Dog training fundamentals for your next dog walk
Training your dog properly is one of the most important things you can do as a new owner. In the article to follow, we’re going to walk you through a few key techniques to keep in mind when you’re out and about on your next walk.
Teach your dog to come to you
From a pure safety perspective, “come” is one of the most important commands to teach your pet.
Invest in a training leash and enlist the help of a friend. You and your friend alternate by telling your dog to “come”, while giving the leash a little tug. When your dog responds and stops in front of you, reward him with a treat once he’s made eye contact and you’ve counted down from 3 (or 5).
As you progress, start counting down more slowly from 3 (or 5) and every now and then, remove the treat from the equation altogether. The point is to make your dog work “harder” for that reward, instead of being granted it every time.
Practice the exercise daily, and spend about 15 minutes on a single session.
As your dogs gets more accustomed to the command, make things more difficult by walking around a corner – out of eyeshot – and saying the word again. The leash should be in play at all times for safety purposes.
Use edible treats, but rely on toys as well
It’s a good idea to vary the “reward”: it shouldn’t always be food your dog is receiving, so bring a toy along for your walks as well.
When the toy is in play, your dog will need a little bit longer to play with it (as opposed to munching a piece of meat quickly, or a biscuit). So give him that time, before having your partner call him over.
Get your dog used to eye contact
When you look directly in your dog’s eyes, he knows you’re focusing on him. Eye contact makes it crystal clear that your instructions are directed his way.
Choose a word that means you want your dog’s attention. It could be his name, or a command. Importantly, keep this command the same throughout your training regimen.
Use a treat to reinforce the right behaviors – i.e., the times he keeps eye contact with you. Another trick is to lean over him, keep the treat to one side, and tap your nose as you count down from 3 or 5. If your dog successfully keeps eye contact, he gets the treat.
The reason for tapping your nose? To keep the game interesting for your pet. As you count down – “3, 2, 1” – tap your nose in time to the numbers.
Expect to progress, but don’t expect your dog to get it right every time
Progress, not perfection: that’s the mantra of dog specialist Justin Silver, and it bears repeating, because your dog is going to make mistakes. The goal is to positively reinforce his good behaviors as opposed to spending time punishing him for making mistakes. Raising your voice, for instance, is a no-no, as it only makes him more jumpy and/or excited.
And of course, if you’re stuck, there are a multitude of great training videos online. Failing that, consider enlisting the help of a specialist professional. But above all else, make sure your dog gets the training he needs to live happily out in society.