I have two small dogs with vastly different personalities that present a real challenge for training them as conventional methods have mostly failed. What I needed was a set of simple but highly effective set of training tricks to break hrough the training barriers. I have reviewed what many dog owners have told me and summarized their recommendations.
Be Consistent - Remember that you have to be consistent in whatever method you choose to use including the voice and hand signal commands. If you are continually changing methods your dog may become confused and bored. If you are training your dog to sit for food and you only do it occasionally your dog will soon learn that you are not serious and will not sit. How you give the command and the tone of your voice are also very important to invoking a consistent response – always make your “no” voice tone low and insistent, firm and make your “yes” voice louder, excited, friendly and bright. Always use your positive, friendly happy tone when you call your dog so that they associate the use of their name with good behavior.
Keep the training sessions short and fun - This will maintain your dog's interest in learning new things, and stop them getting bored and becoming distracted. I your dog becomes frustrated with what you are trying to teach them, taking a short break and come back to it. Make the dog training tricks fun for both you and your dog that wants to please you. This will help your dog to learn faster and have a better attitude to training. The training sessions should only last for about 15 minutes for puppies and 30 minutes for older dogs, but it depends on the individual dog.
Offer Positive Reinforcement with Instant Praise and Rewards - Dogs love to please their owners whenever they can and its vital that you offer abundant praise for the things done especially for new tasks. If the dog doesn't respond in the way don’t scold them - simply e patient and withhold the praise. Nothing beats a firenly and enthusiastic pat on the back for a good response. Various treats and rewards are a very effective means of praise; try to reserve the treat for training as too many treats will become less effective. The dog want to please you and your praise provides positive feedback.
Keep Looking for Small Training Opportunities between Sessions - Training can be informal and done in a minor way all the time - not just is sessions. You can teach your puppy to come and sit when you need their attention. Use single bite delicacies as a reward whenever you do this. It can become part of a game when you are doing other things like watching TV (in the ad breaks).
Don't become Frustrated - Avoid becoming frustrated or angry with your dog as it will provide negative feedback. The dog may become confused and scared and will be reluctant to continue the training. Remember, that dogs can read you mood and your body language.
Make Sure you do Research and Get the Right Advice - There are many books, videos and internet articles which you can use to find out how to train your dog. You can also join various dog training clubs and groups. Make sure you learn first and start slowly to ensure you don't confuse your pets.
Training a Dog to Stop Barking - To correct unwanted barking, you need to understand the trigger or reason for the barking. For example barking may be triggered by a passing car, the doorbell, another dog barking or some other common sound. Essentially you have to break the link between of stimulus and response. One method involves using a simple homemade noise device called a 'shake can'. Take an empty drink can and slip a few coins inside and seal the top with tape. As soon as your dog starts to bark in an unwanted way, throw the shake can out into the yard -not directly at the dog but nearby. The sudden rattling noise will be a major distraction and the barking will stop. Immediately respond by telling your dog how good they are. Try to do it in a way that it is not obvious that you have thrown the can. This will ensure your dog associates you with the praise and the shake can with unwanted barking. Hopefully this will break the link between stimulus and the barking response.
Dogs can also barking seeking your attention. If this a problem there are two ways to handle it.
Start Training Early - start training the moment you get your puppy home but remember it's never too late to start training any dog.
Train Regularly - Try to have sessions at least once a day, in a quiet area, free from distractions like other animals and people.
Keep the Treats for the Training - Only give treats to your dog during a training session then they will act as a special reward for training,. Don't over reward your dog and keep the treats small,or they will become less effective. Not all dogs are motivated by food so using praise or a game as rewards.
Eye contact is very important - Your dog won't learn if you don't have your dog's attention and engagement. Eye contact makes sure that they are focused on you. Signals are important for training but they will be ineffective if the dog is not paying attention to you.
Avoid Over Repetition of Commands - Repeating a command many times over and over again is totally counter-productive as it is teaching the dog to expect multiple commands. When you are training your dog a quick response means the dog understands. Repeating the command just reinforces the confusion or worse the refusal to respond. Give the command once to the dog, perhaps twice. If there is no response, approach the dog and make sure your dog has your full attention by taking him by the collar. Now repeat the command and do something help him understand what you want and to obey the command. If you don't repeat the command when you have the dog's full attention - the dog will soon learn to response more quickly to the first command.
Random Commands Outside of Training Sessions - Some dogs seem to associate the commands with the training sessions and fail to respond at other times. Many people call this "Schools' Out!" The answer is to try random commands out of session when the dog is not expecting them. Always have small treats at hand. Give a 'sit' or some other command, preceded by the dogs' name.This gets your dog's attention and informs it that you are expecting a response. Repeat this when the do is doing something else. This will let the dog know that you expect the response all the time.
Confusing Verbal Commands - One of the most frequent training mistakes is not to use enough contrast between verbal commands, especially for right and wrong signals. When you say "Oh, you're a good dog." and then at other times say "Oh, you're a bad boy." Your dog is smart, but perhaps not that smart so make it easier for them. When you are not happy with the dog a short, sharp, seriously sounding command worst best, even a simple "No!!!" As discussed before a consistent tone difference between good and bad is also important.
Understanding your Dog's Limited Focus Period - Most dogs only maintain focus for about 20 to 30 seconds. Positive or negative reinforcement has to occur during this short period of time if they are to be effective. Otherwise the association will be broken and the dog may link the command to the next thing they have shifted their attention to. Actions, both bad or good, must be reinforced while the dog is focused. If you miss the moment- wait until next time.
Develop Sequences of Events that your Dog will Learn to Shorten - Sometime your dog may find it hard to learn complex responses easily and quickly. But dogs often learn to shorten a sequence of events and simply respond to the first one. For example when you prepare to take the dog for a walk you go through a sequence of events, you put on your shoes and jacket, pick up your keys, fetch the leash down off the hook, call the dog and off you go. The dog associates this sequence of events as leading to a walk. Before long, your dog will respond whenever you get your leash down or put your coat. You don't need the call anymore. You can use this during training - starting with a sequence and the dog will learn to respond to the first event. However you have to avoid sending mixed messages as your dog may think he is going for a walk every time you put your coat on. Watch for the first signs of over-anticipation and training the dog to the appropriate command or signal.
Chewing Toys and other Bad Habits - Chew-toys are very popular with dogs as a treat or playthings. But research has shown that a large number of destructive chewing starts with chew-toys. It teaches wrong behaviour. Hard dog biscuits and real bones (raw) are OK because they are food items. This applies to other things - it is so easy to train your dog by mistake. Remember that your dog always aim to please and this can go wrong.