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Back to (dog) school: How to train your pet

BY Blue Cross

7th Sep 2023 Inspire

3 min read

Back to (dog) school: How to train your pet
A well-trained dog is a happy dog who will be able to fully take part in family life. Here’s how to train your pet so they’re well behaved
Dogs learn by association, so if you reward your dog immediately after they do something, the action is much more likely to be repeated.
"Keep sessions short and practise about five to six times every day"
Here are some top training tips from national pet charity Blue Cross, which as well as rehoming and a host of services, also provides training and behaviour advice for pet owners.
1. Make learning fun. Your dog will respond much more quickly, and if you do make mistakes the dog will not be afraid of trying again. If the dog does make a mistake it is your fault. Try again, but this time ensure you are in a position to help your dog to get it right.
2. Keep sessions short (about two minutes) and practise about five to six times every day.
3. Practise in different areas, for example in the house, out on walks and in the garden, but keep distractions to a minimum until your dog understands your requests.

When to reward:

  • All the time for the right movements.
  • Then for the whole action. 
  • Then for best attempts.

Rewards can be:

Dog being offered treats
  • Food (this can be part of your dog’s dinner or small treats.
  •  Praise and attention.
  • A toy or game.
Remember it is only a reward if your dog wants it.

Train your dog to respond to its name

  1. Hold the reward between your and your dog’s eyeline, say your dog’s name and as soon as your dog looks at you, give the reward.
  2. When your dog pays attention to its name you can teach the dog to come when called.

Train your dog to come when called

  1. Show your dog the toy or food.
  2. Run away a couple of paces.
  3. Call your dog’s name and say “come” in a happy voice.
  4. As the dog comes to you, hold the collar and either feed or play with your dog.
  5. Gradually increase the distance that you are from your dog, until eventually you can call your dog in and out of the garden or from room to room.
  6. Recall your dog regularly when out on a walk and give a reward. Don’t call your dog just to put it back on the lead.

"Sit" on command

Spaniel sitting and man telling him to stay sitting while holding treat
  1. Lure your dog into position with a titbits just above its nose, then move your hand over the dog’s back.
  2. As the dog’s head tilts up and back the dog will sit. As your dog actually sits, say the command “sit”. Don’t say it before the dog moves into position or your dog may associate it with the wrong movement.
Caution—if the reward is held too high, or moved too quickly, your dog may jump up or back off.
"Practise the sit at kerbs, or when greeting people ask your dog to sit rather than jumping up"
Practise the sit at kerbs, or when greeting people ask your dog to sit rather than jumping up—remember to reward!
To teach your dog to “wait” or “stay” ask your dog to “sit” then instead of giving the treat straight away wait for a few seconds and then say “wait” or “stay”.

“Leave” or understand “off”

Two dogs being trained by an older woman
Teaching a “leave” or “off” command helps teach your dog self-control.
  1. Continue to give titbits, but every third or fourth time say “off” or “leave” and keep the titbit between your fingers and thumb so that your dog can’t eat it.
  2. Don’t move your hand away as that will encourage snatching, but as soon as your dog stops nibbling your fingers and moves away slightly, immediately reward by saying “take it” and allowing the dog to eat the titbit. The dog learns to back off in order to receive the titbit.
"Teaching a “leave” or “off” command helps your dog to learn better self-control"
Training is for life. Remember you need to repeat these exercises a few times a day, every day, until your dog is trained. Once trained, you can maintain your dog’s response by occasionally going back to basics and rewarding the behaviour you want.
For more expert pet advice or to find out more about the charity’s training and behaviour service visit bluecross.org.uk
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