Dogs are not called man’s best friend for nothing– they’re great companions and are super adorable. However, if you’re looking for a much better way to spend time with your furry friend, why not start training it to do some tricks?
Aside from bonding and having fun with your dog, teaching tricks can be an engaging way to prevent it from developing destructive behaviors. In this article, we’ll walk you through the most effective ways on how to train your dog tricks. We won’t provide a step-by-step guide for specific tricks, but rather talk about the fundamentals that apply to dog training in general.
If you’re ready, let’s get started!
1. Understand how dogs learn.
Before you start training your dog, it’s important to understand how dogs learn.
You treat your dog as your own kid– well that is fitting, as dogs’ intelligence is close to that of a two-year old human. This means they will only begin to understand words as they grow and become accustomed to them.
Although some breeds can learn to respond to as many as 250 words, dogs generally respond based on the tone of your voice rather than the actual meaning.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that dogs only care about immediate results. This is why reward-based training is highly effective in teaching your dogs tricks.
2. Use rewards to reinforce behavior.
As the name suggests, this method uses rewards in the form of tasty treats, verbal praises, and belly rubs to reinforce a behavior. So basically, when your dog does the trick correctly, you give it a reward to let it know that it did a good job. With constant practice, your dog will eventually learn how to do the trick even without a reward.
So how do you know what type of reward works best for your dog? Although generally, trainers use high-value treats that the dog doesn’t always receive on a regular basis, the best reward is the one that your dog wants the most.
This means, if your dog craves attention from you because you’re always at work, gestures of affection such as belly rubs and verbal praises might be the best reward. If your dog is food-motivated, giving treats might be more effective. You can also give a combination of these rewards– the point is, find out what your dog finds rewarding the most.
The advantage of reward-based training is that it lets you build a loving relationship with your pet and is proven to be much more effective than aversive-based methods that instill fear.
3. Keep your training sessions short.
As mentioned, dogs have the intelligence of a two-year old kid. In fact, they also have a short attention span.
So if you want your dog training to be effective, keep each session short and to the point. You might want to limit the training to just 15 minutes and focus on a single trick or behavior. In this way, your dog will be able to digest it properly and won’t get confused.
4. Be consistent.
Just as humans get better at what they do with constant practice, training your dog consistently is key.
Also, consistency should be applied in terms of the commands you use. For instance, if you want your dog to sit down they can easily get confused when you say “Sit!” in one session and then say “Sit down or no treat!” in the next session.
Inserting the command into sentences or phrasing it in different ways every training session just won’t work. So make sure that you say the same command when teaching your dog a new trick.
5. Use the clicker training technique.
Clicker training is a common technique for teaching your dog basic skills and advanced tricks.
If you want to try this out, buy a clicker at a pet store first– it is a metal strip inside a plastic casing that when pressed, makes a distinct clicking sound. Why a click sound? Simple, because it’s much faster than saying ‘good dog’.
So this is how clicker training works– you associate the click sound with rewards by giving treats right after clicking. When done right, your dog will learn the positive outcomes of the click.
Take note that the clicker is not intended to replace treats as rewards. The sound just tells your dog instantly that what it just did (i.e., doing a specific trick correctly) will earn it a treat. In short, you should frequently give treats after clicking, or else the clicker will no longer be effective.
You can introduce the clicker by pressing it and then giving your dog a treat immediately. Do this repetitively until your dog understands.
You can test if your dog is ready for clicker training by clicking when it’s not paying attention. If your dog looks at you seemingly expecting a treat, you can start teaching tricks using this technique.
Keep in mind that when training, you should click at the exact moment that it performs the trick correctly and follow it up with a treat and verbal praises. Failing to time your click correctly will make your dog unsure if its action is what earned it the reward.
Seeing your dog learn tricks is one of the most rewarding experiences of being a dog owner. However, dog training can be challenging and you need to have a lot of patience and persistence.
Also, you have to keep in mind that tricks vary in difficulty and not all dogs learn at the same pace. So even if you do follow the tips shared in this article, you may not see positive results as fast as you expect.
Besides training your own dog, there’s a faster and easier way to teach your dog tricks– hire a professional dog trainer! These experts know the ins and outs of dog training and have extensive experience in dealing with all kinds of dog behaviors. With this, you can have peace of mind in knowing that your dog is in good hands.