood before it can be corrected.
It’s difficult to pinpoint an overreaching methodology because science-based dog training is so broad. Most often, this type of training is relied upon operate conditioning which includes positive reinforcement, or less frequently, some form of punishment.
This method of training is best left to the professional trainers. It's because most of the training relies on staying updated on the latest studies and doing research.
Clicker training is similar to positive reinforcement training and is based on operant training. Clicker training relies on a device that makes a sharp, quick noise. It can be the sound of a whistle or a clicker sound to signal to your dog when you want a specific behavior from him.
The great thing about using a clicker is that it signals to your dog the exact moment you want the desired behavior finished and the reward. You can use a clicker to add verbal commands and shape a new behavior.
But first, your dog has to be conditioned to know that when he hears a click, a reward is coming to him. Then your dog can associate the behavior with a click that brings him a reward. This is a very effective dog training method with used along with other training methods. But it isn't the best method for curbing behavior that's unwanted.
The electric method, when used on how to train your dog, uses an electric collar that gives a shock or a spray of citronella. A shock is given when your dog isn't performing the desired task. People who use these methods say there's less chance of your dog getting hurt than if a choke collar or another mechanical device is used.
There are problems with this training method. One problem is it uses punishment for bad behavior instead of a reward. It means your dog learns what he shouldn't do, not what he should do.
Plus, it creates anxiety stress and anxiety for many dogs. It can be overused by inexperienced dog owners. The shock collar can cause a lot of pain that is both physically and psychologically damaging to your pet.
Model-rival or mirror training
The model-rival training method of dog training relies on the fact that your dog learns by observation. When a model of good behavior or a rival for resources will make your dog learn to mimic behaviors.
You may have another person act as a model for your dog. You praise the person when they complete a task or scold the person for unwanted behavior. Your dog, as an observer, should learn what to do correctly from watching the person.
The person can also act as a rival by doing the task correctly and receiving a toy or treat as a reward. It should encourage your pet to pick up on the task and do it more quickly.
Mirror training depends on the same principle by using the owner as a model. Then the owner is offered rewards for mimicking good behavior. This method uses your dog’s natural instincts to operate socially instead of working against them. If your dog has a strong bond with you, this may be a technique you may find more comfortable working with.
Alpha Dog or dominance training
Alpha dog or dominance training uses your dog’s pack mentality to create a relationship with your pet of submission and dominance. The theory behind this theory is that dogs see their families as packs. So, they would follow the social hierarchy of a dog pack. Instead of your dog seeing himself as the alpha, he would learn to respect you as the alpha and submit.
One of the methods that this technique uses is understanding your pet's body language and responding accordingly. You would project confidence and authority by going first. This would include eating first, and going first when your dog is walked on a leash or entering or leaving a room.
When you’re using alpha training, you don’t let your pet on the furniture with you. You don’t get down to your dog’s eye level. It's because you're in charge, and you're the dominant one. Some modern trainers say this method of training your dog is outdated.
The relationship-based training combines several different kinds of training methods. It focuses on a individualized approach for both you and your pet. It is how the relationship works between you and your dog that makes it work.
This method meets the needs of you and your dog, helps foster communication, and to strengthen the bond between the two of you. For this method to work., you need to be able to read your dog's body language. You need to figure out what rewards will motivate your pet. You also need to know how to meet your pet’s basic needs before you begin a training session.
This method uses positive enforcement to encourage good behavior. Your pet’s environment is controlled to limit any unwanted behaviors. Then the new information is built on the previous success.
When your pet doesn’t perform as requested, then you need to figure out why instead of using punishment. The relationship-based training will build a deep and meaningful bond. It will take time and patience to train your dog.
The Basic Commands
Figuring out how to train your dog should be based on the premise of positive reinforcement. This way, when you train your dog, it gives him a reward to encourage what behavior you want from him. You’re not bribing him to do what you want, but you’re working with what your dog holds valuable.
If you use punishment to train your dog, he can become confused and unsure of what you want from him. It can also make him fear you instead of respect you. When you are training your dog, you can’t expect him to do what he doesn’t know. Training your dog takes time and patience.
The basic commands are to come when called, sit, down, and stay. Below are explanations of how to train your dog to these commands:
Place your dog at knee level on your left side. Hold the leash in your hand and start walking with your left foot first as you give the “heel” command while using your dog’s name. Give your pet treats and some positive reinforcement when your dog walks correctly. If he is confused and doesn’t understand what you want right away, tug gently on the leash to bring your pup back in place and start all over again.
There are two ways to train your dog to sit. One method is called capturing, and the other one is called luring. When you are using the capturing method, you will be in front of your pet with a treat or some of his dog food.
Wait for him to sit naturally, say "YES!" and then give your dog the treat. Then take a step backward or sideways to encourage him to stand up, Then wait for him to sit again. As soon as your pet sits again, give him another treat. After a few times of repetitions, as soon as your dog starts to sit down, you can say "sit."
When you use the luring method to train your dog, you hold his treat as a lure. Place the dog treat right in front of your dog's nose. Then slowly begin to lift the treat over your pup’s head. He most likely will sit as he lifts his head to eat the treat. Let him eat the treat once his backend hits the ground.
Repeat this once or twice with the treat, and then just use your empty hand. But still, give your dog the reward once he sits down. Then once your dog understands that the hand signal means to sit, then you can say sit right before the hand signal is given. Don't ever push your dog into a sitting position. It can confuse or upset him.
Stay and Release
A dog who has learned the command to stay will remain sitting in place until he is released. The goal is for you to teach your pet to stay in place until he is released by command.
First, choose a release word that you're going to use. You can use to release, free, go, or whatever you're comfortable with using to train your dog. Stand beside your dog when he is in a sit or stand position. Then throw a treat on the floor and say the word you're using when he moves forward to get the treat.
Keep doing this a couple of times until you can say your word first and then throw the treat after he moves. This teaches your pup that the release word means he can move. When your dog has learned the release cue, and how to sit in cue, have him sit, turn, and face him and then give him a treat.
Pause, give your pup a treat for staying in the position, and then release him. Gradually increase the wait time between treats. If your dog decides to get up before you release him, it just means that the wait was too long for him right now. Just go back to a shorter time until you give him the release cue.
Once your dog can sit for a couple seconds, you can start to add distance. Place him in the sit position and say "stay" take a step backwards, then step back towards your dog, give him a treat, and say your release word. Continue to build and keep it easy so your dog feel successful. Do both facing your dog and then walking away with your back turned.
Once your dog has learned the "stay" command, then you can start to increase the distance. The key is not to expect too much from your pet too soon. when you train your dog, it needs to be done in increments. Slowing down and focusing on one thing at a time will work best for both you and your pet. Keep the training sessions short to be successful.
Find a quiet area free from distractions. Sit with your pet, say his name, or “come.” Every time you say your pup’s name/come, reward him with a treat. So, just say his name with the word come after it and give your pet a treat.
The next step is to drop a treat on the floor by you. When he eats the treat on the ground, say his name. As soon as he looks up, reward him with another treat. Once your pet has turned around and faced you, then add movements. Throw the treat on the ground and take a few steps quickly away while calling your dog’s name. This should get him to chase you.
When your dog has “caught” you, give him lots of petting, praise, or treats. He needs to associate the coming to you is fun. Continue doing this with longer distances and in other places that are safe. Always reward your pet for responding to his name and coming to you even if he’s been doing something he shouldn’t. Don't ever call your dog to you to punish him. He will only learn to avoid you.
Wait for your dog to lie down. Being in a boring environment can help but not in a yard. A backyard has too many distractions. When your pup lies down, then reinforce the behavior with a treat. When he stands back up, watch him and when your dog goes to lie down again, start saying “down.”
You can also use a treat to lure him from a stand or sit. You do this by holding a snack in front of your dog’s nose and slowly bring it down towards the floor. You give your pet the treat when his elbows touch the floor. After a few times of doing it this way, you can start to bring your empty hand towards the floor. You reward him with the treat after your dog lies down.
When he starts to follow your hand signal for down, then as you move your hand, you can say “down.” Remember, never force your dog into the down position.
Learning how to train your dog to wear a harness has many benefits instead of using just a leash and a collar. If your pet is the type to pull while he’s being walked, then a harness can train him not to pull. When your dog wears a harness, his weight is distributed evenly across his chest. Plus, it doesn’t pull and possibly hurt him.
Another key feature is that most harnesses have a handle on the back. The handle lets you help your dog over any barriers or helping him into the car. Dog harnesses such as Personalized No Pull Dog Harness from PetSwag are a perfect choice. For example, because the neck and chest straps are adjustable, and it's a no-pull harness. It has a sturdy side-release buckle that is durable and anti-breaking. Plus, the harness can be personalized with the name of your dog and your phone number in case your pup becomes lost.
Once you make the decision to train your dog in a harness, here are some tips on choosing the right one.
Choosing the correct harness for your dog
There are two types of harness categories for you to choose from to train your dog. The over-head harness and the step-in harness are the choices. The step-in harness is the easier one to put on your pet.
Your pet only has to step into it, and then you can adjust it. You usually only need to adjust it once because you can remove his harness without having to readjust it.
The over-head harness is different because it's placed over your pup's head, and then you adjust it to fit. This type of harness has more padding and can be used with an elderly or a disabled dog easier.
Getting the correct fit
If the harness you place on your dog doesn't fit correctly, it will make it more challenging to train your dog. If he’s uncomfortable, your dog won’t be listening to you as closely. Harnesses come in all sizes because dogs come in all sizes and shapes. Surprisingly, what fits a 40-pound greyhound won’t fit a 40-pound Pitbull.
The signs of a harness that fits poorly will cause chafing around the harness area and fur loss. Your dog can wiggle free, or the back piece of the harness is moving side to side. Your dog might strongly resist walking because he’s uncomfortable.
How to make your dog comfortable wearing the harness
There will be a period of adjustment until your dog is comfortable wearing his harness. So before you put the harness on your pup, you should do the following things:
- Start off by allowing your dog to smell the harness all over.
- Then place a treat on the harness and let him eat the treat off of it.
- Gently touch your dog with the harness. Every time it makes contact with him, give him lots of praise.
- If the harness has a buckle, open and closes the buckle, and when it clicks, give your pup a treat.
- Many dogs don't enjoy wearing a harness because it touches areas where he is sensitive. To help with this, pet and stroke your dog in the areas where the harness will be touching him.
- It could take your dog a few weeks for him to feel comfortable wearing a harness. If your dog nips at you and backs away, then you're moving too fast for him, and you need to go slower.
Placing the harness on your dog
When you first place the harness on your pet, go slowly. Make sure the harness is fitting comfortably. Then follow these tips:
- After you have put the harness on your pup, let him wear it around the house. When he’s comfortable with this, then attach a leash to the harness and let your dog drag it around behind him.
- Next, take your pup outside in the harness with the leash attached.
- Make the experience enjoyable and a positive experience by giving your dog a treat. If he isn't food-oriented, then give your dog his favorite toy, affection, or praise.
- Your goal is to break up the process of getting used to the harness. When you give your pup rewards as he becomes more comfortable, then he'll associate the harness with something pleasant. You always want to go at the speed with which your pup is comfortable.
Some dog owners prefer leash training over harness training. But the first thing you need is a collar. The kind of collar you buy depends on the type of dog you own. One thing to remember is if your dog is alone, a breakaway collar is preferred.
- Standard collar: This is the collar that you see on most dogs. But if your dog has a slender head and neck, then this isn’t the collar for him.
- Back harness: If your dog is a smaller breed, this is perfect for him. A dog who is smaller can choke from a regular collar. This harness will keep your pup from having airway damage if he pulls on the leash. It will also keep him from sliding out of the restraints.
- Martingale collar: If your dog has a terrible leash pulling habit, this is a great collar. It's a double looped collar, and when your pup pulls, the loop around his neck tightens. It doesn’t choke him. It just makes your dog uncomfortable.
Types of leashes
Just like collars, there are different types of leashes. What you need to remember about a leash is that it needs to be sturdy enough not to break if tugged on. It also needs to be comfortable in your hand. You don’t want a leash that will pull through your hand if your dog takes off.
- Standard leash: This is your typical old-fashioned leash that can be a flat band or rope style. It comes in a varied array of materials, colors, and types.
- Retractable leash: Before the retractable leash was invented, owners would have to wrap any leftover leash around their hands to have length control. A retractable leash is coiled up inside a compartment. This lets you leave out as much or as little as you want, and then you lock it. Your dog can't go further than the length that is allowed. It's not recommended to use this type of leash until your dog is fully trained.
Basic steps to Leash Training
There is an order how do you train a dog on a leash. How you do it is essential, as well as the order you train your dog. Don't move to the next step until the one before is completed.
Step 1. First, let your pet get used to wearing a collar and a leash. Begin by putting the collar on and letting your dog run around the house with it. After he is used to wearing the collar, then attach the leash and let your dog roam the house with it attached.
Step 2: Take walks around the house with the leash and collar or harness attached to your dog. He’ll become used to wearing both while your dog is in a safe and familiar environment. If your pup walks without pulling, give him a treat and praise.
Step 3. By this time, your dog should be used to both his collar and leash. Now it’s time to tackle the outdoors. When you start walking and if your pet starts to pull and tug, don’t jerk the lease. Just give a quick pop to the lease and tell him no. When your dog stops, say no again and immediately reward him.
You will need to repeat the training in different areas and situations to keep the leash and collar routine down pat.
Some other tips for successful leash training
- Don’t exhaust your dog so keep the training sessions frequent and short.
- Be consistent every time you walk your dog. Let him know that pulling isn’t acceptable ever.
- When training, walk at a face pace so your dog will be more focused on walking and not on what interesting smell you just passed up.
- Be sure to make your dog sit calmly before you put his leash on. You want to be the boss with your session from the very start to the finish.
- Keep walking your dog. If you stop your routine, then be prepared for a refresher course in leash manners. If you keep the routine regular, then your pup will learn faster and retain the knowledge.
- Be patient and keep the walks short at first because of all the new sounds, sights, and smells.
- If your dog begins to bark at other dogs while on the walk, create distance from the other dog and offer a treat before he starts to bark. This way, every time he sees a dog, instead of barking, he'll turn and look at you for a treat. Eventually, you’ll cut down on the number of treats because your dog will start listening. But it’s a good idea to keep some treats in your pocket so that you can occasionally reinforce good behavior when he’s leash walking.
- Structure and consistency are the two most essential factors that will guide your success in your dog training task.
- If you stay with these tips, you will have an easier time making the leash training sticks with your dog.
Remember, every dog learns at his own pace. Don't listen to other owners saying that their dog took less time to learn something. This is your dog, his pace, and your time spent with him. Only worry about continuing to move at the pace that is comfortable for your dog, his schedule, and his personality. If you are consistent with your training sessions, then you will achieve the results you want to achieve.
Reinforcement can be anything that your dog loves. Many pet owners use small pieces of a food that is high value for training treats. Something unique that your pet doesn't usually get like freeze-dried liver or a peanut butter treat. You can also lavish praise and attention on your pet when he does what he is asked. You can use your pet’s favorite toy as well.
Your pet must be taught to like to be praised. So if you give him his treat while saying “Good dog or what a good boy!" in a happy, excited voice, your pet will learn that praise is a good thing.
Many dogs enjoy affection and petting, but the food is usually what is used to reinforce good behavior. The idea is not to use the treat as a bribe for good behavior. You’re using the treat to train your dog because the treat is something he loves. Avoid using punishment, yelling at him, or correcting your dog harshly.
Punishment will only confuse him, and your dog won't understand what is being asked of him. Patience goes a long way in teaching your dog manners and commands.
As a pet owner, you will need to figure out what training method will work best for you and your pet. Whether you use a harness and leash or strictly a collar and leash, the decision is up to you. Enjoy the time you spend with your furry friend, whether inside or out.