We all know that owning a dog comes with certain responsibilities. As an owner it's your job to provide your dog with nutritious food and make sure he has water available at all times. You also need to keep him up-to-date on his vaccinations and take him to the vet when he's sick. But many people don't realize that training a dog is also their responsibility.
Dogs are incredibly smart and they're able to learn just about anything we want to teach them but puppies are not born trained. They have to be taught what you want them to know. That includes house training, good manners in the home, how to greet people without knocking them down, how to walk on a leash without yanking your arm off, as well as basic obedience skills. If you admire the well-trained dogs you see with other people, keep in mind that those dogs were once just like your dog. They were wild and crazy young dogs without a clue about how to act. Someone had to take the time and effort to train them.
So, what does your dog need to learn so he will be a well-behaved dog? Here are some suggestions about training a dog.
House training. All dogs who spend time in the house need to be house trained. The earlier you begin, the better, but any dog can be house trained. Dogs instinctively want to keep their sleeping area clean so they prefer to relieve themselves outdoors. Puppies need to potty often so you will need to take a puppy outdoors frequently. Be sure to give him lots of praise and rewards for pottying outside. You can learn to read a puppy or dog's body language so you know when he needs to go outside. As your puppy or dog starts to understand that he's supposed to go outside, he will get better at letting you know that he needs to go out.
House manners. House manners covers a lot of ground and it means different things to different owners. It usually means things like teaching your dog not to “counter surf” or steal things off the kitchen counter such as food, for example. You may want to teach your dog to limit his barking in the house or to take his rough play outside instead of knocking things down in the house. Some owners prefer that their dogs don't get on the furniture or sleep on the bed. These are the house rules that you set for your dog and you communicate to him. As usual, dogs learn better with praise and rewards than with punishments. Many behavior problems can be averted if you teach your dog good house manners.
Obedience training. Teaching your dog basic obedience is one of the best things you can do for him. Not only will he learn the basic commands that all dogs should know – Come, Sit, Lie Down, Stay, and Heel (walking calmly next to you) – but teaching your dog basic obedience commands will also strengthen the bond between you. Dogs feel most secure when they understand their role and they prefer to have a leader. You should be your dog's leader. When you teach your dog basic obedience, you are filling the role of leader for your dog. This is a clear-cut leader/follower relationship that your dog understands and he is happy to obey you, as long as you make your messages clear.
You don't have to be harsh with your dog or be mean to him, but you do have to be the one in charge. When you teach your dog obedience, the training will reinforce your position as the leader. You can train your dog and teach him obedience using praise and rewards and you will still be emphasizing your role as the one in charge.
How to Train Your Dog
When it comes to house training you will need to train your dog at home. Practice makes perfect. It usually takes several weeks to train a puppy. Older dogs can have bad habits to break but they usually catch on quickly if you give them plenty of opportunities to potty outside.
As far as house manners are concerned, different issues have different timeframes. It can be challenging to stop a dog from stealing food off the counter, especially once he has learned that there are good things to eat there. You will need to stop leaving tempting things on the counter. Barking in the house is usually easier to discourage. If you don't want your dog to get on your furniture or sleep on your bed, it's best if you don't let him start when he's a puppy. Once these behaviors are started, they can be hard to stop.
If your dog has other behavior issues in the house, such as guarding toys or food, or refusing to move from a favorite spot on the couch, you will have to go back to basics and take away some of his privileges. Remove the toy that is causing a problem. Try feeding him from your hand so there is no bowl to guard. Don't allow him to get on the furniture if he refuses to move when you tell him to do so.
With obedience training you can train your dog yourself or find a good class. There are plenty of good books, DVDs, and articles online about training your dog. If you would like to find a class, check with your local kennel club, dog training club, or pet store. They often offer obedience classes. Talk to the instructor and find out if the class would be good for your dog. Ideally, you can find a class that emphasizes praise and rewards for the dog.