12 Rules for Training Dogs
1. Make learning fun for both you and your dog. Spend 10 minutes two or three times daily. The training sessions should be separated by 4 hours for maximum efficiency of learning. Normal dogs of any age can learn if you use patience, praise and rewards.
2. Train the dog to come, sit, stay, down and down-stay off the leash, and to heel on the leash, in this order. Be progressively more demanding. If the dog fails at any level, stop, don't reward, and start again at a simpler command. You will find that your dog's motivation to perform decreases as the complexity of the task increases. Make learning fun!
3. Use one word commands. Do not combine them with the dog's name, which should only be used to get the dog's attention. It is easy to talk too much to your dog. If you do, the command you are trying to teach gets lost in all the verbiage. This is a common mistake made by beginner dog trainers.
4. Train the dog in a quiet environment with few distractions. Once the response is learned there, move the training location to progressively more complex and stimulating environments. The dog will have to be trained in each environment that you wish him to respond in. You may start in the basement, move on to the kitchen, backyard, street, plaza, train station, etc. If the dog fails at any level, go back to the previous level.
5. Appropriate responses should be rewarded within Â½ second of the command. If you tell the dog to come, and he walks across the yard, give the command "come" again, just before you reward him. This will ensure that the dog associates the command with the reward.
6. The dog will learn most rapidly if every desired response is rewarded. Once the behavior is established, reward it intermittently. This will make the response more permanent, and less likely to be forgotten.
7. Use valued rewards. Find out which your dog likes the most (food, touch, voice praise) and use that reward most frequently in the beginning. As the training progresses, mix up the types of reward given.
8. Once the dog knows the commands, you can start giving them in a quieter voice. Gradually decrease the loudness of your commands, rewarding the dog for the appropriate response.
9. Once the dog has learned the commands from one person, have other members of the family train him to respond to them. If the dog knows the commands well, this should not take long.
10. How quickly and enthusiastically the dog responds is a function of the intensity of the training. If your dog responds only when he feels like it, start training again using these rules.
11. The longer an unwanted, learned behavior has been performed, the longer it takes to recondition it.
12. Punishment does not work - the opposite of a reward is no reward, not punishment! Punishment may frighten or excite your dog, which reduces his ability to learn. If the dog is performing some unwanted behavior, ignore it. Instead, call the dog to you, tell him to sit, and reward him for doing so. Both rewards and punishment must be given within Â½ second of the event to be effective, so if you reward him for sitting, the dog will not think that he has "gotten away" with the previous unwanted behavior. Your dog wants to please you, and if he can do something and be rewarded for it, he will. If you totally ignore unwanted behavior, the dog will not be rewarded for performing it, and it will eventually stop. If the dog has learned that he will get attention when he performs the behavior, the activity will increase in frequency and intensity when you first start ignoring it. Persevere, and it will stop.
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