In my years working for the Humane Society, which included teaching a dog training course, I found that certain tricks will make for both easier and faster dog training. While each dog is different and requires a unique approach there are some tricks that may be applied universally for better results.
What Does Your Dog Love?
Before you set off to teach any command, behavior or trick to your dog it is important to evaluate their behavior and find what they love. Is your dog all about a treat? Does your canine companion obsess over a tennis ball? Perhaps your puppy doesn’t care much for material things but goes nuts for a pat on the head and some loving praise.
Most dog training can be accomplished exclusively through positive reinforcement, a large part of this is getting your dog to associate a reward with a desired behavior. Finding something that your dog particularly loves, whether a certain toy or a small snack, to reward them with throughout training is going to make things click that much faster and make the entire experience more pleasant for both of you.
Stay Consistent with Your Training
Consistency is crucial not only to achieving desired results but also getting them much more quickly. You’ll often find another dog in puppy class is learning faster and often it is because there is only person training him so thinks are just clicking faster as he understands exactly what is expected.
It is important to get your family on the same page and stay consistent, if the word is “off” then don’t use the word “down”, your dog is still learning. On that same note if furniture is a no-no do not selectively enforce that rule.
Especially early on body language will go just as far as commands and you should incorporate hand signals along with commands from the beginning. Keep these uniform throughout your dog’s life and they will more quickly understand what you’re after than if you were just using a word.
One of my favorites is to raise your hand with your dog’s reward, be it a treat or a ball, from your waist to shoulder level by bending the elbow. Say, “sit” during this motion; the dog will be watching your hand movement as it contains the expected reward. Later in life, even at a distance, your dog will immediately recognize this hand motion and know to sit and stay which can be great if you see trouble but are too far away to loudly verbalize it.
Provide Affection and Positive Reinforcement
Obviously you will not be rewarding your puppy with a treat or by throwing a ball each time he or she listens to your command in life so adding an affectionate positive reinforcement needs to start becoming a part of your training from the start. “Good boy” and a little pat on the head or scratch on the ear is crucial.
After your dog has learned a command or trick you will slowly faze out the material reward but should always keep providing the affection as a positive reinforcement. Your approval, or disappointment, will go a long ways in the years to come for your dog while deciding whether to listen or to chase that cat.