All dogs need proper training. Whether you are sharing your home with a new puppy or an adult dog, it's never too soon start training your dog. Training is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. It brings structure and stability to your dog's life. Without this structure, dogs are not as happy. Training gives dogs confidence and teaches them how to behave. It will help you better handle your dog and can also help make your dog more likely to be accepted in public places.
It can feel overwhelming when you first begin to work on dog training. After all, there's a lot to be covered. If you're unsure where to begin, develop a week-by-week schedule to help you get organized. Each week, choose one or two basic commands to work on. Plan to make some adjustments to your dog's environment in order to prevent or modify behavior problems.
- Introduce the Crate: If you haven't already been using a crate, this is a good time to get your dog used to it. The crate is a wonderful tool to manage your dog's behavior when you aren't there to supervise. Take a little time each day this week to let your dog get used to the crate, and begin letting him sit in there for a few minutes at a time.
- Establish a Routine: Dogs thrive on routine. This week, take some time to create a schedule of mealtimes, walks, and playtime. Stick with the routine as closely as possible during the training weeks and beyond. This will help with housebreaking, as well as other common behavior issues.
- Invest in Toys: Do some shopping this week, and get a variety of interesting toys for your dog. Make sure to include some things such as Kong toys or Buster Cubes which provide some mental stimulation. Each week throughout this process, rotate the different toys so your dog always has something new and interesting to play with.
- Sit: Work on teaching your dog to sit. Plan on spending about 5 minutes a few times each day working on the "sit" command.
- Down and Emergency Recall: This week, spend a few minutes several times each day working on the down command and teaching your dog the emergency recall.
- Crate Training: By this time, your dog should be fairly comfortable in his crate. Start leaving him in his crate for longer periods of time, but no longer than a few hours at a stretch. Be sure to leave him with some fun and interesting toys. Continue using the crate throughout each week of training.
- Loose Leash Walk: You can also begin teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash. Plan on at least one short walk each day to practice this skill. This is a skill that you should continue working on through each week of the training.
- Come and Leave It: The basic commands to work on this week are the "come" and "leave it" commands. Spend some time each day practicing these commands.
- Stop Jumping: This week you can also begin working on teaching your dog not to jump up. You can set aside time each day to practice, or you can wait until it comes up in your regular day-to-day activities (like when your dog jumps up to greet people coming in the door) to work on it.
- Review: Take 10 minutes at least 3 times this week to review the commands and behaviors you've already worked on.
- Wait: This week, work on the "wait" command. You can practice this in regular training sessions, or you can wait for opportunities to crop up each day. Make sure your dog waits before going outdoors or coming out of his crate.
- Go to Your Place: Begin working on teaching your dog to go to a specific place and lie down in your home. Some great times to practice having your dog lay calmly in his place is during mealtimes or when you're sitting watching television or reading a book.
- Drop It: In several short training sessions each day, teach your dog the "drop it" command.
- Stop Barking: Begin training your dog to be quiet by working on the "speak" and "quiet" commands. You can do this during training sessions or you can wait until your dog barks and use it as an opportunity to practice.
- Pick a Trick: Now that your dog knows many basic commands, you can work on teaching him a trick, such as roll over or play dead.
- Heel: By now your dog probably has a pretty firm grasp on walking on a loose leash. If you would like a little more control during walks, you can now introduce the "heel" command.
- Review, Review, Review: Your dog should now be responding well to a number of commands, and some other behavior issues should have been addressed. This does not mean you're done with training. Remember to practice and reinforce your dog's training for the lifetime of your dog. The training will ensure that your dog is a happy and well-adjusted member of your family.
Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT