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Training Your Dog
Getting a dog is a huge responsibility, I'm sure you know. Many people see their dog like a child, they are part of the family. Some may go over the top, but it is always important to treat them like a human. They have needs and wants like any of us. They also need to be taught right from wrong. Here are some tips and tricks for training your puppy or dog.
First thing's first, be patient with your dog. Especially puppies, they may have a lot of energy and can be annoying and frustrate you, but think of it as having a baby. You wouldn't be rough or hurt your baby, nor would you neglect or ignore them. Same with a dog, if they are crying or whining, there's usually a reason. Maybe they are hungry or need to be walked, or in some instances, maybe there's a medical issue. They need to be cared for in all aspects.
When getting a puppy, it's easier to train them compared to adopting a dog from a previous home. This is because the puppy is very vulnerable and is only going to be learning what you teach them, not what a previous owner has taught them. Also, puppies are like children, their brains are like sponges. They are learning everything that they will use throughout their life from you. It's much harder to break bad habits or change actions when a dog has been doing certain things or acting certain ways for some time at another home. So when you spend nights awake listening to a whining puppy, or looking at your hands and arms only to find little teeth and nail marks from playing with your little one, remember it is to your advantage and you can shape their ways to satisfy you.
This is something that you will use to shape your dog's behavior. They need to know when something they do is good or bad. Use any phrase you want for this, obviously the most common is "good boy" and "good girl". Whatever you choose, make sure they know it and that they associate it with doing a good thing. You can do this by repeating it when they do something good, reinforcing with some treats never hurt either.
This is an important point for me, because animal abuse is what upsets me the most. Discipline does not mean abuse, hit, or hurt your dog. Period. Dog's get into things and do things they aren't supposed to, we all know that. They way you handle the situation is what determines the future actions of your dog. If you catch your dog in the act, of doing something bad or that you don't want them to do, they need to know right away. Again, you can pick any word or phrase you want, whether its a simple "no", or "bad dog", "bad boy" etc. You must be firm, and ensure they know what you are referring to that is bad. If they have an accident in the house, which WILL happen, they need to be disciplined as they are doing it or right after. Not an hour or however long after when you find the mess, because it's gone out of their brain by then. By saying "no" strong and firmly so they know it was a bad thing, they will soon learn what they can't do. I had many nights up with my puppy when he was very hyper and crazy, he would bite and scratch my hands playfully, but to a young child it would hurt them. Not to mention what they could do as a full grown dog if you don't break the habit of rough playing. To break this habit, give them a toy instead of having them play with you. If it gets out of control (which mine did), then begin saying "no" firmly and disciplining them to associate play biting as bad. You may need to get tougher if they are out of control, I learned a trick to yell in their face. It sounds bad, but if you do it correctly, it works. My puppy would scratch and bite me thinking he was playing, I would keep a safe distance but yell "AHH" deep and loudly, until he stopped. Sometimes even this didn't work, so he would have to go in time outs. I would block off a section of the room instead of shutting him in a room with the door closed, this way he could still see me but know that what he did was bad. He would bark and whine, but I just ignored and made no eye contact. Eventually this settled him down.
Learning to sit
This is probably the first "trick" owners teach their dogs. It is very simple, if you do it right. For almost all training, treats and rewarding good behavior is the trick. Take your dog to a space that is open and quiet. You don't want to be crowded or have distractions when trying to get your dog to focus. Have a few treats in your pocket or out of reach of the dog, begin by calming them down if they are jumping at the treats. Have them standing in front of you and take the treat in your hand, not letting them take it. Firmly and clearly say "sit". Repeat it several times so they can identify the word. If they so happen to actually sit at this point, make sure you give them lots of praise. You need to associate sitting with the word "sit", and make sure they know it's a good thing to do. Most often than not though, they won't sit. So keep repeating the same thing, saying "sit" firmly. If they just look at you like they have no idea, they may need some help. Put your hand without the treat in it, on the base of their back, right above their tail. Gently push it as if you are pushing them to sit, continue until they do sit, keeping them focused on the treat in your other hand. Remember, be gentle. You don't want to be rough or hurt them because they will associate it with something bad, as if they are being punished. You want to make this as enjoyable for them as you can if you want them to be successful. Once you get them in the sitting position, give them lots of praise and treats. Then get right back into it, dog's brains are very short tempered. If you spend too much time praising, they will forget what it was all about, then you're back to square one. If you repeat the same things over and over they will learn. This is what I mean about being patient, it takes time. It's also important to take breaks. If they are not getting it, or you are becoming frustrated, come back to it later when you are both in a different mood. If they are understanding it, and have maybe sat once or twice, do it a few more times to resignate it in their brain, then take a break. Come back in a couple hours and do the same thing, making sure to give lots of praise and treats. Always remember to reward good behavior, otherwise it may stop. This trick also works for teaching "shake a paw" and roll over.
Every dog needs exercise, and that means going for walks. Puppies need to be on leashes if there are dangers around, you may notice your puppy follows you everywhere, if you are outside in a safe area where they can't get into danger (no roads, cars, other dogs etc) then you may not need a leash right away. To begin leash training, it might be best to start in the house to practice, because the first time using it probably won't be much of a walk. Before you put the leash on your dog, let them see it and sniff it. Dogs use their nose for everything, they will want to sniff out the leash before you put it on them. Once they know it isn't going to hurt them, you can put it on them. If you want your dog to associate the leash with going for a walk, then say "walk" when you introduce the leash to them. Keep repeating "walk" and give treats, so they know it's a good thing. Most dogs, especially puppies will begin playing with the leash as if it is a toy. Most puppies will outgrow this, but if it is a problem for you then discipline them by saying "no" firmly when they begin to play with it. When you start walking with your dog on the leash, they probably won't want to. Try and coax them into walking with you, instead of pulling on the leash. Every time they listen to you and walk with you properly, reward with a treat and praise. Another problem owners have, is dogs pulling on the leash. There could be many solutions to this, but I don't agree with pulling them back on the leash as it may hurt their throat or neck. When my dog would pull, I would keep him close and just stop. Once he stopped pulling, we would continue. For every minute they are walking without pulling, give treats and praise. Repeating this over and over will teach them to walk properly.